I have been recently thinking about the books I read as a young ‘un, as a number of them have reappeared recently in various places on my radar. I realized that I read a lot of what would be considered geeky books, although it does make me wonder if the books influenced my geekiness or if my geekiness influenced my reading choices. Either way, I made this list of my Top Ten favorite books that I read before high school that were definitely related to my geekish ways. 


Ramona/Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
I think the Beverly Cleary books in general were the very first chapter books I read when my teacher realized in first grade or so that my reading level was way above the class and I would need something more interesting. I loved them of course, because they were mostly about kids that totally didn’t fit in (umm, practically the definition of geek!). I also specifically liked the Ramona and Fudge books because I was the oldest in a family of three children, and I identified with Beezus and Peter having to deal with younger siblings.

Little House on the Prairie
We had the entire set of these, and I think my mother started reading them to me when I was about 5, because I can’t remember not knowing them. Laura Ingalls was a great role model because she was a girl who wouldn’t take no for an answer even in a man’s world. The books also progressed through her life, so I kind of grew up with her over the years, although she got ahead of me at some point. I still remember how she got married in black, because it was the best dress she had, and she didn’t care what her mother said. That may have been the first influence on my non-wedding wedding!

Les Miserables
I fell in love with the musical Les Miserables in about 6th grade, and being the obsessive geek that I am, I decided to read the book between 7th and 8th grade on the bus to summer band camp (how much geek was in that sentence?). The whole book. The unabridged, 1000 pages of Victor Hugo book. You ever see the musical? You know the Bishop who sings about a half a song with Valjean? Yeah, his story is the first 5 chapters. It’s a long, complex book with a crazy intertwining storyline, and I loved it.

The Phantom Tollbooth
There are things from this book that I still reference today! For example: my favorite dodecahedron and half-baked ideas. This book is a geek child’s dream as it is all about math and literature and other wonderfully academic things, while still being fun. I recently bought a used copy just to be sure I have one!

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
I don’t know who else remembers these books, but they were hilarious! Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was essentially the neighborhood witch, only in a good way! She was great at helping parents train their children out of bad habits and great at helping children solve disputes with her sometimes magical ways. I always wished I had a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle in my neighborhood.

Encyclopedia Brown
As a young geek, the idea of being able to solve the mysteries within the book was my favorite! I already loved puzzles, so mysteries weren’t too far behind. Also, these were being solved by a smart kid (who people actually liked!). The only problem with these was that once you solved them all, there wasn’t much use in re-reading. That’s okay. I still made it a rule to not read the answers until I was certain I wouldn’t get it. I think these should be required reading for all kids today, get that critical thinking juice flowing in our schools again!

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
I don’t think I need to go into my adoration and obsession with this series here. I’ll just direct you to my Mostly Harmless Guide to Life instead.

A Wrinkle in Time
This was one of the books that I think I starting reading with my mother when I was as young as 6 or 7, because I can’t remember not knowing the word tessellate. I can still explain the bit where the ant walks across the skirt and once I started getting really into science fiction, of course, I realized how similar to the idea of wormholes and hyperspace that concept is. I think this will always be a geek classic, and it doesn’t hurt that it revolves around a number of very intelligent women!

The Hobbit
I’m not sure I even have to explain this one. I loved both the book and the Rankin/Bass animated feature (sing along with me … that’s what Bilbo Baggins hates …). We also had a beautiful large copy with amazing artwork of trolls and spiders and Smog! I probably read this through at least three or four times before I was 15. I also tried to learn moon runes and had the map nearly memorized. What was that New York’s reviewer for Game of Thrones …?

The Great Brain
This series was heaven for a super smart geek. When you are smart, you know it, and you tend to use it, and sometimes that gets you in trouble, and that was what these books were all about! The Great Brain was one smart kid who liked to pull things over on the neighborhood kids. He also used that great brain to get himself and others out of trouble once in a while! He also got a reasonable amount of come-uppance in later books, so they were’t teaching too much of a bad thing. Still, I adored this series and would read them over and over again. How often is someone’s brain the hero of a book series? Not very. Not very.

So, are any of these books fond memories for you? I definitely plan to have all of these available for my child when that day comes as well. What else did you read that you found particularly geeky?


  • I LOVED Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. I’m surprised you mentioned her becasue I have not found anyone else who remembers the books. My favorite might be the kids who didn’t bathe and she had the parents plant radishes on their arms. Other favorites include Nancy Drew (serious deductive reasoning skills) and Matilda (child genius with heart? yes please).

    Megean 4.May.2011 12:32 pm
  • I definitely read Nancy Drew and Matilda, great stuff!

    Girls Are Geeks 4.May.2011 1:46 pm
  • OMG, I haven’t read Ramona in ages!!! I was a big fan of Beverly Cleary and another book that follows along those lines was Matilda! Read that book a few times.

    I was given the Wrinkle in Time trilogy set by my late grandmother when I was about ten or so and when I was done, 1) I felt crazy smart because it did have a lot of words that I didn’t know (like tesselate!) and 2) I was officially hooked on Sci-Fi.

    Awesome list!

    Margaret McGriff 4.May.2011 1:22 pm
  • I loved Mrs. Piggle Wiggle too! I said something to my sister recently about how I’d like to find them and re-read them.
    I do have all the Little House books and the Wrinkle in Time series and occasionally read them again every so many years. They’re like comforting old friends 🙂
    Funny how many of us that liked one liked the others as well.

    Melissa 4.May.2011 4:32 pm
  • Do you mean “tesseract,” not “tessellate” in A Wrinkle In Time? That one was one of my absolute favorites!!

    Nikki 4.May.2011 9:37 pm
  • That is apparently accurate. According to the internets, I’m also not the first person to confuse that and the meaning sort of makes sense. Interesting.

    Girls Are Geeks 4.May.2011 11:11 pm
  • I haven’t even heard of most of those. I read The Hobbit and The Hitchhiker’s Guide.

    The first books I read on my own for pleasure were the books of the books of The Prydain Chronicles (The Book of Three, etc) by Lloyd Alexander. When I finished the last book I was not sure what to read, so I read them all over again. After I had false starts with a few other books I found Robert E. Howrd’s Conan book and Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books. Then came Elric. After that, while still in junior high school, I discovered the Gor books by John Norman. My mother, thrilled that I was reading, bought the entire 20-something books for me. It wasn’t until just about two weeks ago that I finally told her why those books were controversial. She was mortified.

    Lee 4.May.2011 9:56 pm
  • I was a big fan of many of those mentioned, I’m fairly certain my mother taught me to read using the hobbit. I was also a huge fan of Tamora Pierce who, most of her books feature strong females as the main character and are very enjoyable.

    Henry 9.May.2011 1:25 am

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