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.
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
If my mother is to be believed, I read at a precociously early age, and I cherish memories of the look, feel, and even smell of the Beacon Early Readers (this was England in the late 1940s). I leapt from them into Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series, which I also loved and read over and over. But my big book moment, the life-changer, came when I was seven and my parents let me listen, in bed on Sunday evenings, to the BBC serialization of Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. I was enraptured with Bathsheba and Gabriel. I wanted this story with all my heart. I couldn't wait for the next episode: I asked for the book at the library. Bless the heart of the librarian who directed me to it in the big people's library. I took it home and tore into it. I know I couldn't have understood it all; it's hard for me to believe now that I consumed it so avidly, but I did. And I loved it, and do to this day after countless readings.
So I have just bought a new copy for my granddaughter's ninth birthday. She may not be ready for it. She may not read it until she is 30, or 70, but I want to know she has it on her shelf.
– Liza T. S.
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The Pink Motel by Carol Ryrie Brink
My first love was The Pink Motel by Carol Ryrie Brink. I don't think this was the first book I read, but it is definitely the first I can still remember reading.
The Pink Motel is a story of some kids whose family inherited a quirky pink motel (and several of its odd guests) in Florida. I grew up in the Midwest and never saw an ocean, a beach, or a palm tree until after I got out of college. So this was some pretty strange and intriguing stuff for me. It led to a brief stint of pink as my favorite color and a lifelong love of oceans and the tropics. My first job out of college took me around the world where I worked and lived on the ocean and more than a few beaches.
Even though I'm landlocked again in Colorado, I still have a couple of pink flamingos in my garden. It wasn't until I saw a copy for sale online that I read it again after 45 years and realized what an effect it had had on my life.
– Allen T.
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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
I grew up in an L.A. suburb in the '70s, and when I was in elementary school my mom would take my sister and me to the public library every Saturday morning. I always checked out the maximum books allowed (10) and read them all during the week. Every weekend, 10 books. I must have borrowed and read Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler over 50 times. It was always in my tall stack of 10.
Finally, my mother bought me my own copy (paperback!), and I still have it today. I loved reading about the Met, and while I didn't aspire to run away from home, it made me yearn to live in New York City. It seemed like a world so exotic and amazing.
When I finally did move to NYC and go to the Met for the first time, it felt strangely familiar, like an old friend, even though I hadn't read the book in ages. I am still attracted to books that transport me to a place I've never been but make me want to travel there.
– Ruth R.
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 | Finn Family Moomintroll | Mary Poppins | In Watermelon Sugar | The Only Alien on the Planet | Charlotte Sometimes | The Singing Tree