When I was younger, my grandpa read lots and lots of books to me: Erich Kästner, Otfried Preußler, Wilhelm Busch, Janosch, Paul Maar (basically all German children’s classics except for Michael Ende – I’ve never read a single one of his books), and Astrid Lindgren. Although there’s one or two I’d enjoy reading again, I’ve forgotten all about them. Seriously, I just had to consult Goodreads to come up with a list of children’s books that were read to me. I’m sure I loved them all very much – after all, they made me fall in love with the written word, – but they just don’t feel like “my” books, because I never read them myself.
The books I do recall – the ones I read myself – I never stopped rereading over and over again, so this topic is kind of redundant. Therefore, I decided to go for the top ten novels or series of my childhood and teen years that are in some way special to me, that influenced me the most one way or another. In chronological order (as far as I can reconstruct, I can’t vouch for the dates; while some of them are set in stone, others are very fuzzy):
Ponyhof Kleines Hufeisen by Andrea Pabel [1999-2004]
[LT: Pony Farm Little Horseshoe]
Lesson learned: reading is the best thing ever but reading a series out of order is not a good idea.
This series is the reason I read. I got the 10th book for Christmas in 1999 at age eight. Up to this point, I hated reading myself but when I was hospitalised during the Christmas holidays and had nothing else to do, I devoured the book – and wanted more. Much much more. Over the years to come, I started collecting and reading the books in the series – out of order. This is why I still confuse the second book for the first. The second one was one of the first I got, the first one of the last.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling [2000-2007]
Lesson learned: it’s awesome to be a fangirl.
I’m Generation Harry Potter. You have no idea what this series means to me. It’s my life! Unfortunately, I can’t really pinpoint the year I started reading them. I think it was 2000, but it might have been 2001 instead. Nevertheless, I got the first three books for Christmas when I was 9 (or 10) years old and I devoured the first one in about 4 days, which was an incredible achievement for someone who really just started reading – horse novels that have about 130 pages max at that. I don’t really have to tell you that the others followed immediately. In total (if my numbers are correct), I had my head buried in one of the books for 36 times, an average of a little over 5 times per book. Oh, and although I even own the last two books in English, I always reread them in German. It’s my kind of nostalgia.
The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien [2001/2002]
[dt. Der Hobbit & Der Herr der Ringe]
Lesson learned: (high) fantasy is and will forever be my favourite genre.
These are the books that coined my love for high fantasy and really thorough descriptions of the settings and surroundings – although I didn’t like them the first time around. When I watched the trailer for the first film on TV in 2001, I was immediately drawn to it. However, my Dad told me I was only allowed to watch the films if I read the books first. I did, but at age ten/eleven, I couldn’t really appreciate them. Although I liked the story, the books felt sooooo slooooow. When I reread them at age sixteen, I couldn’t understand my former self anymore. What felt like ages to the child suddenly wasn’t slow anymore to the teenager. Nowadays, I’m kind of crazy about these works. I’m reading the non-fiction books chronicling the writing process which lead to my collection of fun facts for LotR fans and I even went to the world premiere of the last Hobbit film. It was an amazing experience although the film turned out to be awful.
Ashleigh & Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell [2002-present]
[dt. Aileen & Vollblut]
Lesson learned: English is actually pretty useful.
These books are the reason I started improving my English skills and made me write my A-level research paper about American horse racing (which got me a glorious grade). This series fascinated me from the beginning. I think it was the world of horse racing, which is such a foreign concept in most European horse novels. Let’s just say I became obsessed and since the German publisher took its damn time (and now stopped publishing altogether and we’re still missing the last 20 books and most of them aren’t available in English anymore), I started looking up stuff on the Internet because I didn’t mind spoilers back then. Well, since it’s an American series, every source was in English, which meant that I had to look up a gazillion words to understand what was going on. My English skills at that time were all but great. And yet, I got better and better, understanding more and more and becoming one of the best – and the walking dictionary – in my English classes at school, which would later turn into a university degree and a blog written in English.
Laura by Peter Freund [2003-present]
Lessons learned: books can teach you a lot of cool things & authors don’t believe in ‘quit while you’re ahead’.
