For this special Valentine's Day series, we asked our readers to tell us about the first book that stole their heart. Here are some of our favorite stories. They range from joyful to wistful, hilarious to poignant — but each demonstrates the ineffable experience of falling in love with a book, an author, or a fictional character. Check back tomorrow for more tales of bookish love.
Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
When I was about 7, our school librarian read Finn Family Moomintroll to our class. I absolutely fell in love with the Moomins. I borrowed the book from the library, but when the time came to return it, I couldn't bring myself to do it. I wanted to have that book forever. So I did what any panicked 7-year-old would do. I hid it under my bed.
My mum found the book months later when it was well overdue and asked me why I hadn't returned it. I burst into tears and told her I stole the book because I loved the story and I wanted to keep it with me forever. That was when I learned that there was such a thing as bookshops and that there were actually more than one copy of all the books in our library. It was a stunning revelation.
I took the book back and apologized to the librarian, and my mum took me out and bought me my very own copy of Finn Family Moomintroll. I'm in my early 50s now and I have the whole series, and I still read the books every now and then. I'm so glad I never had to say goodbye to the Moomins. Bookshops are some of my favorite places on this planet.
– Mairi W.
÷ ÷ ÷
Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
As voracious a reader as I am now, I was late to the book party. No one read to me as a child, but it never occurred to me to ask because, truthfully, there weren't many adults around who had the time. As a result, I didn't come to appreciate books until I could read by myself. But the books that made me fall in love with reading were the ones that took me to a place where children were taken care of, and where magic happened. My favorite was a boxed set of Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers.
I fell in love with the way I could open those books and get lost again and again and again. I could be transported to so many places with Mary — a lovely house in London with a warm fire and toast, a tea party on the ceiling, a balloon-buoyed trip through the park, a tiny world full of Plasticine people. If I wasn't reading those books, I was playing with my set of Mary Poppins paper dolls and recreating the scenes.
Soon I was given Charlotte's Web and fell in love with Wilbur. Then I became enthralled with Anne of Green Gables and a slew of Scholastic titles. In junior high, it was Great Expectations, followed by Shakespeare in high school. Later still, as an English major in college, I found Milton and Chaucer. But I always went back to Mary Poppins, to that safe warm place where everything was just as you imagined it should be.
– Linda W.
÷ ÷ ÷
In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan
The first book that made me swoon was Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar. I was 13, allowed to go on my own into the city's oldest library, which was downtown (we lived in the suburbs in a small city in Ontario, Canada). That was exciting and new in itself.
Over 45 years later, I can still recall the exact spot where I was standing in the "stacks" in the old, musty, dark basement of the library. The shelves stood close together; the floors creaked. As I scanned the books, the title of Brautigan's novella caught my eye (I have no idea what else was on that shelf!). Curious, I pulled it out, opened it, and read the first line: "In watermelon sugar the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in watermelon sugar."
I literally swooned. My world shifted in that moment. I had never encountered anything like it. My mind swirled as I imagined a life, a world, lived in watermelon sugar! I still own the book and most of Brautigan's others.
– Alivia M.
More First Loves on Powell's Blog: Last of the Breed | Even Cowgirls Get the Blues | A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm | Baldy of Nome | Bambi | Jane Eyre | A Little Princess | The Hobbit | Far from the Madding Crowd | The Pink Motel | From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler | The Only Alien on the Planet | Charlotte Sometimes | The Singing Tree
Books mentioned in this post