Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Gateway Books

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Today, we're going to take a deep dive into my reading life. I have a lot of favorite genres and tropes, but why do I like those things? Which books got me interested in them?

Here are the "gateway" books that got me hooked on my favorite types of stories.

😁  Gateway Books  👀


The first book with a strong adventure plotline that I remember reading is The Call Of The Wild by Jack London. My dad read me the illustrated children's version when I was a kid. Then I read the original version in middle school. I love a good adventure story. There's a lot of room for plot twists.


I owned a bunch of classic picture books when I was a kid, but I don't think I realized they were classics. The first classic book I vividly remember is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. This is another book my dad read to me as a kid. My tiny mind was blown when I learned that Black Beauty was first published in 1877. I liked knowing that 100+ years of humans have read and loved this book before me.

Dark Nonfiction

I read a lot of Arctic exploration nonfiction as a kid, and that usually has some death, but the books don't feel dark. The explorers chose to put themselves in dangerous situations. They knew death could happen. The first nonfiction book I read that actually feels dark is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. It's true crime, and it's devastating from start to finish. I couldn't put it down. I think I'm drawn to dark nonfiction because I want to know how the minds of troubled people work.


I didn't know dystopian fiction existed until The Giver by Lois Lowry was assigned to me in 7th grade. After that, there was no turning back. I wanted all dystopia! Nothing else. I think I like imagining different futures and wondering if I could survive them. (I probably couldn't.)

Historical Fiction

This is a tricky one because historical fiction has always been a big part of my reading life. I don't remember the first historical book I read. One of the first that made an impact on me was The Watsons Go To Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. A teacher read it to our class in 4th (I think?) grade. I got very attached to the Watsons and was shocked by the ending. I think I'm attracted to historical fiction for the same reason I like dystopias. Could I survive the period of history I'm reading about?


Stephen King made me a reader. I wasn't a bookworm until I discovered his stuff. However, I liked horror before I met his books. I owned all of the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark anthologies by Alvin Schwartz. I memorized the stories and told them every chance I got. I loved traumatizing my fellow children at Girl Scout camps. That was the only fun thing about Girl Scout camps.

Light Fantasy

This isn't a genre that I paid much attention to until college. I was forced to read a lot of short stories in college. My favorite stories were the slightly magical ones. The ones that are mostly realistic, but there's an element or a character that's a little bit fantastical. I don't remember if I was assigned Shirley Jackson, Aimee Bender, or Karen Russell first, but Karen Russell made the biggest impact on me. Her stories are like puzzles. You don't know what you're looking at until all the pieces come together. Then you're shocked by her creativity. St. Lucy's Home For Girls Raised By Wolves is one of my favorite short story collections.

Literary Fiction

This is another tricky one because assigned reading has always been a thing. I've had a lot of "art" forced upon me by various schools. I was underwhelmed by the majority of it. Margaret Atwood's name came up often in my English classes, but her books were never assigned, so I picked up The Handmaid's Tale on my own. It shifted the way I thought about writing and made me want to study narrative structure in graduate school, which I did. Now I want to read artsy books instead of dismissing them as boring school stuff.

Morally Gray Characters

Morally gray characters are my favorites. I like good people who occasionally make bad choices. I like villains with understandable motives. Give me all the complex people! Most of the books I read as a child had clear heroes and villains. Then, my middle school English teacher assigned The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and it was a breath of fresh air. Finally! Characters with realistic flaws! Now I seek out books with less-than-perfect people.

Young Adult Books

I kind of skipped young adult books when I was a teenager. I jumped right from Boxcar Children to Stephen King. Other than Harry Potter, I didn't think I liked kids' books. Then I read a few of them in my early 20s and completely changed my mind. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was a turning point for me. I literally stayed awake for multiple nights to read this series. It's fast-paced and gritty and everything I want from a dystopia. It made me more open minded about young adult books.

Talk to me about your gateway books!


  1. I never thought of The Outsiders as having morally grey characters, but actually Dallas (in particular) was the epitome of that.

  2. The Giver was my gateway book into dystopian stories, too.

    My post: https://lydiaschoch.com/top-ten-tuesday-things-getting-in-the-way-of-reading/

  3. The Call of the Wild was such a good read, too!

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday.


  4. Such a great list. Everyone has special gateway reads. It was fun to see yours.

  5. My entré into YA books was the Twilight series, which was so popular as I became a high school librarian. Hunger Games and The Giver for dystopian, Faye Kellerman's and Sue Grafton's books got me hooked on police/detective novels.

  6. So many great books on your list. I never expected to like The Hunger Games, but it was an awesome series. Thanks for sharing.


  7. I read The Call of the Wild in high school and then got a little nostalgic when my son had to read it in his AP English class. The Giver is also such a good read.

  8. How wonderful that your dad played such a big role in your life as reader. My daughter loved the Giver. It was probably her gateway to dystopians

  9. Nice take on the challenge. I like books that are slightly magical too. :)

  10. I have only read 2 of the books that you mentioned. I can understand why The Hunger Games had a big impact on you. I think that I have read it 3 or 4 times already.

  11. Oooh! I love The Hunger Games and Scary Stories!

    Here’s my TTT

    Rabbit Ears Book Blog: WORLD’S WEIRDEST BOOK BLOG!

  12. I enjoyed The Hunger Games series. I read it as an adult, and I wonder how it would have been different for me had I read it as a teen.

  13. The Hunger Games was definitely my gateway into dystopia: I read Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses as a kid, and though I really enjoyed that, it didn't necessarily lead me to lots of other dystopia in the same way that The Hunger Games did (though I think that may be because Noughts and Crosses was published over 20 years ago, when the market for YA maybe wasn't as huge as it is now?). I loved Black Beauty but it didn't really lead me to other classics, it was the exception of me not really liking classic fiction rather than the rule.
    I'm not sure what exactly got me into historical fiction, I've always been really interested in History, it was my favourite subject at school for pretty much my entire time at school. I think maybe it was Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries books, they're the first books with a historical setting that I really remember reading!
    My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2023/05/17/top-ten-tuesday-420/

  14. So many great books here, and especially great gateway books. The Hunger Games was probably my gateway into dystopia, as well. I read The Call of the Wild with my son a few years ago, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, as well. :)

  15. Horror and dystopia are not the genres I choose, but there are certainly good books in those categories.

  16. You've picked some good ones! The Outsiders, Black Beauty, and Handmaid's Tale ... were killer reads that impacted me as well. I have not read Watsons Go to Birmingham -- so now I'm wondering about that book. My dad read us Catcher in the Rye at a young age as well as Salinger's short stories so those made an impact too.

  17. Love this! I tend to stick mostly to cozy mysteries (Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, by Joanne Fluke, was my gateway book), but I love magical realism (in books and movies). I added St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves to my TBR. Thank you! :)