1. Ashley Ford: Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
“When I was in the second grade, my grandma bought me the book Amazing Grace just based on the cover. I initially loved it because I thought someone had written it with me in mind. Grace and I looked just alike! Now, I love it because the book is all about how little black girls can be whatever they want to be.”
2. Alex Naidus: Walden by Henry David Thoreau
“Walden blew my 16-year-old mind into smithereens. You mean, a life outside of suburban mall-angst exists? And it’s in the WOODS? And it’s, like, poetic? Christ. Even the word ‘transcendentalism’ felt impossibly cool and important. Just saying it out loud made me feel like I could helicopter out of New Jersey and onto some faux-spiritual plane where everyone was self-reliant and took constitutionals to think about life and livelihood.”
3. Sandra Allen: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
“I read constantly as a kid, but the first time I remember deciding that I had a favorite book was when I finished Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, probably in third or fourth grade. I’m fairly certain it was the first novel I’d ever read and that was what I loved about it — it was complicated. It was hard. Characters made mistakes; things didn’t resolve necessarily the way you would like. This reflected the world I knew, the home in which I was being raised. I read that book again and again. I remember the spines of it and Creech’s other books I came to own — Absolutely Normal Chaos, Chasing Redbird, Bloomability — seeming so much sturdier, so much more adult, than the other things on my shelf, and the combination of fear and pride and comfort that contrast gave me. (Huzza, huzza!)”
4. Jessica Probus: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
“Reading The Phantom Tollbooth was the first time I realized that books could be really funny. Like LOL funny. And, in particular, that there were some jokes that were especially/only funny when you read them as opposed to hearing someone tell them out loud.”
5. Jessica Testa: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
“I always loved reading and pretty much always wanted to be a writer, but reading Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway during my junior year of high school totally changed my perception of what sentences can be and what they can do.”
6. Erica Futterman: The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin
“My first memory of obsessively loving a series was reading The Baby-Sitters Club. I don’t remember where or how I picked up the first book — I must have been around 8 or 9 years old — but I vividly remember devouring everything BSC: every regular book, every Super Special, every special edition, every spin-off. I looked up to them and loved being immersed in their world.”
8. Isaac Fitzgerald: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
“When I was 8, I lived with my mother. My father was on the other side of the state. The year before, my father and I had read The Hobbit, and he wanted us to keep reading Tolkien together. So he recorded himself reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy aloud and sent me the tapes, one by one. That was the year I fell in love with books: not the act of reading exactly, but Tolkien’s stories themselves. Hearing the shapes of Tolkien’s sentences in my father’s voice opened me up to the magic found between book covers.”
10. Arianna Rebolini: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was the first book that really consumed me. I read it for the first time when I was in third grade because my mother, who also grew up in Brooklyn, told me it was her favorite book. I remember reading about young Francie (who also loved reading and keeping to herself, like me!) and imagining my mom reading about and identifying with her as well. It was a way to silently connect to a version of my mom — my mom as an 11-year-old — that I’d never meet.
It was also the first novel I’d ever read that spanned a character’s entire life, watching her age decades. It blew my mind, and it’s become a book I return to every few years.”
11. Kasia Galazka: The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith
“When my teacher read from this book, I remember being in tiny awe. It wasn’t like any other book I’d read, and it felt so cool and edgy to read. Seeing a Polish last name on the cover of an English book also made me think, Wait, maybe I can do these things someday!“
12. Krystie Yandoli: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
“I was in the second grade when I was at a school book fair and my mom handed me a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It didn’t take me long to fall in love and become completely enamored with the series thus far, much like everyone else my age. Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling really helped me fall in love with reading in the first place, because I was so interested in the Wizarding World that I sped through each page, chapter, and book, and while I waited for the next installment in the series to come out, I would read other books to keep myself occupied. The magic of literature and words hasn’t been lost on me ever since.”
Which books made you fall in love with reading? Let us know in the comments!
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