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.
Last of the Breed by Louis L'Amour
When I was 8 and my brother 5, my father worked as a fire watchman in the coastal mountains near Tillamook. We spent an entire summer in the remote logging camps with only nature, each other, and books to keep us entertained. Every night after dinner made on an open fire, a quick washup in a stream, and a game of gin rummy, my father would tuck my brother and me into the double bed of our camper and read us a chapter from Last of the Breed by Louis L'Amour. I loved the cadence of my father's voice, the sound of silence except for the crackling fire and my brother's breathing. Even though I didn't understand very much of the overall plot, I can still see, 20-plus years later, the vision in my head of the spy in the snow trying to escape with his life. During the day we would try to use his tracking skills to find animals near the camp or set up traps and ambush each other.
This is one of my favorite memories of my father and the book that started my lifelong love affair with the written word.
– Sarah W.
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Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins
By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I was happily lost to books, walking through life with my nose buried in their pages. Many of those books flirted with me, made a play for my heart. Slaughterhouse-Five came close, and so did The Martian Chronicles. But it was Even Cowgirls Get the Blues that finally stole my heart... and then broke it.
Cowgirls taught me that it was possible to fall in love with a fictional character, in this case a free-spirited cowgirl named Bonanza Jellybean, and that it was also possible to feel real sadness, shed real tears, when that fictional character dies.
I've fallen in love with scores of books, and scores of fictional characters, since then, but that was my first.
– David S.
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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
When I was about seven years old, I lived with my grandfather who had an entire set of Reader's Digest Condensed Books on a bookshelf that I took to immediately. I read many of the shortened novels in those gold-gilded pages, including a compendium of poetry which turned me on to poetry in general and has influenced me today as a poet. Yet the book that really turned me on to reading, the book that I absolutely and forever fell in love with from those lovely volumes, was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. It made me yearn to be a youngster living in a tenement during the early 20th century and made me curious about history and my Irish heritage. I just loved that book — and even more so as a teen, when I discovered the novel in its entirety. I was astounded at how much had been left out of the condensed version, yet utterly fascinated.
– Cheryl L.
More First Loves on Powell's Blog: The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm | Baldy of Nome | Bambi | Jane Eyre | A Little Princess | The Hobbit | Finn Family Moomintroll | Mary Poppins | In Watermelon Sugar | 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