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What Book Got You Hooked?
August 4, 2008 7:09 AM   Subscribe

What book got you hooked? For Scarlett Johansson, it was Fantastic Mr. Fox. For Stephen Colbert, it was Swiss Family Robinson. Neil Patrick Harris? Bridge to Terebithia. And it was Franny and Zooey for Ira Glass. These and dozens of other celebs have shared their answer to this question with First Book, a charity that has distributed more than 60 million free and low cost books to children to spur their interest in reading. What book got you hooked? (Via the always fantastic Get Rich Slowly)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow (185 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary.
posted by lemoncello at 7:14 AM on August 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


I must have started reading too early to remember The One.

This summary/review is hilarious:

The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. I loved it because it reminds me of my relationship with my grandfather.

posted by DU at 7:17 AM on August 4, 2008


The Famous Five books by Enid Blyton.
posted by afx237vi at 7:21 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh jeez, some Scholastic Book Services science fiction novels I guess - Oranges and UFOs by Muriel Leeson for example. and one about some kids who build a working spaceship with the help of a kindly old professor and end up saving people on Mars by bringing them a chicken (its eggs contain vital nutrients). Can't even remember the name of that one.

Then the Narnia chronicles. I was too young to realize I was being proselytized.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:23 AM on August 4, 2008


HHGTG!
posted by Mach5 at 7:25 AM on August 4, 2008


I can't remember the first either, but I'd be willing to bet it was something from either Roald Dahl or Rudyard Kipling.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:26 AM on August 4, 2008


War and Peace
posted by HuronBob at 7:26 AM on August 4, 2008


The one I remember was "The First Battle of Morn", but books were everywhere when I was a kid, we used to go to the public library after school until our parents could pick us up.
posted by Science! at 7:26 AM on August 4, 2008


Wow. There is no way I'd be able to remember my first book. I remember looking at 'baby books' as a very young child.
posted by delmoi at 7:26 AM on August 4, 2008


Also, to be honest the "Boxcar Children" series. They were like syndicated TV in my childhood, nothing great but always there and available.
posted by Science! at 7:28 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Ramona books by Beverly Clearly, once I was able to read on my own. Lots of stuff, including Blueberries for Sal before that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:28 AM on August 4, 2008


I must have started reading too early to remember The One.

Yeah, I don't remember The One either. If I had to guess, it would probably be something by either A A Milne or Richmal Compton, as I know that the bookshelf in my bedroom as a child was filled up with the complete works of both authors -- through request rather than imposition.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:29 AM on August 4, 2008


Das Kapital.
posted by sveskemus at 7:30 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


First one I remember is Where the Sidewalk Ends. My godmother gave it to me, and I still have it.
posted by cog_nate at 7:30 AM on August 4, 2008


The Great Brain series really got me hooked. I loved those books.
posted by gfrobe at 7:30 AM on August 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


Probably "Where the Red Fern Grows" or anything Encyclopedia Brown.
posted by drezdn at 7:30 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Great Brain books.
posted by vacapinta at 7:31 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Unicorn with Silver Shoes, by Ella Young. Then The Dying Earth by Jack Vance, Narnia, and the coup de grace adminstered by Harriet the Spy.
posted by jokeefe at 7:31 AM on August 4, 2008


The Great Brain series was definitely awesome.
posted by drezdn at 7:32 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Great! Another thread about our magical childhoods, which everyone will post in and nobody will read!
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:34 AM on August 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


vacapinta, I loved those.

But for me it was Roald Dahl, especially Danny Champion Of The World.
posted by waraw at 7:34 AM on August 4, 2008


Without a doubt it was Charlotte's Web, read out-loud by my first grade teacher, a chapter a day.
posted by stbalbach at 7:34 AM on August 4, 2008


Some Scholastic Book Services books started the show I know but The Hardy Boys sewed me up -- Frank and Joe and Chet Morton and Biff; my sister worked for a book distributor and always got me three or four of them at a time, and I'd stay up late, reading them with a light under the covers because my mother had insisted I go to bed.

I remember being pretty danged amazed at coming across a very old Hardy Boys book, maybe from the 20s or 30s, and Frank and Joe had guns for god sakes -- heavy stuff.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:34 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's a toss-up between Big Dog, Little Dog or How To Be a Grouch, by Oscar The Grouch. Or Sgt. Rock and Weird War Tales.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:36 AM on August 4, 2008


Great! Another thread about our magical childhoods, which everyone will post in and nobody will read!
posted by Ian A.T. at 3:34 PM on August 4 [+] [!]


Thats a bit cynical. I'm genuinely curious as to what others post. Especially, yes, since there is a big overlap in age and demographic here in this community. And by reading (and replying!) to your statement, I am refuting it.
posted by vacapinta at 7:37 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


While I remember sounding out words from a paperback based on some Scooby-Doo-derived, Saturday Morning Cartoon before I started school, It was Carry On, Mr. Bowditch in the second or third grade that really transported me.
posted by Verdant at 7:37 AM on August 4, 2008


D'Aulaires Greek Myths and Alice in Wonderland are the first books that made a profound impression on me -- my mom read them to me until I was old enough to read them myself. A Wrinkle in Time was the first book that I read over and over until it fell apart.
posted by desuetude at 7:37 AM on August 4, 2008


Omigod, I haven't thought of Ribsy for years, yet here he shows up on a bright Monday morning, through the mists of time, or something
posted by dancestoblue at 7:39 AM on August 4, 2008


I loved books from when I was little, but the book that made me feel like a reader was actually Centennial by James Michener. I read it when I was about 12 and was hooked on books for grown ups. I reread it a few years ago and it wasn't quite the literary masterpiece I remembered (heh), but it opened up whole shelves of books to me.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:39 AM on August 4, 2008


Another thread about our magical childhoods, which everyone will post in and nobody will read!

Do you mean ignore the post's material, or one another's responses? Because I will take an uncompromising stance against First Book and children's literacy if that's what it will take to prove you wrong.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:40 AM on August 4, 2008


Another "Mouse & The Motorcycle" kid here. Something about seeing all ping pong balls as potential mouse helmets instantly turned my brain strangely creative.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:40 AM on August 4, 2008


Treasure Island read by Mclean Stevenson
posted by forallmankind at 7:40 AM on August 4, 2008


Oh, I forgot Archie comics or the Children's Bible, or Charlie Brown's 'Cyclopedia.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:41 AM on August 4, 2008


(No jokes about your fascianation with other creative uses for ping pong balls please...)
posted by miss lynnster at 7:41 AM on August 4, 2008


Impossible to remember. I've always been reading, it seems.
posted by papercake at 7:45 AM on August 4, 2008


War and Peace. As if!

I think most of us got hooked by Bruce Coville novels, but we're too embarrassed to admit it. I particularly remember I Left My Sneakers in Dimension X.
posted by AdamFlybot at 7:45 AM on August 4, 2008


Bear in mind that a celebrity's first book is 5000% more worthwhile and interesting than your first book would ever be. Even if it's a really crap book, it becomes interesting the second they they anoint it with their magic celebrity dust. You don't have that ability, civilian.
posted by rhymer at 7:46 AM on August 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


miss lynnster: "(No jokes about your fascianation with other creative uses for ping pong balls please...)"

What do you have against recovering ship wrecks?
posted by Science! at 7:47 AM on August 4, 2008


Without a doubt it was Charlotte's Web, read out-loud by my first grade teacher, a chapter a day.

Same book for me, I never did get to hear it read aloud though. The first book I ever finished in a single day.
posted by Talanvor at 7:50 AM on August 4, 2008


The Monster at the End of the Book.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:51 AM on August 4, 2008


"Nightmares and Geezenstacks" 47 Stories Outrageous Stories of Improbable Beings, Aliens, and Essences by Fredric Brown.

