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.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I was 14 and hopelessly shy. I kept to myself a lot and had a hard time navigating many of the awkward social situations middle schools are so often plagued with, and I spent most of my free time reading. Up to that point in my life, reading had served as an escape, a welcome fantasy into which I could sink and disappear from the outside world. I hadn't yet found a book that really challenged the way I thought about the world or how I saw myself. That all changed with Jane Eyre.
I'd never really read what you might call a "classic" before, but I nevertheless became immediately attached to Jane's voice and her struggle to find meaning in a harsh, highly judgmental world. Through thick and thin, Jane was stubborn to a fault and stayed true to her own ingrained sense of right and wrong, and doormat little me was continually impressed by her backbone and the complete trust she had in her own instincts. She was seldom afraid to say what was really on her mind, and that, I think, I admired most of all.
Considering how much Jane meant and still means to me, I haven't gone back to reread her story since the day I first finished it. I think this is at least in part because I know there's no way that it will ever be like it was. There's a quote that says no two people ever read the same book, and I think it's true. Should I ever decide to pick it up again, a very different girl would be reading the same words that her 14-year-old self loved so much, and part of me is afraid it won't live up to the memory.
But such is the nature of most things, isn't it? Maybe when I do finally manage to summon the will to reread it, I'll find a host of new ideas to puzzle over and lots of different things to love about her story the second time around.
– Victoria O.
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A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I read A Little Princess when I was about 8 or 9 and loved the book more than any I had read at that time. My parents saved a lot of the books my sister and I read, and eventually we unpacked them to give to our children. When my daughter was 8 or 9, she read my old copy of A Little Princess. When she finished it, she closed the book, sighed, and said, "That's the best book I ever read!" I said, "I've been waiting 30 years to hear that!"
Needless to say, I've saved all of my children's books.
– Tina L.
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The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
There have been so many books that I have loved over the years that it is difficult for me to remember a first one. I do recall I was fairly young when I first got my boxed set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings one Christmas. I sat down and read the whole set straight through, from morning until night, from Christmas to New Year's. No television, no radio, just reading — no doubt with a few breaks for meals and showers. I still have those books, moved many times and much worn.
I am rereading The Hobbit after seeing the second Hobbit movie recently. I still like the book better.
– Jerry A.
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 | 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