The book(s) that started it all

The folks over at The Millions have posted their responses to the question: What was the book that started it all for you? They've encouraged lurkers to post responses either in the comments or on their own blogs; I'm taking the second route. 

Blogger Edan and I have a lot in common. Here's her entry:

"According to my mother, I could read novels before I was potty trained. I'm not contesting that mythology, but the first time I remember being totally enamored with a book was later than that, at about age 8, when my mother bought me Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I'd read and liked other books - The Babysitters Club series, of course, and nearly everything by Judy Blume - but Anne of Green Gables felt more magical, and more mature. It took me to a faraway world, specifically, to Prince Edward Island in the early 20th century, and used big, unfamiliar words (I remember asking my mom what the word "abundance" meant on the ride home from the bookstore - I had a small tingling of fear - or was it excitement? - that this book would be difficult). I loved that the story's protagonist had carrot red hair, and, even better, freckles like mine! I took to calling people "kindred spirits" and wondering if I could pull of puffed sleeves. I spent the next couple of years reading Montgomery's entire oeuvre, and I started taping the following warning into my inside book covers:

This book is one thing
My fist is another
You take this
And you'll get the other"

I never threatened physical violence on book theives, but everything else she writes is accurate -- I'd gorged on Judy Blume, Little House on the Prairie, the Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew, and even Sweet Valley High, but nothing touched my imagination like Anne, Gilbert, Marilla, and the rest of the Prince Edward Island gang. I plowed through all eight books (through Rilla of Ingleside, about Anne's daughter), as well as the spin-offs about Avonlea. They were magical. 

Other seminal books in my early literary life include Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy (note my earlier post about literary tattoos; this book convinved me that being a weird weirdo was okay), Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights (which instilled an unnatural belief that every romantic relationship is passionate, fiery, and depressing), and Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond (which made me run around my backyard pretending to be a spunky Colonial girl accused of witchcraft). Throw in The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin for entertainment value. And of course, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, and that other Bronte's Jane Eyre (although I hate the anti-feminist ending). And Roald Dahl's Matilda (a clever girl who reads a lot -- what better role model?!), and My Side of the Mountain (I find that young men generally prefer Hatchet, but MSOTM is inexplicably more gender-neutrally inspiring -- also, Jean Craighead George lives in my hometown). 

But this isn't supposed to be a list of "the best books I read when I was young," it's supposed to be an identification of "the book that started it all" -- and I interpret that as: the book that opened up the world of words and made me love reading. And for that I have to go back to Beverly Cleary's Ramona the Pest, which I vividly recall reading in bed with my mother at a very young age. Ramona was a champ.

| More

 Friends' Activity   Popular 
All Blogs
Follow the Phoenix
  • newsletter
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • rss
Latest Comments
Search Blogs
PageViews Archives