Believe it or not, I learned to read from this book. One of my older siblings had it and I "confiscated" it. Fredric Brown was a pulp writer in the 40's, 50's and early 60's. Although he wrote some elegant longer stuff (especially Detective fare), his specialty were vivid and imaginative ultra-short fantasy stories with a zinger twist endings that made O. Henry as ponderous a Proust. It was the PERFECT medium for my (then) short attention span. It's seized my attention, sparked my curiosity and provided a great feeling of accomplishment.

I particularly liked the story about the guy who married a mermaid. He had to agree to become a merman. The elders of the community enacted the proper magical rituals and *poof* -- he became half-fish ... only to realize he no longer had his accustomed equipment and that fish tend to mate in a very impersonal manner (she lays a bunch of eggs and he ... sorta ... well. Let's just say she doesn't even have to be around for his part). He was so distraught, he flung himself into the bay. But, since he was half-fish, that didn't really work.

Or the story about the guy who invented a personal forcefield and wanted to test it out by hiding on an atoll during a nuclear test.

Or the guy who discovered that anyone he told to "Drop dead" died instantly.

Or the surprisingly poignant story of young guy working up the nerve to go to his girlfriend's house to propose marriage -- except that he's a widower in his 80's, suffering from senility and proposing to his daughter.

Or the ... heck, just get the dang book.
posted by RavinDave at 7:52 AM on August 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


Probably Asimov's robot books. My father kept giving me (Russian translations of) golden age science fiction, Heinlein, Bradbury, etc. That and the really old-school stuff like Jules Verne. Dad always accused me of skimming because he didn't believe that I was really finishing books so quickly before moving on to the next one.

I also remember long hours spent pouring over the illustrated encyclopedias my grandparents had, especially the nature and animals volumes.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 7:54 AM on August 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm sure it was Frog and Toad, but the first book I really remember gripping me was Jane Eyre. Which is kind of tragic because it really sabotaged my idea of romantic relationships for a long LONG time afterwards. Damn you, Mr. Rochester!
posted by ikahime at 7:56 AM on August 4, 2008


Oh, and I was also a glutton for "Classics Illustrated.
posted by RavinDave at 7:57 AM on August 4, 2008


Bear in mind that a celebrity's first book is 5000% more worthwhile and interesting than your first book would ever be. Even if it's a really crap book, it becomes interesting the second they they anoint it with their magic celebrity dust. You don't have that ability, civilian.

Actually, I would've been more interested in hearing about your first book than that. It certainly would've been more original.

As ridiculous and sickening as celebrity culture and its skewed perspective are, I'm finding it really hard to get my CultureJammerTM indignation going on this one. Yes, the importance or authority of the people quoted is arbitrary and unearned, but they're not going anywhere anytime soon, so props to them for using it in a positive manner.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:58 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]



My Father's Dragon was read to me in elementary school, and I really loved it and it's sequels.

At around 5th grade, I read this book called Sprockets which is out of print and I'm seeing on Amazon that I better buy a copy before I can't any more. It and its sequel, Rivets and Sprockets, were just amazing to me at the time.

And cliched as it might be, Catcher in the Rye was by far the most formative book I read as a high schooler. I guess that doesn't qualify as "first book" but Ira Glass naming "Franny and Zooey" set that precedent :)
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:00 AM on August 4, 2008


I loved the Lord of the Rings series. The maps of Middle Earth were great inspiration for many a playground treasure map.
posted by Demogorgon at 8:02 AM on August 4, 2008


\/\/, muthafuckas!

Are you down with Roy G. Biv, cuz I sure iz!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:03 AM on August 4, 2008


I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Judy Blume yet. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is the first book that I can actually remember reading. I think it was first grade, and although we weren't supposed to be on the "big kids" side of the library yet, the librarian saw how bored I was and handed me this and Superfudge.

(And I agree, to an extent, with Ian A.T., here, again, not that I'm not guilty. Had to give a shout to Judy Blume.)
posted by uncleozzy at 8:04 AM on August 4, 2008


"Nightmares and Geezenstacks" 47 Stories Outrageous Stories of Improbable Beings, Aliens, and Essences by Fredric Brown.

Those sound really good. I'm definitely ILL'ing that book.
posted by cog_nate at 8:05 AM on August 4, 2008


and one about some kids who build a working spaceship with the help of a kindly old professor and end up saving people on Mars by bringing them a chicken (its eggs contain vital nutrients). Can't even remember the name of that one.

That's Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet - my brother had that one, so I didn't read it much because he was a bastard. Mine were more Dahl/Great Brain/Narnia - but I cannot remember which I started off with, though I did read and reread them all a million times. A boxed set of Narnia books were the first books I ever bought (with an advance on my pocket money, as I recall, so I had no sweets for WEEKS!) so I'll go with them. Didn't turn me Xtian, though, damn my blackened little soul.
posted by Sparx at 8:08 AM on August 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


I read Finnegans Wake at age 3. Unfortunately, as I grew older, I forgot how to speak Baby and can no longer understand it. I keep waiting for the English translation, but there must be some copyright or publishing issues holding it up.
posted by milarepa at 8:08 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pretty amazing that Ira Glass (not sure who he is, but he has glasses!) didn't find a book that grabbed him until 21.

My brother taught me to read when I was very young, before I can remember. Since he was 5-6 at the time, it's not surprising that, like dancestoblue, the Hardy Boys occupied my time for a year or so. They had like 100s of those books. (I couldn't tell you the plot of a single one, or any characters beside Frank and Joe.)

But since no one's mentioned it yet, The Phantom Tollbooth was quite a fun ride for a kid. It blew Alice in Wonderland out of the water, and had some heady subjects.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:10 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had been reading since forever, had a fairly large shelf of Hardy Boys and various scholastic books, but the first books I read over and over were The Mad Scientist's Club duology.
posted by localroger at 8:11 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fattypuffs and Thinifers. If I had a copy when my son was still small, I would have given it to him.
posted by grubi at 8:15 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I started reading in first grade and don't remember 'the one' but I remember feeling grown up because I could read. And I read everything from that point on, including some of my mother's porn, which I don't think anyone realized. I had an interesting conversation with my father about the word 'erect'. He defined it as sitting upright.
posted by shoesietart at 8:16 AM on August 4, 2008


The very first book I remember having a profound effect on me as a child was Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time". Just about everything in that book blew my mind - one of my earliest nightmares involved a giant pulsating brain on a pedestal. A great book, a great author, an excellent story and wonderful visuals.
posted by dbiedny at 8:16 AM on August 4, 2008


My kids love Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Personally, it is hard to point to any one book and say, "that's the one!" Treasure Island probably comes closest, but I was already an avid reader when I read it in third grade. I think it stands out because, although written for children, it marked a transition to longer and more complex works–soon thereafter I read Catcher in the Rye, which was a real eye-opener. I didn't really get that the hooker was, you know, a hooker, because I didn't know what a hooker was in any but the most abstract intellectual sense. Yea, I probably shouldn't have been reading such things at age 8 or 9.

Anyway, I re-read the book (Catcher) as a teen, and found it depressing. Then I re-re-read it in my twenties and found it amusing. I'll bet now it'd be depressing again.
posted by Mister_A at 8:16 AM on August 4, 2008


And also: big ups to the mentions for Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing and Weird War Tales. I still feel compelled to buy issues of Weird War every Free Comic Book Day.
posted by grubi at 8:16 AM on August 4, 2008


Hop on Pop got me hooked on the magic of words.

