The first fictional book you remember reading & loving on your own. What do you think of it now?

Before we begin, a few brief stipulations:

  1. I stipulated fiction because that’s what I want to talk about. Poetry’s fine; adaptations of myth are fine; novels are fine. But no biographies, science texts, etc.

  2. Let’s restrict ourselves to books we discovered on our own. That is, if your first exposure to Maurice Sendak was an adult reading it to you, it does not count. I realize that for most people that will rule out most of Sendak and Seuss, and I’m sorry. I’ll start a thread about the two of them some other day. But books you were assigned to read in school CAN count, if you loved them and read them first for yourself rather than someone reading it to you or guiding you while reading.

  3. I wrote “remember” in the thread title because I realize you may remember the fact of loving a book but not the title or author. I can recall loving a lot of books I read in first or second grade – I’m specifically thinking of a series starring a kid named, I think, Eddie, whose best friend was a girl named Sydney – but as I cannot recollect the details without doing further research, I’m not going to count it for myself.

  4. Define “loving” for your own damn self.

Okay, now to answer my own questions. I can’t recall which I read first, but I remember being absolutely enchanted by Padriac Colum’s The Children of Odin and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time when I was in third grade. For some reason, despite being a preteen black boy living in the South, I really identified with the mid-teens, New Englander Meg Murray. And obviously people who don’t love reading about Thor and Loki have something wrong with them and should be a doctor.

Anybody else?

The first fictional book I loved was Tom Sawyer. Maybe around 4th grade. I can’t remember if it was on a school reading list, or if I just pulled it off the city library’s shelf because it was famous.

I remember seeing an episode of My Three Sons a few months later and three school mates decided to get around reading Tom Sawyer for class by each of them reading 1/3 of the book and telling the others about that part. They all ended up obsessed with it, and I thought, yup that’s believable.

Unfortunately. I haven’t revisited the book since I was in grade school, so I don’t know what I think of it now.

I read Wrinkle in Time in grade school, and it made a strong impression, although I imagine I missed a lot of subtext. I bought the follow-up (A Wind in the Door) as an adult, and blanched. Stopped around chapter two.

I’m sure it isn’t the first, but my first strong memory is reading the Hobbit.

It was great then and great now.

The first fiction book that I both found on my own and can remember today is David and the Phoenix, about a young boy who finds a wise, talking bird on a mountaintop.

I haven’t read it since I was nine, but in the Honor Harrington sci-fi series, it is still being read hundreds of years from now, so it must be pretty good.

I read the entire series of Little House books when I was six. They are still worthwhile and memorable. In fact, I was just reading a newly bumped thread on them earlier today. Wait, are those books considered fiction or biography? I know that much of it is fictionalized, although essentially based on the author’s life.

I tended to pick up and read whatever my older brother put down. I remember reading a few books by Hermann Hesse but I can’t say I enjoyed them, I loved mythology and devoured Bullfinch and Hamilton.

The first novel I can remember the title of that I enjoyed was ‘Gone with the Wind’ when I was in 7th grade. The only thing I didn’t like was that it took me a week to read it.

I also read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead around that time but was skipping the long expositions and speeches, I was reading it for the love story in them, it would be years before I could get through the other parts.

Ozma of Oz. still think of it very fondly.

The memories fade over the decades, but I recall both Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” and Ray Abrashkin’s “Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine.”

I think the latter has held up better. :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s the “on your own” stipulation that’s hardest for me. My mom was a teacher, and a lover of books, and she fed my habit like a crack dealer. So just through sheer volume, I didn’t do a lot of my own book picking, 'cause Mom always had another three at the ready when I finished one. Even when we went to the library and I “picked my own”, more often than not I’d pick 10 from the pile of 20 she recommended. So Ramona Quimby, The Borrowers, Bunnicula, The Bobbsey Twins, etc. I loved in first grade, but don’t really count.

The first one I really remember picking out entirely on my own, that my mom hadn’t even heard of, was Alanna: The First Adventure, by Tamora Pierce. The picture at wikipedia is even the cover of the edition I read. It was new, and came out in 1983, so I must have been 8 or 9. I spent the next 10 years compulsively checking the library stacks for sequels.

Damn, I forgot about the Baum books. I think *The Magical Monarch of Mo *probably came before the book in my earlier post.

Also, there was some kind of set of classics for children, and I loved to read the Greek and Norse myths.

Hard to recall the very first, but The Yearling and Man O’ War were two I picked out because they were big books and I wanted something that would take a while to read. I probably started Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn about the same time, but I didn’t take to them right away, and didn’t go back to them until a year or two later. Have Space Suit Will Travel is in that mix somewhere.

OH! I forgot the “what do you think of it now” part of the assignment. I still love it (Alanna: The First Adventure, by Tamora Pierce). I re-read it every couple of years. It’s like comfort food from childhood for my brain. I think it holds up very well (better than some of her others, to be honest) as a grrrrl power adventure story with just enough scary stuff for a 9 year old and writing that doesn’t patronize young readers.

