On Saturday, The Guardian published an article titled “‘Get your head out of that book!’ – the children’s stories that inspired leading writers” in which Margaret Atwood, JG Ballard, AS Byatt, Carol Ann Duffy, Germaine Greer, Judith Kerr, Doris Lessing, Jan Morris, Edna O’Brien, Ruth Rendell, Kamila Shamsie, Tom Stoppard, and Sue Townsend shared stories about reading as a child.
I recently asked a similar question in a survey of sorts: “What was the book that opened your eyes to literature?”
I received so many passionate responses. Charlotte’s Web. Animal Farm. Heidi. Several by Kurt Vonnegut and Frances Hodgson Burnett. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The Red Pony. I lost track of who wanted their names attached and who wanted to remain anonymous, so here are a few of the responses with no names attached.
“Where the Red Fern Grows – because my wonderful 4th grade teacher read it aloud in class and at the end all the girls cried and the boys pretended not to.”
“My brother gave me The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut when I was a teenager. After reading it, I went to the library and systematically read every Vonnegut book available. That was the first time I remember being so captivated by a book and enamored of an author that I felt I just had to read everything I could by him. That’s also the first time I remember feeling in charge of my reading life. There was this sense of freedom, of the world opening up to me.”
“Anne of Green Gables at a very young age. And then Pride & Prejudice.”
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It ‘proved’ that just being a normal guy and trying to do the right thing is sometimes enough to win the prize.”
“It was not a book, it was a person — my best friend. We met in graduate school and she was appalled at my pop culture reading diet and selected a pile of contemporary lit and memoirs that fundamentally refocused by reading habit.”
“Good question. Stranger in a Strange Land.“
“Because it’s the first really adult book I read (and I probably read it too young – I think I was 12) and it blew my mind: The Stand.”