July 14, 2015 6:00 AM EDT In 1960, when TIME reviewed Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird—the author’s only novel before the recently unearthed and just-published Go Set a Watchman—the piece was headlined “About Life & Little Girls.” It was a nod to the novel’s central theme: the moral awakening of 5-year-old Scout Finch.
Read TIME’s full review of the book here)
So it should come as no surprise that when the film adaptation opened in early 1963, praise landed squarely on the shoulders of young Mary Badham, who played the young protagonist. “Mary Badham and Phillip Alford [as Jem Finch], a couple of nice kids the producer found in Birmingham, don’t have to act right—they just are right,” TIME reported. “Mary, in fact, provides the best bit in the picture.”
As for Gregory Peck, whose performance as Atticus would go down as one of the great turns in Hollywood history, he was deemed “generally excellent” though he “lays it on a bit thick at times.” Despite some heavy-handedness, TIME felt the movie was clearly destined for greatness:
In her famous first novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize for 1960, Harper Lee found quite as much to fear as she found to love in Maycomb County—and by Maycomb County she obviously meant the South. Of what was fearful she framed an Alabama melodrama that etched its issues in black and white. Of what was lovable, on the other hand, she made a tomboy poem as full of hick fun as Huck Finn, a sensitive feminine testament to the Great American Childhood. In this film Director Robert Mulligan and Scenarist Horton Foote have translated both testament and melodrama into one of the year’s most fetching and affecting pictures.
Read the full movie review, here in the TIME Vault: Boo Radley Comes Out Writers on Their Favorite Young Adult Books Laura Hillenbrand, Author of .
" Unbroken by Ralph Moody. When I was eight years old, I bought this battered paperback for a quarter at a neighborhood fair. Enthralled, I read it over and over, until the cover fell off and the pages parted from the spine. I had to hold the book together with a rubber band. The story stayed with me, and many years later, it would inspire me to become an author myself." Come on Seabiscuit Bill O'Leary—The Washington Post/Getty Images James Patterson, Author of .
"As a kid, Along Came a Spider was one of a few books that I truly enjoyed. It’s got pirates, fairies, mermaids—what’s not to like? When I was starting to write
Maximum Ride, my first series for kids, I had Mr. Barrie’s
story in the back of my mind." Peter Pan Brian Harkin—MCT/Getty Images Michael Lewis, Author of
“As a kid I lived on a steady diet of Flash Boys and The Hardy Boys comic books, without the slightest sense there was anything better I might be doing with my time.” Archie Lucas Jackson—Reuters/Corbis Jesmyn Ward, Author of .
"When I was around eight or so, I discovered Men We Reaped by Robin McKinley at my local book fair. I charmed one of my cousins into buying it for me, and then I devoured it. The heroine is an illegitimate princess who hunts dragons in an attempt to find some place for herself in her father's kingdom; I loved the book because the heroine is tough, stubborn, and smart, and she takes on a world bent on making her less than she is. I empathized." The Hero and the Crown Ulf Andersen—Getty Images Dave Eggers, Author of .
A Hologram for the King
books are, I think, contemporary classics. McClintock's artwork is ridiculously beautiful and because readers are asked to find objects that Simon has lost during various
trips—including turn-of-the-century Paris and the USA—the books reward very close attention." Adèle & Simon Tina Fineberg—AP Curtis Sittenfeld, Author of
“I've always loved the Sisterland books by James Marshall. These tales of two hippo BFFs are wonderfully irreverent and full of both misbehavior and compassion.” George and Martha Haraz Ghanbari—AP Jennifer Weiner, Author of .