The first book that really dragged me into the story where I totally blocked-out the rest of the world was some anonymous book I got in grade school. Some WWII story about kids in Finland smuggling gold past the Nazis. Something like that. I can't recall the title or author.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:17 AM on August 4, 2008


I'd be more interested in the first books of scientists and scholars, than those of entertainers.
posted by orthogonality at 8:17 AM on August 4, 2008


After watching Kirk Douglas in Ulysses on Saturday matinee television, I checked James Joyce's Ulysses out of the library. Scarred me for life. In the good sense of the phrase.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:18 AM on August 4, 2008


I think it was first grade, and although we weren't supposed to be on the "big kids" side of the library yet, the librarian saw how bored I was and handed me this and Superfudge.

uncleozzy, that's exactly what happened to me, except it was the aforementioned Mouse and the Motorcycle. God bless librarians who can peg what a kid's going to want to read. Mrs. Robinson made me a reader for life just by handing me that book.
posted by lemoncello at 8:22 AM on August 4, 2008


My first books were all Richard Scarry books. I remember being angry that I couldn't differentiate between furious and ferocious, and resolving to learn how to tell the difference. Don't remember which book that was in particular, because I read them all to tatters. Something about Pie Rats? And maybe someone dressed up as an alligator? And white powder clues.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:22 AM on August 4, 2008


I remember being pretty danged amazed at coming across a very old Hardy Boys book, maybe from the 20s or 30s, and Frank and Joe had guns for god sakes -- heavy stuff.

Good Night! (I had forgotten this was there standard exclamation until I started reading my [sixties] collection to my daughter.)

My reading addiction definitely started with the Hardy Boys as well--my parents recall this as being the time that I started to disappear for long periods at a time. And, to put a bit of a twist on this, when I was about thirty, and thought I was finished with the Hardy Boys forever, my wife was given a Sue Grafton book ("E" or "F," I think). I picked it up one day and realized that there was a huge genre, Mystery and Crime fiction, which is like Hardy Boys for grownups.

So I still disappear, for long periods at a time.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 8:25 AM on August 4, 2008


Some WWII story about kids in Finland smuggling gold past the Nazis

That's Snow Treasure, and it takes place in Norway. I read that book too and all I remember is sledding, sledding, Nazis, and more sledding. I swear those kids somehow managed to sled both to and from school, year round.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:29 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.
posted by billysumday at 8:30 AM on August 4, 2008


Like a few others, I have no idea what my first book was, 'The Red Book' (followed by 'The Green Book' and 'The Blue Book', I may have got the order right) was the first book at school for someone where I lived (Chesire, UK, 1975). It looks like someone write a children's book with the same title recently and won some prizes for it, it's not that, it appears there are similarly named teaching resources available for the US - I have no idea whether these are related to our reading books. I knew some words by going to school aged 4 and would have had story books before too. I can't really think of any reading book that stands out in my mind. Besides Dahl, at junior school (7-11) I was a fan of Bobby Brewster - short stories based around something unusual/magical happening to Bobby, 2 stories that stick in the mind, first, the one where he grows a hair (on his head, mind) that they can only eventually trim by singeing and which produces a firework display, second the one with the cricket bat that can't miss and the cricket ball which always gets you out and what happens when they meet on the cricket pitch. The hard to get library book was a horror about cactuses sucking out all the fluid from people in some US desert town. On preview, Fattypuffs and Thinnifers, about when I was 9 was good.

At secondary school (11-16) the book that springs to mind is another horror book, Spiders, this one for adults, that had somehow slipped through into the little library for our English class for 11-12 year olds. I can say with some certainty that the English teacher had not intended her repressed Catholic charges to hear about young men kissing young women anywhere but on the face. Phantom Tollbooth was our class book at about the same time.
posted by biffa at 8:30 AM on August 4, 2008


The first book [1] I read was "Tales of a Forth Grade Nothing" by Judy Blume.

But the first real book I read was Heinlein's "Time for the Stars" about a year after I read the Blume. It was as if I was truly learning how to read when I tackled it. I started out able to read only two or three pages in a setting, and I read the last half of it in one marathon go. After that I devoured books at roughly the same speed I do today.

[1] That was more than those 10 page training books that is.
posted by sotonohito at 8:33 AM on August 4, 2008


Savages. None of you, Goodnight Moon? Or was the plot too transparent to make the cut?
posted by cavalier at 8:35 AM on August 4, 2008


Dominic by William Steig.
posted by Axle at 8:38 AM on August 4, 2008


Oh geez. It's impossible for me to be sure, but it's a toss-up between Beverly Cleary and Carolyn Haywood - books about siblings and neighbors, mainly. Also Hugh Lofting's original Dr. Doolittle books, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
posted by Knicke at 8:40 AM on August 4, 2008


I don't remember my first book, I *do* remember reading a bunch of Big Little Books.

My first library book was Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson. I still read the series every so often and still love them.
posted by merelyglib at 8:43 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


War and Peace. As if!

Actually, this really was my First Book. Yeah, I read Bruce Coville and Judy Blume and R.L. Stine, but often never finished books and only read when I felt like it. It was War and Peace in 7th grade, though, that made me 1) start a 'To-Read' list, 2) always have one book going (at minimum), and 3) maintain reading stats (warning: extremely dorky).
posted by spamguy at 8:46 AM on August 4, 2008


I had totally forgotten about My Father's Dragon, thanks so very much for reminding me!

The very earliest book I can remember reading all by myself was an I-Can-Read (or Scholastic or some such) retelling of The Pig War.

The earliest "chapter" book I remember enjoying is Peter Graves by William Péne Du Bois. Or was it Tom Swift and His Repelatron Skyway? Possibly some Hardy Boys--my uncle had a ton of those around. It's all a blur.

Learning to read for me was like being granted wizard powers, no shit. It still feels that way.
posted by everichon at 8:46 AM on August 4, 2008


Probably "Where the Red Fern Grows"

Yes. Yes.

I can't really remember what I was reading before the fourth grade, but that's about the time that I first read Where the Red Fern Grows, and it stuck with me.

But maybe more significantly, I had also about that same time started devouring the books of Walt Morey—Scrub Dog of Alaska was my first, I think, but also Kavik the Wolf Dog and (the comparitively kind of snoozy) Gentle Ben; Angry Waters and Run Far, Run Fast. The mix of youthful angst and frontiersmanship (dogs! Wolves! Alaska!) was really compelling to me.

Deep Trouble was a diver's story, and I hadn't really been interested in it as a kid until Walt actually came to our school and (budding Superfan that I was) I got to sit with a few other kids and talk with him for an hour or so in the library. He told some great stories, many of them about diving—he'd worked on diving crews back in the day, when it was big old Bioshock bubble-head suits and pumps—and that pretty much got me on board with the book.

(One of the stories he told was about a diver friend of his who, on a dive, called up in a panic that he was on fire. Fifty or sixty feet underwater, but he said he was on fire. So they reeled the guy up, and sure enough there was smoke filling up the space behind the faceplate on his helmet; the got the thing off as quick as they could and doused him, no serious harm done. Turns out the guy was a cigar smoker, and had left a book of matches in his pocket when he suited up. Some bad luck with friction during the dive and, oops: combustion. Heh.)