Hard to say. I’ve read a great deal, even as a child. I would buy comics, Mad/Cracked magazines, etc, particularly when someone was ill and I had to spend several hours sitting in the waiting room at the hospital. When I was in 1st or 2nd grade, I’d get my Mom to buy me books at the store. They’d offer a series of books at the grocery story, a new one every week; educational books about animals, etc.

I think the book that really got me into reading in a big way, and got me to browse the school/local libraries to supplement the reading material I had available via my meager allowance, was Have Space-Suit, Will Travel. Written for younger readers, I must’ve read it in 3rd or 4th grade, and I haven’t stopped reading yet! Just, you know, I’ve switched to different books as I got to the end of them.

The first, on my own? Yeah, that’s hard to remember. I grew up going to the library at least once a week, and I remember the children’s room librarian laughing because I’d always pick out 12 or 14 books. So yeah, I don’t remember the first I picked out on my own.

Various books from my childhood I do remember:

An Old Tale Carved out of Stone: Read it as a kid, forgot it for a long time, and then it leaped into my head a year or two ago. Bought a used copy from Amazon last June, stuck it on the shelf, and haven’t re-read it. Glad for this thread because I’ve retrieved it and will read it again.

The Keeper of the Isis Light: Very clear memories of this one. Now I want to read it again!

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong series. I still have it on my shelf and re-read it on occasion.

The Narnia books were my favorites when I was around 7, but I’m pretty sure my Grandmother bought them for me, so they don’t quite count according the the OP.

All the Judy Blume books, though someone probably turned me on to them, too. Or at least one of them, then I found the rest on my own. Same with the Little House books - I read them, but I’m guessing I didn’t find them on my own.

I’m sure I’ll think of more. I love kid’s books!

Mine was an anthology called Great Science Fiction Stories edited by Cordelia Titcomb Smith. The table of contents:

11 · Vital Factor · Nelson S. Bond · ss Esquire Aug ’51
17 · Pottage [People] · Zenna Henderson · nv F&SF Sep ’55
55 · The Roads Must Roll · Robert A. Heinlein · nv Astounding Jun ’40
100 · The Stolen Bacillus · H. G. Wells · ss Pall Mall Budget Jun 21, 1894
108 · The Star · H. G. Wells · ss The Graphic Christmas, 1897
121 · Nightfall · Isaac Asimov · nv Astounding Sep ’41
162 · History Lesson · Arthur C. Clarke · ss Startling Stories May ’49
172 · In Hiding [Timothy Paul] · Wilmar H. Shiras · nv Astounding Nov ’48
212 · The Martian Crown Jewels · Poul Anderson · ss EQMM Feb ’58
231 · The Sands of Time · P. Schuyler Miller · na Astounding Apr ’37
267 · Into Space [from Round the Moon] · Jules Verne · ex Journal des Debats Politiques et Litteraires Nov 9, 1869

The last two stories didn’t appeal, but “Nightfall” blew me away, and “The Star”, “History Lesson,” and “The Roads Must Roll” were just as good. When I went to summer camp, this is the one book I took with me, and read it all over and over.

If we limit it to novels, then it’s probably Tom Swift and the Visitor from Planet X, but, must as I liked it, I only read it once.

The first I actually recall would be The Runaway Robot; checking it appears to have been written by Paul W. Fairman in 1965 using an outline by Lester del Rey and published in the latter’s name. I haven’t read it since I was a kid, so I’ve no idea how well it would hold up. I note that a 1985 edition has the same cover I remember. The people who wrote the reviews seem to like it though.

The Robert Heinlein short story anthology called ‘The Past Through Tomorrow.’ It was the first time I experienced what might be called a critical response (i.e. ‘this book is well-written because…’) rather than just thumbs-up or thumbs down based on entertainment value.

Unfortunately, I matured, and Heinlein did not. I still like the way he made a sci-fi future seem like an extension of our present, but the pulpy 50’s prose has not aged well, and his black-and-white libertarianism seems painfully naive.

The Guns of Shiloh, by Joseph Altsheler. I remember the problems I had with the school librarian, who didn’t want to check it out to me because she didn’t think a second-grader could read a 300-page book. Loved it then; keep thinking about ILLing it so I can reread it, along with the rest of the series.

On second thought, ‘1984’. Not that I was precocious or anything… it was in a stack of pulp sci-fi, which is the genre I was devouring at that time, so into my head it went.

Of course I didn’t appreciate it in a mature way. I’m just in awe when I realize that Orwell was such a good writer that this rich, dense literary work was clear enough to be accessible to a 5th-grader. Needless to say, I appreciate it much more now than I did then.

Probably The Album of Horses by Margurite Henry, illustrated by Wesley Dennis; it is a collection of short stories showcasing horse breeds, telling about their use & purpose. I read that book over and over and over. A few years back, I found a copy of it on eBay and bought it. Still love it.

Another of the first was Lad: A Dog, by Albert Peyson Terhune. Never owned a copy but checked it out of my grade school library dozens of times thru the years. I haven’t read it in a very long time, and should. :slight_smile: