Sunday, January 15, 2012

Early books that started it all

Currently, I tend to read similar genres.  I span out when something piques my interest, but I guess it all began with fiction. As a kid, my favorite book was the Velveteen Rabbit, one I made my mother read to me a zillion times. So, I read children's books (as children do), and when I reached the ages of 8 and 10 and such, I would do the occasional book report.

Of course, I never liked the books available to me. I used to get out of the book reports by not participating, and as a "punishment", I would sit in the hall and have to write a story and read it to the class. I guess I though the world of books was limited. The only thing that I used to read were Fat Cat, Garfield, and other "humor" books. Until...

My uncle bought me Stephen King's "Night Shift". I was around 12 at the time, and this was my first introductory book into adult reading. Wow. I was blown away. You mean, books can be this good? Writers can swear? Stories can be scary and not have happy endings?

I read that book so many times, that the spine wore out. I still have it on my shelf, even though many pages are no longer attached, because it's a bit of a memento of where my love for reading began. Thus began my love affair with Stephen King, and I consumed everything he wrote.

One story that stands out in this book was "The Boogeyman". After that, I didn't sleep with my closet door open - just a crack.

Are you kidding me - books can be about vampires? I love vampires! Of course, by then I was a teenager and into all kinds of horror movies; I was quite the aficionado of horror if I do say so myself. You probably couldn't name a horror movie up to that point I hadn't watched, and I perused the shelf pulling titles from films that went way back to the era of B&W. So in steps this beautiful novel of a depressed vampire, and quite a disturbing story about a young vamp who never grows up, except in her mind. The movie came out, but I was in love with the books until "Memnoch the Devil", then I stopped. I was still reading Stephen King at the time, but I didn't really know what other authors were good.

We didn't have the internet back then to Google books, and none of my friends read.

That might be when I found one of my brothers old books from the late 60's with the collected works of Poe. I still have it, with its tattered green cover. By then, I knew of Poe. Not from school, because at that point our teachers were making us read Shakespeare or To Kill a Mockingbird, but because of Vincent Price movies.

Hands down, my favorite story is "The Masque of Red Death".

Then began my love affair with poetry. I'd say I wrote poetry and short stories on my own off and on throughout childhood since it started with those pesky required assignments in 3rd grade. But when I found poetry, it's all I wanted to do. I got my drivers license and would spend HOURS at the library discovering new poets. I had a friend in school where we passed a notebook back and forth and would write poems in them, or song lyrics, because around that time I thought I was going to be a famous rockstar.

I'm not sure how old I was - upper teens maybe - when I started writing books based on the themes I liked. While I read King, I never dabbled in horror. I just wasn't creative enough to scare the crap out of anyone. But, I loved post-apocalyptic books like "Earth Abides" (A favorite) and Alas Babylon. I was more interested in what happened after the end of the world than how it led up to it (as many popular movies go). I don't know what happened to those stories, because I didn't hand write them, but typed them up on our old IBM computer and saved them to a floppy which I didn't label, because I didn't want anyone in my family reading them. Gah. I wish I kept them.

Then I picked up popular best sellers, mostly staying with the fiction and autobiography genre. I love hearing about people's first books, it's so interesting to see what stories really turned us on to reading where it became more than a book report. I always loved vampires, but the urban fantasy genre back then just wasn't where it's at now. I don't recall many books, if any, with strong female leads and supernatural characters. I never read romance either, because most of those books where about strapping pirates and their damsels in distress. At least, that's what it looked like from the Fabio covers. I continued to read Anne Rice, and I believe one of my first UF books was the Sookie Stackhouse series.

My brother and I still exchange humor books every so often; we have a really disturbed sense of humor and are always on the lookout for something especially bizarre. (like "This Book will Change Your Life"). Right now, my heart is firmly planted in UF and PNR. I still love other genres, and some of my favorite writers, but this is where I feel the most escapism, and possibility from a creative standpoint.

What are some of your first adult books that really got you into reading? It's hard to forget them...


  1. I think the first really adult books I read were around fourth grade. My mother went through a Stephen King phase, and, since I was a latch key kid, I would just read whatever library books she had brought home when she wasn't around to object. I remember Firestarter, Carrie, Salem's Lot, and the Stand strongly. I think I also borrowed the Druid of Shanara and the Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever series from my teacher at the time.

  2. Hey Dani.... I started reading really early (around 4, I think) so by the time I was 10 I devoured anything I could get my hands on. A lot of that was the classics because those were in the house (I.e. Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, etc.). When I was 12 I read The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey and thus began my love affair with fantasy and science fiction. I also have read all of Stephen King but that came later in my teens as I scared easily :)

  3. First off, Night Shift = great! My mom has almost all of Steven King's books on her bookshelf so it was pretty easy to pick one up if I was in the mood. Along with him, I read a lot of Mary Higgins Clark, Patricia Cornwell, Agatha Christie and Tom Clancy... are you seeing a pattern?

    After that I got into the classics section at Barnes and Noble. The best buy I ever made was The Complete Works of William Shakespeare back in 7th grade. So sad that a middle schooler was reading that but it made it a lot easier to understand pretty much any other text I had to read!

  4. Cathy - I think it helps when you have the right kind of books in the house. My mother had a few books lying around, but they were mostly tattered old copies of really boring stories I thumbed through that she bought at thrift sales. We moved around a lot, so right before a movie, we usually gave away a lot of our stuff. I did, however, get into music because of their awesome record collectoin. :) It's interesting how King was an introductory author for a lot of younguns. I think having his name as a cultural pop icon with movies helped to lure them over to the books. I was just really disappointed in the required reading in school; I always thought in later years they could have done better with the selections, but schools seem to hold on to decades old curriculum.

    Christy - So great you had access to those books in the house. Those are amazing books to start with. It's funny that in my family we all have a different preference with books. My little nephew loves reading, and luckily his parents stock their house like a library. Books set the imagination off so much more than a movie. I like King, but oddly enough, some of his "non scary" books are the best ones. I think the scariest book I ever read was "The Hot Zone". Anything that's close to reality is far more scarier than monsters for me.

    Andrea - My cousins ended up with "Skeleton Crew" which is okay, so I was lucky to have gotten the best gift that year. I don't purchase many of his recent books, but by far I own more of his books than any other single author. I love his diversity; people associate him with horror, but he writes so much more.