That was a pretty singular opportunity (more than I knew, even; Walt died maybe three years later), and it made clear to me at an early age that there was this thing behind books that was more than a name: an author was a person, and the books I was reading weren't just artifacts, abstract bits of entertainment, but things that were made by a person.
posted by cortex at 8:47 AM on August 4, 2008


Not counting Dr. Seuss, the books that really got me reading were the Bruno and Boots books by Gordon Korman. They were basically about a young Ferris Bueller and Cameron Frye at a canadian private boarding school.
posted by autodidact at 8:50 AM on August 4, 2008


A Fat Albert comic book. I don't remember anything about it, but I remember getting it, and that was that for me.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:52 AM on August 4, 2008


forallmankind: "Treasure Island read by Mclean Stevenson"

Is that a joke? McLean Stevenson played Lt. Colonel Henry Blake on the TV series M*A*S*H

Treasure Island was the second most influential for me, after Charlotte's Web.
posted by stbalbach at 8:54 AM on August 4, 2008


I honestly don't remember the specific book that hooked me, but I know that the first two that came to mind were To Kill a Mocking Bird and Tom Sawyer, mainly because I know I read them really early and kept coming back to them over the years. But then, I know I was also reading a lot of Judy Blume and Stephen King, so it could have just as easily been something from one of those authors too.
posted by quin at 8:55 AM on August 4, 2008


Even though I read quite a bit before reading A Wrinkle in Time, it was definitely that book that got me absolutely *hooked* on reading. It was the first book I read that was totally absorbing for me. It made me realize that reading could do more than just pass time; it could be an incredibly rewarding form of escapism. It was also the first book I read two times in a row.
posted by vertigo25 at 8:56 AM on August 4, 2008


Watership Down for me
posted by Hands of Manos at 8:58 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Arty the Smarty, an awesome book about a little fish who did everything different from the rest of the fish in the school. I read that book over and over when I was three (totally identifying with bad-ass, risk-taking Arty, even though I was more of a scaredy cat than a fishy iconoclast) and it became a beloved bedtime read for my own kids, too, when they were toddlers.
posted by mothershock at 8:59 AM on August 4, 2008


Little Bunny Follows His Nose. Scratch-n-sniff books FTW. That and the Beatrix Potter books are my earliest reading memories.

A bit later, I remember devouring Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing and Superfudge, and then for some reason taking a detour and reading James Herriott.
posted by emelenjr at 8:59 AM on August 4, 2008


I really can't remember a single book that turned me into a reader, but I do remember lots and lots of books that dug into me. I still read voraciously and still love it, but nothing will ever compare to the effect books can have on a curious kid. A good book could block out the sun for days, become realer than life, blow your head open. My geeky posse and I huddled around the school library trading tips: Have you read Bridge to Terebithia? Have you read The Giver? Have you read [Anything by Roald Dahl]? Have you read Anne Frank's Diary? Wide eyes, whispered reverence, we were addicts or seers or members of some great secret society.

I read lots of books that I still consider Great, but I also read lots of schlocky series and I loved those too. Babysitter's Club, Boxcar Children, they were friends and confidants, always there, always dependable and gentle, a refuge from the vagaries of the world, my difficult, unpredictable family, my sometimes astoundingly cruel classmates.

I feel so sorry for all the kids who don't or can't read. Books defined my childhood. They gave me something beyond the potent loneliness-fear-powerlessness that my un-bookish older brother succumbed to. They hooked me early on, on the idea of a larger world of incredible possibility, and on the life of the mind, where a new idea is waiting around every corner to just blow your fucking mind.
posted by bookish at 9:04 AM on August 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


Snow Treasure! I had that book too and both my kids read my battered Scholastic copy and loved it as well. Sledding, gold, Nazis - you just can't go wrong with those three elements.

The Moomin books were my first chapter books, I think. They were the books that I smuggled out of the house and up into a tree for more comfortable reading; they got wet and the covers bubbled and I cried but my mother, bless her, dried them out. We still have them, bubbly covers and all, and the whole family still rereads them every so often. They were the first but they were just a gateway drug; I went on and read everything I could get my hands on, which, somehow or other, seemed to be mostly Victorian children's classics. All the Dr. Doolittle books! Every single Wizard of Oz! Heidi! Little Women! Black Beauty! Five Little (repulsively sentimental) Peppers and How They Grew! And here it is about 40 years later and I still read everything I can get my hands on although I did attempt to reread those Five Little Peppers a few years ago and, huh, go figure: they did not age well.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:09 AM on August 4, 2008


My first grade teacher read the Mouse and the Motorcycle to us a chapter at a time. I read a lot of Encyclopedia Brown books but really the first book that got me was The Outsiders. My older sister let me read it and then let me in on the rest of S.E. Hinton's books. I was in the fourth grade, had just transferred to a baptist school and this was the kind of stuff that was forbidden as far as book report material goes.
posted by Sailormom at 9:12 AM on August 4, 2008


That's Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet[...]
posted by Sparx at 8:08 AM on August 4


Thou hast delighted me with this information. Well done.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:15 AM on August 4, 2008


The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones.

I re-read it a couple of years back. I can't believe she got away with that ending... I think a contemporary publisher would freak.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:19 AM on August 4, 2008


If I had to pick just one it would be "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing," but really the entire Judy Blume oeuvre is fantastic.

"Watership Down" was the first book that gave me the sense that I was doing something more than passing the time.

"The Catcher in the Rye" was the first book that got me to think about its themes and what it had to say about the world.

Yes, I'm like a public school teacher's wild dream: a student who actually enjoyed the vast majority of the assigned reading.
posted by oddman at 9:21 AM on August 4, 2008


I think all mine have been hit -- Cleary, Scarry, Blume, E. Brown.

Thing is, I don't remember my first "got me hooked" book, because I was reading before I turned 4, according to my mother. So I don't really remember NOT being able to read.
posted by dw at 9:22 AM on August 4, 2008


When I was eight or so I picked The Hobbit on my weekly trip to the library with my mother. I'd read a lot of books before that, but The Hobbit was what made me a "reader."
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:27 AM on August 4, 2008


Don't remember the first. Read and re-read Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, Chronicles of Narnia, Great Brain stories, anything by Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and lots of random Scholastics picked up from tag sales. And anything in the 500s & 600s in the local public library in Westfield, MA where thankfully they didn't bat an eye at a 6-8 year old checking out encyclopedic science tomes from the adult stacks.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:27 AM on August 4, 2008


... I wonder if i'd have grown up differently if that library hadn't been on the way home from the school I walked to every day living in the core of a small town, and instead was something that I needed to be driven to. The ramifications of suburbia are myriad and not always obvious...
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:30 AM on August 4, 2008


Go, Dog. Go!

Do you like my party hat! I do not!

Goodbye!
Goodbye!


Represent!
posted by ewkpates at 9:33 AM on August 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


I only dipped from the non-fiction section of the children's library until I was about 8 or 9 (future scientist? really?) Then one day I picked up Alice in Wonderland and didn't put it down until I was finished.
posted by gaspode at 9:35 AM on August 4, 2008


seanmpuckett: "... I wonder if i'd have grown up differently if that library hadn't been on the way home from the school I walked to every day living in the core of a small town, and instead was something that I needed to be driven to. The ramifications of suburbia are myriad and not always obvious..."

This is an excellent observation. Harold Bloom says that life-time readers are created early on, and he was fortunate to grow up in NYC where he had 3 or 4 public libraries within walking distance (Bloom literally read-out (he read every book) in each of the libraries before going to college, where he says now it would be impossible for anyone to read-out the Yale library in a lifetime, but he keeps at it).
posted by stbalbach at 9:36 AM on August 4, 2008


I guess childhoods are like dreams: we can't stand listening to other people go on and on about theirs

Speak for yourself. There are a lot of good reasons to read and enjoy a thread like this:

-to consider the changing trends in children's literature
-to note the differences in age at which people encountered their first beloved book
-to reawaken your own memories or resurface something you had forgotten
-because you are genuinely curious about other human beings and their literary choices,

If none of those apply, there is a whole page of other threads to choose from. Maybe some of them will please you.

