“Every reader has his first book, one book among all others which in early youth first fascinates his imagination, and at once excites and satisfies the desires of his mind…” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
While I almost always take Longfellow at his word, in this particular case, I’m going to disagree—mainly because I can’t narrow it down to just one book.
I’d argue that throughout our lives as readers, we have any number of “first” books. There’s the first book we read “without pictures.” There’s the first book that scared us, or the first book that made us laugh out loud. There’s the first book of poetry. There’s the first book that made us say, “I wish I could write like this” and maybe there’s even one that made us say, “I think I want to write one.” All of them, in some way, fascinate the imagination, as Longfellow says.
There are any number of first books, but all of them have one thing in common: somehow, they all made a lasting impression. Maybe the book that “excites and satisfies the desires” wasn’t even necessarily a great book—but the fact that it’s one of your “firsts” usually makes it a favorite. Mine are that way. I wish I could say that my first books were classics or sophisticates like Robinson Crusoe or Tom Brown’s School Days, but as you’ll soon see, they usually weren’t. They were certainly solid enough—and many are still read today—but mine fall more within the “sleeper” category. Some may indeed be classics. Still others may flat out stink.
Just for fun, then, I’m starting a feature I’m so cleverly calling “First Books,” in which I’ll talk about books that, for one reason or another, are burned into my memory, or made some sort of lasting impact on me. It might be the first book I can remember reading with the flashlight under the covers, or the first mystery that truly impressed me. It might be the first horror story I ever read, or even the first comic book I can remember reading. They might be books you like . . .or then again, they might not.