This series was one of the first fantasy series I read and I think the first that had a female protagonist. I borrowed the first two books from the library but got them afterwards for my shelves because I loved them so much. Year after year, I would get the latest instalment for Christmas. The books taught me fancy words and concepts: anagrams and the old plural for sphinx, the difference between a maze and a labyrinth and how to get out of the former, the solstices and equinoxes and lots and lots of other stuff. The 5th novel is one of my top 3 series enders because it was such a huge shock – although it didn’t actually end the series. It was planned to be the concluding instalment, however the fans wanted more (or at least that’s what was communicated) and therefore a sixth, and years later a seventh book were written. I still haven’t read them, but I do own them and someday I will. I just hope they won’t ruin one of my childhood favourite series.
Merle by Kai Meyer 
[ET: Dark Reflections]
Lessons learned: fictional crushes are so much fun & bittersweet endings are the best.
This was the first trilogy I read by Kai Meyer who would become my favourite German author. His worlds, characters, stories, and writing style are magical. Just thinking about the series makes me feel nostalgic. How much we all loved Serafin … I think he was my very first fictional crush. I also think the final novel was the first book that Shattered my heart into a million tiny pieces. Just thinking about it makes me tear up – and yet it was perfect!
Tintenwelt by Cornelia Funke [2004-2007]
Lessons learned: it’s so much fun discussing books with friends & sometimes everyone will love a book and I’m going to be the odd one out, but that’s ok.
I think this is the first series I was pushed into reading. My best friend loved it so much; she just didn’t shut up about it, so I gave it a try. Unfortunately, I never got the hype. I found them ok but not really my cup of tea. There were parts – and especially characters – I enjoyed a lot, however at some point, the books all became annoying for a couple of reasons. In the first one, for example, it’s the endless there and back again. Funny, now that I think about it, I remember that my friend refused to read the third book because of something that happened at the end of the second one. I’ve no idea whether she’s ever picked it up.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer [2006-2009]
Lesson learned: sometimes, I will outgrow books and/or see them in a totally different light based on newly acquired knowledge and experiences & I hate love triangles with a fiery passion – worst plot device ever.
Yes, I have to mention Twilight. This series was a very interesting experience. When I read Twilight for the first time, I loved it. I loved it so much I reread it immediately. I thought it was a standalone, but it turned out to become a series (speaking of authors that don’t know how to quit when they’re ahead…). Of course I read the other ones, too, how could I not since I loved the first one so much. However, I liked each book less than the previous one. When I got to the fourth novel, the hype was crazy. I had been a part of it, even cut my hair short to play Alice in a fan vidlet I did with a couple of friends. It got too much, too crazy, and in a direction I didn’t like. I started to take a couple of steps back. And then I read the last novel – or at least I tried. I think I got about halfway through when I had to put it down four about half a year because it was so bad and annoyed me so much. Well, the rest didn’t get better. I think I never disliked an instalment in a series as much as this one. I think I could probably still enjoy rereading the first one, although my perception of the book has been thoroughly altered. The other ones, however, …
Libri Mortis by Peter Schwindt [2007-2008]
Lesson learned: sometimes, books need and deserve a second chance – they might surprise.
This series – wow! It has become my all-time favourite trilogy. A breathtaking balancing act between fantasy and mental illness in the Parisian underground – yes, that sounds awesome. However, I almost missed it. I got the first book for Christmas in 2006 and devoured the first two thirds. Then, however, I lost interest because it was slow, very character driven. Several months later, I started it again and finished; I liked it, but did not love it. The second one was similar – I started it, put it on hold, restarted it several months later, and liked but didn’t love it, but it had a killer ending. When the third one came out, I read them all back to back – and suddenly, it clicked. I even couldn’t put down the third one. I was glued to the pages. Maybe it was seeing the whole trilogy in its entirety, maybe it was just that I grew up to be more appreciative of the story – it’s awesome, and has one of my favourite series endings of all time.
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen 
Lessons learned: classics can be fun & period dramas are awesome.
When I was in my teens, I had a couple of bookish friends I had made on the Internet and we used to meet a couple of times per year. During our meeting in the Christmas holidays in 2007, we watched the 2005 film adaptation – not just once but at least twice (I think even thrice) in just as many days). I loved it – and still do. It’s one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen. Since I loved the film so much, I decided to read the novel – and loved it! It was the very first classic I read voluntarily and probably also the first one I really enjoyed. Since then, I collected a ton of period dramas based on classic books and enjoy reading one from time to time.