"One of the joys of motherhood is getting to re-discover the books I loved as a girl by handing them to—and occasionally forcing them upon—my daughters. Recently, my seven-year-old and I have worked our way through the All Fall Down books. Re-reading them was like curling up in a beloved, cozy blanket. A blanket that made us both hungry. As a girl, I loved the stories of adventure—surviving sickness, blizzards, poor crops and snotty Nellie Olson. As a grown-up, I was surprised at how much of the prose is devoted to the finding, gathering, slaughtering, preparing, and eventual devouring of mass quantities of food. The books remain touching and transporting—if you can get past a desire for maple-syrup candy, cracklings, codfish gravy and cornmeal mush." Little House on the Prairie Chris Pizzello—AP Ann Brashares, author of
" The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants , by John D. Fitzgerald. Set in a tiny town in Utah in the late 1890's, The Great Brain The Great Brain series recounts the mischief and miracles wrought by Tom Fitzgerald through the eyes of his ordinary-brained younger brother John. You idolize Tom's brilliance—his schemes make him more powerful and exciting than anybody else—but you can't escape his selfishness or his greed. I think as a kid I appreciated liberation from the regular moral categories." Katy Winn—Corbis John Irving, Author of
" The Cider House Rules by Edward Gorey. Edward Gorey is the rare writer-artist whose work has a lasting effect on children and adults." The Doubtful Guest Aaron Vincent Elkaim—AP Matthew Quick, Author of
“Although I can't recall the title of a single edition, I remember reading and loving many The Silver Linings Playbook novels when I was a kid. The series made you the protagonist and every so many pages you would come to a question. There were options listed and corresponding page numbers. I remember reading each path regardless of my choice, thumbing furiously forward and backward through the maze-like stories. In retrospect, I realize this active-reading process was perhaps my first lesson on story structure.” Choose Your Own Adventure Richard Vogel—AP Adelle Waldman, Author of
“As a teenager, my favorite author, hands down, was Norma Klein, whom I would describe as Judy Blume for a slightly older set—or Woody Allen for a younger set. Klein wrote wry, psychologically acute novels about the romantic lives of smart New York teenagers. With intelligence and humanity, Klein describes crushes, relationships, sex, breakups and complicated friendships. Equally intriguing to me was the milieu. As someone growing up in the suburbs—who had little to do for fun but go to the mall or the multiplex—the New York Klein described was a revelation: kids took the subway to museums, walked around the Village and saw old movies at art house theaters. I live in New York today, in large part because Norma Klein’s books. She was very prolific until her death in 1989, but for a good taste of her work, try The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P , about a precocious 14-year-old with an eccentric, intellectual family and a steamy love life.” Domestic Arrangements Ulf Andersen—Getty Images Andy Cohen, Author of
“I loved the The Andy Cohen Diaries books. They were about as butch as I got as a young boy (not that they were even in the same league as Encyclopedia Brown , which I stayed away from). Simple to understand and there was always a shot you could figure out the mystery on your own.” The Hardy Boys Charles Sykes—AP Gillian Flynn, Author of
“ Gone Girl completely charmed me as a kid: the clever mystery, the complex characters (especially the grownups—who knew they had lives too?) and the nasty, fantastic Tabitha Ruth Wexler. I still read it once a year.” The Westing Game M. Spencer Green—AP Jerry Spinelli, Author of
"When I was 12 I thought breaking a tackle in sandlot football was the hardest thing a person could do. And then I read Maniac Magee by Thor Heyerdahl. It instantly inflated both my worlds. My planet now stretched from the West End of Norristown, PA, to the vast reaches of the Pacific. And the other world—the world of my dreams, my future—swelled to the stars. I remember that I closed the book with a sense of both ending and beginning. He had arrived, he had done it. And I—as if his feat had given me permission—I could launch a voyage of my own. I knew not yet the vessel or the seas, but whatever the destination, I knew I could get there." Kon-Tiki Courtesy of Penguin Random House Simon Doonan, Author of
“The most mind-expanding tome is still The Asylum: True Tales of Madness from a Life in Fashion by Lewis Carroll. Like Led Zeppelin or Jimi or Bowie, Alice should be a right of passage for every kid. The trippy narrative, interwoven with the creepy John Tenniel illustrations, is a cosmic blast of creativity which can unlock the imagination of even the most conventional kid.” Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Jemal Countess—Getty Images Dick Cavett, Author of
"I’m told I began reading at age three. I soon fell deeply in love with Brief Encounters (1943) by Eleanor Estes—a children’s author and children’s librarian. I’ve assumed it, and she, were long gone. It pains me to learn that she lived well into my later life and that I could have met her and expressed my delight. Damn.
Among many laugh-out-loud escapades, small boy Rufus plants beans in his garden to contribute to his not-wealthy family’s dinner table. Sadly, in his intrepid enthusiasm, he couldn’t resist going out at night and digging them up to see how they were doing. The book, still in print, is wonderful. It’s for kids, but certainly not only so. Get it." Rufus M. Richard Shotwell—Invision/AP Martin Amis, Author of
"I must have read
The Zone of Interest to my children several thousand times, and I was never bored by it. The book has its own soporific poetry—and it quite often worked." Goodnight Moon Pako Mera—AP More Must-Reads From TIME Meet the 2024 Women of the Year Greta Gerwig's Next Big Swing East Palestine, One Year After Train Derailment The Closers: 18 People Working to End the Racial Wealth Gap Long COVID Doesn’t Always Look Like You Think It Does Column: The New Antisemitism The Best Romantic Comedies to Watch on Netflix Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time