As for me? My parents read to us and I can never remember not reading. But to hear my mom tell it, the first book that hooked me was "The Golden Book of Dogs, " which I would, apparently, recite with her as she read it. A lot of books mentioned in this thread were deep favorites of mine and my brother's. But the first books that had me reading addictively and staying up til all hours of the night were the Nancy Drew series.
posted by Miko at 9:36 AM on August 4, 2008


Dr. Seuss, The Bernstein Bears, Paddington Bear, The Pokey Puppy, Little Toot. They all have pictures, and that's what hooked me. Also Disney got me reading Wind in the Willows.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 9:39 AM on August 4, 2008


The first book I remember really disappearing into was called Matter. My dad was a photographer for Time-Life then, and they had just published a fantastic series of books called the LIFE Science Library, so he brought home the full set when I was three or four. Each book alternated photo essays with denser chapters of text that had lots of marginalia, so they were perfect for a child to start with, first scanning the photos, then reading the captions, then figuring out the margin illustrations and their captions, and finally reading the chapters. Matter, Energy, Mathematics, Light and Vision - there's a few dozen of them. I'm not sure what series would serve this purpose for a kid now - the Eyewitness books? - but they made me the happy nerd I am today.
posted by nicwolff at 9:41 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh! How could I forget!

The Gammage Cup! And The Witch Family, too.
posted by jokeefe at 9:42 AM on August 4, 2008


Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I was blown away in high school by its nightmare vision of a world in madness, and how closely that view fit the world I was living in (in 1969). I did a book report for my English class on it, and the teacher, a somewhat nuts woman named Mrs. Biggs, called me into a personal conference to berate me for liking a "Communist" book, even though she hadn't read it. I stood up to her, trying to defend my choice, and was told I was a child and that my opinions were worthless.

That exchange changed my life. I learned that authority, as described in Heller's opus or experienced in the classroom, is not always benevolent or even sane. It is up to everyone to question the people in charge, and to keep a close eye on them. I remember also being impressed with the fact that "Catch-22" had become a part of the language, standing for the manipulative flexibility of authoritarian power and the self-serving justifications it uses. It is the guiding principle of the BushCo regime.
posted by birdhaus at 9:42 AM on August 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


seanmpuckett: "... I wonder if i'd have grown up differently if that library hadn't been on the way home from the school I walked to every day living in the core of a small town, and instead was something that I needed to be driven to. The ramifications of suburbia are myriad and not always obvious..."


Maybe. I didn't have any within walking distance but I had several within biking distance. So I got a bike and became a biker.
posted by vacapinta at 9:48 AM on August 4, 2008


Finnegan's Wake.
posted by Falconetti at 9:50 AM on August 4, 2008


Always wondered why they never made movies of some of these. "Mr. Popper's Penguins" and "Homer Price" leap to mind. Though I *do* see that -- after years of negotiation and test footage -- Spike Jonze is gonna try to nail "Where the Wild Things Are" (Good luck to that -- *I* wouldn't wanna gamble on a movie that's already playing in the minds of most people who'd be going to see it. Sorta like Jim Carrey as the Grinch ... sounds great on paper.)
posted by RavinDave at 9:54 AM on August 4, 2008


I must agree that Catch-22 is the one. I first read it when I was a barely out of high school non-commissioned officer in the South African army doing my duty in the South African Border War in the late '80s. I always felt that the book made so much sense reading it while participating in the farce of war.
posted by brolloks at 9:58 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Midnight Folk. John Masefield.
posted by feelinglistless at 10:01 AM on August 4, 2008


I also loved Fantastic Mr/ Fox and am only here to share my fangirl squee. Look!!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:04 AM on August 4, 2008


It's cheating a little to post again, but I just recalled while going through this thread. Sure, with Dahl/Great Brain/Narnia the sheer number of times I went through them has embedded them forever in my mind, but, digging past the intervening years of intoxicant-induced fug, my first obsession with books was the Uncle series by J P Martin, about an hugely rich elephant who lived in castle called Homeward so big you had to take the train to get around in it. It had friendly badgers, evil Jellies and skewers and was quite awesome. I'm embarrassed to have forgotten it as I reread it a few years ago and was anormously entertained.

With a special mention to Paul Gallico's Manxmouse (he also wrote the Snow Goose, but that was wet and had no ghosts or tigers) for making me want to learn to read so I could read it myself. And to "Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators", so I never had to read the Hardy Boys.
posted by Sparx at 10:08 AM on August 4, 2008


I started off with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, but one Christmas I got the Complete Sherlock Holmes and it was all over. It was like the difference between sipping and gulping your beer. I still gulp books.
posted by RussHy at 10:08 AM on August 4, 2008


RavinDave, I saw a short film based on the doughnut machine story in Homer Price. The novel's a tad too episodic for a feature if I recall correctly.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:13 AM on August 4, 2008


Although this is geared toward Jezebel's predominantly female readership, their Fine Lines feature has reminded me of a ton of books I loved as a child and pre-teen.
posted by lemoncello at 10:32 AM on August 4, 2008


The Tawny Scrawny Lion was my first love.

I don't care what that naysayer upthread said, I love threads like this. One of the reasons I love Metafilter so much is because I get to read the opinions of so many other people.
posted by msali at 10:39 AM on August 4, 2008


That exchange changed my life. I learned that authority, as described in Heller's opus or experienced in the classroom, is not always benevolent or even sane.

That reminds me of a great discussion I had with two old guys in a bar recently.

We were talking about the big epiphanic moments in your life when you suddenly realize how the world works (and how you think it should work, etc.).

For all of us, it was after we had read a book. Catch-22 also had a huge influence on me in high school, although it was the late '80s, not the '60s. In college, Rene Girard's Violence and the Sacred and the Tao Te Ching (not sure which translation) also blew my mind.

I couldn't isolate one book the way the two old guys could, but it was cool to hear them explain how they suddenly *got it* after reading something.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:39 AM on August 4, 2008


I've been beaten to it, but I will also mention

A WRINKLE IN TIME and

WONDEFUL VOYAGE TO THE MUSHROOM PLANET and its sequels.

This was also a wonderful childhood book.
posted by wittgenstein at 10:39 AM on August 4, 2008


Oedipus Rex. I didn't feel alone any more.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:45 AM on August 4, 2008


The Trumpet of the Swan

... but it may also be because of my wonderful second grade teacher Ms. Penny Syvard and her daily reading from it.
posted by eatdonuts at 10:53 AM on August 4, 2008


Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

Fantasy, surrealism, amazing illustrations.
posted by Liosliath at 11:04 AM on August 4, 2008


Dammit. I can't recall the name of the characters, but there was one bok I read many times growing up. It was some copy of the Bobbsey Twins and I remember the title being [The Somethings] Twins Snowed In. There was sledding and cocoa and the making of something they called "snow cream" from sugar, snow, and a little milk. I can't find it anywhere online. I would love to restore my memory of it here, so I have to play AskMe.

Little help?
posted by grubi at 11:08 AM on August 4, 2008


Oh, and it was from the 1920s or thereabouts.
posted by grubi at 11:11 AM on August 4, 2008


The first book that I remember being completely immersed in was "Island of the Blue Dolphins"...then later, "A Wrinkle in Time".
posted by chupacabra at 11:36 AM on August 4, 2008


A battered and ratty old hardcover copy of The Hobbit from the school library when I was in grade 3. Then everything in the school library's science fiction rack (lots of Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury).
posted by porpoise at 11:38 AM on August 4, 2008


So, Where the Sidewalk Ends was the first I remember, but The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley was the first that really hooked me.
posted by cog_nate at 11:40 AM on August 4, 2008


I love that they have interviewed authors of books that are probably "the first one" for a lot of kids now.

I don't personally remember the first book that got me to be an avid reader (probably Ramona Quimby or the American Girl books), but I directly remember books that I was addicted too as a child. I re-read L.M. Montgomery's books and Little Women Little House on the Prairie books often.

