I think readers have milestone books–books that define different periods of their lives. These books aren’t necessarily the best books they ever read, and may not even be their favorites. (Though they certainly can be.) They are significant as much for their timing as for their content.
Here are some of the books that stand out in my memory:
The Book that Made Me a Reader:
The warmest spot in my literary heart has to be reserved for Lilibet, Circus Child. This Astrid Lindgren book was sent to me by my Swedish aunts, and it was the very first book I could read all by myself. Man, I loved that independence! The sheer joy of being able to decipher the words, to sound them out and have a real story appear in my head–it was like magic. Even though the book was mostly pictures, I still felt so grown up, because they were real photographs, not cartoons.
This was my favorite page:
I stared at that page until, in my head, I was Lilibet.
The Book that Set on the Path to Being a Writer:
Trixie Belden and The Secret of the Mansion, by Julie Campbell. This was the first of the Trixie Belden mysteries, and it opened up a whole new world to me. Not only did I want to spend every spare minute I had in Trixie’s world, but I also wanted to create my own Trixie stories. And I did. Yup, I was writing fan fic before fan fic was cool. I still think, with a little polish, my 10-year-old self’s masterpiece–Trixie Belden and the Kentucky Derby Mystery–could have been a contender.
The Book that Turned Me On to Gothic Romance:
The Legend of the Seventh Virgin, by Victoria Holt, was given to me by the lady up the street I used to babysit for when I was a young teenager. She knew I was a reader, so she gave it to me one night when she knew she’d be out late, and that the kids would be asleep for most of my time there. It felt deliciously naughty to be reading something with the word “virgin” in the title, and boy did it get me hooked on gothics!
The Book that Saved my Sanity When My Kiddos Were Little and I Didn’t Get Out Much:
Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. Of course. The big, fat genre-stew of a book (historical, time-travel, romance, mystery–seriously, it has everything) was just what the doctor ordered when the walls of motherhood closed in on me. It was the perfect escape, and I could enjoy it over and over again. In fact, I still reread it often, and never get tired of it.
The Book that Made Me Think, Hey, I Can Do This!
One For the Money, by Janet Evanovich. Hello? The voice! A smartass MC, tossed willy-nilly into dangerous and funny situations? How fun would that be to write? If Evanovich could make a go of a series like that, I figured I might have a shot at it. With a “Linda” twist on it, of course. My voice, not Evanovich’s. Still, it was nice to know readers could appreciate a certain level of kookiness.
Can you remember the first book you read all by yourself?
If you’re a writer, can you remember the first book you read that gave you a Hey, I can do this! moment?
Bonus question: Do you think I came up with this whole “milestone book” thing because I couldn’t make myself choose just one book?