I can still viscerally remember shock of reading The Giver for the first time. That book got to me. I still go back to it on occasion.

(Also, count me under the list of adolescent girls who read Jane Eyre and were screwed up in their concept of relationships for a considerable time thereafter.)
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 11:40 AM on August 4, 2008


I know I read a lot of RL Stein and Christopher Pike books when I was wee, but the book that definitely stands out in my mind is Blitzcat.

I reread it a while ago while going through some of my books to try and prune my collection somewhat. I never really realized just how dark it is, especially for a book that I picked up at the goddamn bookfair in elementary school.
posted by sperose at 11:49 AM on August 4, 2008


Lioslath, I was just thinking of that book the other day. While looking it up I discovered that sadly, like so many other good books before it, is going to be totally ruined by one of those "loosely adapted from" movies.
posted by Mr. Palomar at 11:50 AM on August 4, 2008


Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox is due in November 2009.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:51 AM on August 4, 2008


Grubi, I used to love the Bobbsey Twins and what you describe sounds so familiar to me. I think it must be the Bobbsey Twins at Snow Lodge or the Bobbsey Twins at the Ice Carnival. I can't find synopses for either one, but I know I read both at some point.

The first book I ever read by myself was Hop on Pop, and even though I was just 4 I can remember being so excited that I could truly read the whole thing. After that I couldn't stop reading. The Lord of the Rings and A Wrinkle in Time made the strongest impressions on me before I was 10.
posted by chihiro at 11:56 AM on August 4, 2008


I had the great fortune to be able to pillage my mother's bookcases. So it was Milne, Thurber and Ogden Nash.

As for the first book that was really mine? The standout has to be Sideways Stories from Wayside School.
posted by froggmaiden at 11:56 AM on August 4, 2008


Good god, 130 comments and no mention of Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain?

And you call yourselves dorks. My friends and I used to run around the playground in 4th grade playing those characters.

Crunchings and Munchings for Gurgi, motherfucker.
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:00 PM on August 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


I was a bit of a freak as a child; I was a proficient reader by the time I was four, when I read (and was hooked by) 'Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman.' Rereading it years later was a bit of a trip, because I realized how much of the humor just flew over my head, and seeing the parts my four-year-old self had found incredible with a new pair of eyes. The scenes that stuck with me most during my first reading were young Feynman fixing radios and a much older Feynman breaking into safes and causing all kinds of hijinks at the Los Alamos labs. During my later reading, I learned that I had misunderstood a passage about a fear of needles (presumably quite relevant to a child going through immunizations!), and had gone through my youth believing Feynman had a phobia of dragon flies. And all of the stuff about chasing women was just completely off of my radar.

If it's possible to say that one can get 'rehooked' on reading in spite of going through stacks of novels through the interim, then I was rehooked by Thoreau's Walden at age 17. It's still one of my favorites, and a much better book than Feynman's!
posted by kaibutsu at 12:03 PM on August 4, 2008


chihiro: Yeah, except I'm pretty sure it wasn't the Bobbsey Twins per se, but one of the myriad rip-offs that followed them. I am stump'd.
posted by grubi at 12:04 PM on August 4, 2008


Rhupert the Rhinoceros.

Then Mouse & the Motorcycle.

Then a toss-up between NIMH, Phantom Tollboth, Narnia Chronicles, and, yes, I admit it, the Little House on the Prairie series.

Then the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy.

So much for first books. What about your nextbook?
posted by ericbop at 12:10 PM on August 4, 2008


(For the record, I read the first two-and-a-half books of Narnia when I was thirteen, before figuring out that the lion was Jesus and saying 'fuck this!' It really felt like a betrayal when I realized that old Mr. Lewis was attempting to trick millions of children into buying into Christianity. It seemed incredibly hypocritical, and really solidified my views against Christianity. That damned proto-fascist lion!)
posted by kaibutsu at 12:10 PM on August 4, 2008


Proto-fascist lions truly are the scourge of free fantasy realms everywhere. I shall send you my pamphlet outlining this.
posted by grubi at 12:22 PM on August 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.
posted by SPrintF at 12:25 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


The first 'proper' book I ever remember reading was Treasure Island. I still read it again every few years. I love it.
posted by slimepuppy at 12:28 PM on August 4, 2008


Encyclopedia Brown? What a hack! To this day, I occasionally reach into my left pocket for my keys with my right hand, just to prove that little brat wrong.
posted by ericbop at 12:28 PM on August 4, 2008 [11 favorites]


Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
My sister just got me a new copy last christmas.

Then once I got older and into chapter books:
All of Matt Christophers baseball books along with Goosebumps and then my all time favorite book: My Side Of The Mountain by Jean Craighead George. I still read that book about once a year.
posted by lilkeith07 at 12:36 PM on August 4, 2008


The first book that I can remember reading (not the first that I read) was Little Toot. Kind of derivative of The Little Engine That Could, but the illustrations, by Hardie Gramatky, remain beautiful and powerful.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:37 PM on August 4, 2008


i had access for two weeks every summer to my grandmother's musty collection of her own Nancy Drew books (so the sensibilities were very 1930s rather than the dreck they turned them into). those were well-loved. but in 4th grade, the single book i remember most grabbing me was The Witch of Blackbird Pond, which i stole from the 4th grade classroom library and felt guilty about for years. i just didn't think anyone deserved to own it more than i did.
posted by RedEmma at 12:46 PM on August 4, 2008


I don't remember the first book I read, but I remember being totally, completely, utterly obsessed with choose your own adventure books.
posted by juv3nal at 12:48 PM on August 4, 2008


Mr. P, I saw that, too - I don't have very high hopes for it, though.
posted by Liosliath at 12:49 PM on August 4, 2008


Dragonlance's The Legend of Huma. I remember cleverly turning off my light as my parents walked upstairs and oh-so-cautiosly turning it on after they went to bed to get a few more pages in. I've been addicted to sci-fi/fantasy ever since.
posted by jmd82 at 12:50 PM on August 4, 2008


Die Unendliche Geschichte by Michael Ende. I really liked the two story format in one book.
posted by Pendragon at 12:51 PM on August 4, 2008


Always wondered why they never made movies of some of these. "Mr. Popper's Penguins" and "Homer Price" leap to mind.

Yeah, Homer Price was the first book that really got me reading. Very funny with great illustrations by Robert McCloskey.
posted by Arch_Stanton at 12:51 PM on August 4, 2008


Damn you guys -- you're dredging up all my childhood literary obsessions. You should be ashamed of yourselves, reminding me that I spent a good 25% of my childhood reading.
posted by grubi at 12:53 PM on August 4, 2008


The first book that I distinctly remember not wanting to end was Viking's Dawn by Henry Treece - one of a series of children's historical novels depicting the viking era, which glossed over the more gruesome details of murder and rape, but were still very challenging for a ten-year old. I went on to read all of them - they were in a specific bookshelf in my middle school that I can still visualise perfectly. Recently I found some of them on ebay (they are out of print, sadly) and bought them to reread. They are still brilliant, and refreshingly unpatronising in their approach to the morality of a warring culture.
posted by bokeh at 12:57 PM on August 4, 2008


I started reading at two, but the first novel length book that really grabbed me and started me as a "serious" reader was Have Space Suit Will Travel, one of the Heinlein juveniles. I read it when I was eight or nine, and still pick it up from time to time just for fun and memories.
posted by j-dawg at 12:58 PM on August 4, 2008


I still remember part of one book pretty vividly to his day, even though I have no idea who the author or what the title is. I remember getting it from the Providence Public library main branch in what would've been about 1982 or 1983, so it was published before that. It was about a young girl living in the city, and just about her going to school and doing things with her friends and so forth, and the one part I remember was the girl and her friend went out with the girls grandmother one day, and they got hot-dogs from a vendor, and walking behind their grandmother, pretended that they had penises and giggled a lot. Maybe it was the books I read, but many children's books I read were frank that way, although I think that was the first time I encountered it. I do remember my nonchalance about it.

The books I remember the earliest, I think, was Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Missing Piece and A Light in the Attic. Of course Richard Scarry, as mentioned is important too, with it's neat little world that always seemed so bustly and busy and real, and someone I will always associate with a band that was a fascinating mystery in my childhood, Steeleye Span, because of their song version of Misty Moisty Morning. Also, the book Round Trip was wonderful, not only because of it's clever design (you read the book to the end, then flip it and continue the story, the artwork representing the words on the page in both cases,) but of the feelings it evoked about travel and visting a city being so similar to my own.

Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary (in fact, when I was younger, I would interchange them in my head,)were also important to me, and while not friendless, felt very lonely, I imagine like many children, and their books spoke to me through that, and the similar feelings and thoughts of those characters made me feel less alone.

Of course, The Monster at the end of the Book and Alphabet Cat were both pretty awesome, and really, there are too many books that were important to me as a boy to remember.

I think my 'readerness' wasn't so much defined by one book, but by a gestalt of many.
posted by Snyder at 1:33 PM on August 4, 2008


As for the first book that made me cry, Bridge to Terabithia takes the cake. I was literally CRUSHED. I think I actually went through denial about Leslie. "No!" was an appropriate chapter title. I swore the author was lying. ;)

(I never quite understood why it's one of the most challenged books. More than Heather Has Two Mommies?!? I suppose a lot more kids read it ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 1:43 PM on August 4, 2008


The Moomin books by Tove Jansson were fun to read. I read most of them as a kid. But the book that got me hooked was Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.
posted by Rashomon at 1:57 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bedtime for Frances. Then all the other Frances books.

The only regret is that I still think that badgers are all cute and cuddly, read newspapers, have tea parties and are not vicious at all.
posted by ltracey at 2:02 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't remember exactly which was first:

Captains Courageous by Kipling

Treasure Island

2001

All My Sins Remembered by Joe Haldemam

Then The Hobbit.

My dad used to read to me as well. I remember Rikki-Tikki-Tavi from the Jungle Book when I was quite young. As well as him reading to me The Green Hills of Earth and poetry by A.E. Housman.

I got hooked fairly young but didn't really pick up novels regularly until I was 13 or 14.
posted by tkchrist at 2:16 PM on August 4, 2008


There were a lot of early books--the usual--but there are The Books that stick out in my mind. Read a lot of Seuss books, like everyone, but I recall one day getting obsessed for some reason by one in particular--And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street--and thought it was the most marvelous thing ever and locked myself in the bathroom and read it 4 times in a row sitting on the potty.
Other things that really grabbed me later were the Great Brain books (mentioned a few times already--I need to get my new niece these) and a thing called The Teddy Bear Habit which was freaking hilarious. Then I suddenly discovered that OLD books existed one week when I had an eye infection and stayed home and devoured my mom's old copy of the Swiss Family Robinson.
posted by Capybara at 3:02 PM on August 4, 2008


Secret Seven, Enid Blyton.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:07 PM on August 4, 2008


Oh and Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, and just about everything by Victor Kelleher. Man, I read the shit out of those guys when I was young.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:16 PM on August 4, 2008


I was reading historical fiction off and on, but not finding very many (and getting frustrated for reading the Yearling at 400 some pages and being docked in class for not reading enough "books" as it was a certain number of book reports not pages). I also remember reading Little Women, and then getting yelled at for going to the adult section for Louisa May Alcott books (still was able to do so luckily).

Then Lloyd Alexandar rescued me from the whole "chocolate banana" (youth fiction with silly titles) books, though I haven't figured out which one I read first. All I remember is a witty thief. Ursula LeGuin (Earthsea series) and Jane Yolen got me hooked.
posted by ejaned8 at 3:38 PM on August 4, 2008


An American Ghost - Chester Aaron.
posted by pinkbuttonanus at 3:43 PM on August 4, 2008



The Pet Goat
posted by notreally at 4:13 PM on August 4, 2008


The rapper liked 'Curious George'
posted by ChickenringNYC at 4:19 PM on August 4, 2008


The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. I had already cut my teeth on just about all of the Seuss primers, but Hats hooked me in and probably shaped my view of the world for its message of unexpected great things that come from what is initially perceived to be anti-authoritarian weirdness.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:19 PM on August 4, 2008


The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:27 PM on August 4, 2008


It was the Great Brain for me too. I loved his Tom Sawyer approach (before I had read Tom Sawyer). And the one where he gives the other kids chickenpox on purpose was my favorite.
posted by ameliajayne at 5:12 PM on August 4, 2008


Spinney and Spike and the B-29 was one.

It was one of the nine or ten books on my grandmother's book shelf at the end of the hall, which also held all the toys and puzzles for the grandkids. While everyone else was building forts out of Lincoln Logs, or doing puzzles, I was curled up in her rocker next to the woodburning stove reading.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:22 PM on August 4, 2008


Danny Dunn and the Time Machine

I realize as an adult that there is no such thing. There is 'Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine.' There is 'Danny Dunn, Time Traveller.' I read those too. However, I distinctly remember holding in my young hands a copy of Danny Dunn and the Time Machine, by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams. I remember standing there in the library with a big dumb smile on my face. I can still smell the library. I can still see the morning summer sun shining through the windows. I remember feeling like I held a concrete dream in my hands and could not wait to get home and devour the book. Every other page I had to ask my sisters for help with a word which was really annoying, but I got through it mostly all by myself and it was a great feeling.

So the book that got me hooked? It doesn't exist.

=(

I also dug The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Miller, L'Engle's Wrinkle In Time, Judy Bloom's Fudge books, Encylopedia Brown, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, and my favorite book ever in the history of anything is Douglas Adam's Hitch-Hiker's Trilogy (all twelve of them!). Honorable Mention: Failure Is Not An Option by Gene Kranz. Damn, that was good!
posted by ZachsMind at 5:28 PM on August 4, 2008


Strange, Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine and Danny Dunn, Time Traveller were the first Danny Dunn books I ever saw or read.
posted by Snyder at 5:40 PM on August 4, 2008


My grandmother bought us a Readers Digest collection of fairy tales which were really grim and scary (definitely not Disneyfied). I can still remember how thrilled I was when I read Chicken Little from it all by myself! I then tried to read Sinbad the Sailor which was a bit too much of a step up. I was about 5, I believe.

I basically taught myself to read from my mother's copy of "Everywoman" by Derek Llewellyn-Jones. I carried it with me everywhere (my parents were pretty cool in their old-fashioned way). I can remember reading the list of things that happen to your body as you get older and really looking forward to the 'secrets'. They turned out to be not quite what I expected.

Apart from those, I was (and continue to be) a complete bookworm so I read everything I could get my hands on (except the Nancy Drew books - I thought they were crap!)

(I like these types of threads).
posted by h00py at 5:42 PM on August 4, 2008


"Island of the Blue Dolphins"

wow! thanks for reminding me about this one. great book.
posted by eustatic at 6:03 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


The first book that was read to me was Alice in Wonderland. My dad read me a chapter a night in January and February of my fifth year.

The first book I remember reading myself is too far back for me to recall. I went through a long Nancy Drew phase, but owned a copy of The Secret Garden and read the damned thing until the binding gave up and the pages fluttered out.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:35 PM on August 4, 2008


I taught myself how to read at 2 1/2 with The Cat in the Hat and I still have vivid memories of how fascinated and enthralled I was with Thing 1 and Thing 2.

I've been reading everything I can get my hands on ever since.

I can also really remember being captivated by Der Strummelpeter as a kid. This probably says a lot about my damaged pysche. Screw it, kids getting their fingers cut off is awesome.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:03 PM on August 4, 2008


The Borrowers! I may have to reread those books - utterly charming.

Plus Grimm's Fairy Tales, Little Women, The Bobbsey Twins, Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Brothers. And some series about western pioneers, don't remember. But I do remember my Dad liked those and we would sometimes read together.

But at about 11 or 12, my Mom passed along one of her favorites - Mrs Mike - oh my!
posted by madamjujujive at 8:10 PM on August 4, 2008


Enid Blyton, Richmal Crompton, and Capt. W.E. Johns.
posted by emf at 8:42 PM on August 4, 2008


I taught myself how to read at 2 1/2 with The Cat in the Hat

I taught myself how to read as well, apparently, though I was a little older than you. I completely freaked out my family when I began reading, unprompted, at the age of 3. Initially, they assumed that I'd just memorized words from TV commercials, but they soon figured out that I'd grasped it and could read stuff I'd never seen before.

I think it happened simply by learning the alphabet, and sitting in adults laps, having them read to me. I can still remember the day that the adults became aware of it -- when I started reading signs in a railway station to my grandmother -- but I don't recall how I learned to do it. It just felt like something I've always known how to do.

And now I can remember the one book that, more than any other, made me fall in love with reading. It was a Rupert Bear annual. For those who don't know the format, each page has four panels of illustration, and beneath each panel is a page of verse.

In this one, there was a story in which Rupert accidentally falls down a manhole and is lost in a futuristic world beneath the streets which has things like moving sidewalks and transport tubes. I think the thing that captivated me was the idea of a secret, hidden reality in which things were more exciting and held more promise than in the humdrum, visible workaday world. That story was both a metaphor for reading itself, but also for the rest of my adult life, most of which has been spent in search of new and hidden realities and experiences.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:11 PM on August 4, 2008


Oh man, there are so many terrific books in here! When I saw this fpp and tried to think about the first book I ever read on my own, I suddenly had a very clear memory of being 5 years old and being awestruck by William Steig's Dominic. I was very surprised (but thrilled!) when I started reading the comments in here and saw that Axle had already given it a shout-out.
I am 24 and I love, love, love kids' books. It boggles my mind that someone wouldn't fall in love with a book until they are of the age that something like Franny and Zooey becomes of interest (and I say this as someone whose copy of Franny and Zooey is worn to pieces) - Frances the Badger, Max and the Wild Things, Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace, Frog and Toad, Taran, Bilbo, and even fascist old Aslan are a huge part of me that I can't imagine being without.
posted by naoko at 10:34 PM on August 4, 2008


The Hobbit.

I also seem to remember some kind of kids detective series with a gang led by someone with the rather alarming name of Jupiter Jones. Or perhaps my memory is playing tricks with me.
posted by Mephisto at 11:44 PM on August 4, 2008


Hey grapefruitmoon, I'm another one who learned to read at 2 1/2 from my favorite book, The Cat in The Hat. One day I "read" it back to my mom, but it turned out I had just memorized what words went with which pages. So she got me some flashcards with no other cues but the letters (ok, I remember "cheating" a little on "elbow" and "nose" because those cards were longer than "if" and "it.") and taught me to sound out words. After that I could read anything, but I pronounced "misled" My-zuld until high school. Do you have the automatic "misspellings just look wrong" thing?

I have probably let my kids watch too much TV for them to be as interested in books, although I do read to them every day.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 12:48 AM on August 5, 2008


I think there were books before, but the one that sticks out as one of my first full-fledged novels was called "The Secret Cove". Or something; I can't find it on Amazon or anything else. I remember taking it with me to church to read during the sermon, since the sermon was so boring. It was about two kids, a boy and a girl, who find some sort of pirate treasure when visiting with their aunt who had a house on the coast. Or something.

There were probably others before that, like the Hardy Boys books, and I know later, around 7 or 8 I started reading both the Encyclopedia Brown books as well as The Great Brain books. That latter series has scenes I still remember to this day. E.B., not so much.
posted by zardoz at 1:04 AM on August 5, 2008


I also seem to remember some kind of kids detective series with a gang led by someone with the rather alarming name of Jupiter Jones. Or perhaps my memory is playing tricks with me.

That's Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators that I mentioned above. They were (IMHO) a step above others of their ilk in that they usually played fair, and you could usually try and deduce the true nature of the 'mystery' before the Three Investigators did from the clues provided.

I used to obsessively collect the first series - I had 28 by the time I moved on, I think. Good times.
posted by Sparx at 1:34 AM on August 5, 2008


"Cheating" as it may be, two come to mind for different reasons. At about 7 or 8, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (in read-aloud form) as the one that made an impression regarding story, characters, plot, a desire to know how it ends and at the same time not wanting it to end. At an approaching-adulthood age, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas resonated because it showed me how far, bizarre, strange, etc., one could go.
posted by ambient2 at 1:54 AM on August 5, 2008


There's really no telling... but it might have been Edward Eager's "Half Magic".
posted by insulglass at 3:26 AM on August 5, 2008


I have probably let my kids watch too much TV for them to be as interested in books, although I do read to them every day.

I maintain that I learned to read out of boredom, my parents didn't have TV! My mother thinks otherwise, but I think she's giving my intelligence too much credit.

She thought at first that I had just memorized it, until grilling me on every individual word and realizing that I could, in fact, read. Other adults weren't so quick to catch on. When I was four, I encountered Alice in Wonderland for the first time at the home of some friends of the family (I remember this very well, it was tremendously exciting) and I came over and started reading some of it to my mom, at which point one of the other grown ups exclaimed - "Oh how cute, she learned it by heart!" and my mom had to enlighten them as to my literary prowess.

One of the moments when my headstart on reading gave my mom a shock was when I was six years old, I started reading some of her nursing textbooks that she had left in the car and from my car seat, I looked up and asked "Mommy, what's a cerebral cortex?"

I think after that there were a lot of books placed out of my reach.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:49 AM on August 5, 2008


Another for Phantom Tollbooth here.
posted by geekyguy at 5:57 AM on August 5, 2008


I got hooked on some books sold at the grocery store, published by Whitman. They were written by some guy calling himself "Troy Nesbit". Essentially, mystery stories for boys. They were the first books I was reading cover-to-cover because I wanted.
posted by Goofyy at 7:55 AM on August 5, 2008


juv3nal,

Heck yes ! CYOA Books !

Totally got hooked on them reading at the school library (do grade schools have their own lending libraries anymore ?! I vaguely remember hearing mine closed or scaled down a lot).

Also, Dear Mr. Henshaw got me, too, in 4 or 5th grade.

My Catholic grade school (K-8) prepared me poorly for high school, but one thing it did right:
having a reading class (do schools have these either ?).

During the most of the class [5x a week, if I remember correctly] we read books aloud:
In 6/7/8th grade, To kill a mockingbird, anne frank [though we almost stopped because classmates went around during recess and rounded up kids], fahrenheit 451, brian's song, animal farm, the effects of gamma rays on man on the moon marigolds, the pearl, of mice and men, the helen keller biography, homecoming [that wasn't a classic though], flowers for algernon, and a couple others.

2 or 3 times a year, we would have to read a book on our own and then write a short paper on it (hah, back in my days, we wrote these in hand ! wait, it was only in 1999/2000, most of us didn't have computers yet), on different themes.

That introduced me to Buck O'Neill.

The times of reading is one of the my few nostalgic memories of grade school.

/gets back to work.
posted by fizzix at 11:16 AM on August 5, 2008


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