Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten “Gateway” Books/Authors in My Reading Journey.
|Into the Book World, by moffs|
Gateway books… those books or authors that opened you up to a whole new world of reading. After all these years, it’s sometimes hard to be sure which book it was in particular, though some still stand out like shining stars.
- Nancy Drew. I’m pretty sure it was a Nancy Drew book (though I can’t remember which one) that first got me excited about reading mysteries. I do know exactly when: the summer before I turned 7, when I had my tonsils out and we moved from New York City to rural Maryland. I spent the week after I got out of the hospital with my grandparents and not allowed to run around much, so I spent the week reading. After going through all of Mom’s old Bobbsey Twins books, I stumbled on her shelf of Nancy Drew mysteries. By the end of the week, I’d plowed through 10 or 12 of them — all she had — and I was hooked. I devoured Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys, the Three Investigators, Judy Bolton, anything I could get my hands on.
- Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh. Again, I can’t be sure which book it was. It might have been Christie’s The Secret Adversary, or Marsh’s A Man Lay Dead. Between them, those two authors ushered the middle-school-aged me into the world of grown-up mysteries – specifically by British authors. After I discovered those two (and read everything I could get my hands on), there was no stopping me. Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey, Dick Francis, Catherine Aird, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ellis Peters… I fell in love with British mysteries and never looked back.
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. C. S. Lewis’s masterpiece was probably not the first fantasy I ever read — almost certainly not if you count fairy tales. But it was the one that sparked a lifelong love of fantasy, and by extension, science fiction. Because I loved the Narnia books, I began actively looking for others like them in my elementary-school years. Lewis led me to Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain and L. M. Boston’s Green Knowe books, to George MacDonald and Madeleine L’Engle and Tolkien.
- The Lord of the Rings was my gateway to grown-up fantasy, even though I discovered it in 6th grade. It led me to Katherine Kurtz and Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley (even though the latter two are really more SF than fantasy), and later to Mercedes Lackey, Raymond Feist, David Eddings, and many more. And it’s hard to say whether my love for the works of Robin McKinley and Tamora Pierce owes more to Lewis or to Tolkien, since I didn’t discover them until college or even later. (That’s in part due to my age; I graduated high school in 1980.)
- The White Mountains, the beginning of John Christopher’s YA post-apocalyptic trilogy about a future in which the Tripods control humans through mind-altering Caps, was almost certainly the first SF novel I ever read. From there I moved on to Robert A. Heinlein’s juvenile SF, Andre Norton, and Ray Bradbury, and eventually to Heinlein’s adult works, Asimov, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game (which I read when it was first published as a novella), and a few other SF authors (see the aforementioned Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley.)
- King Arthur and His Knights. I stumbled across a ravaged copy of Elizabeth Lodor Merchant’s retelling of some of the tale’s from Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur in the hot, dusty attic room that served as my summer camp’s library, and I was enchanted. It is, coincidentally, illustrated by Frank Godwin, who would later become (posthumously) my step-great-grandfather, though of course I didn’t realize that at the time. Regardless, I fell in love as much with the illustrations and the material as the book itself, and it sparked a decades-long love affair with Arthurian myth. Because of that book, I read Mary Stewart’s Arthurian saga and other Arthurian fiction, some of the classic source material and semi-related myths (Chretien de Troyes, Geoffrey of Monmouth, The Mabinogion), and even nonfiction explorations of the Arthurian myth and history. I also helped my mother, a tour director, design and lead a tour of Arthurian Britain.
- Mary Stewart. Stewart’s romantic novels, which my mother loved but which I found only after reading The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills, were my introduction to the romantic suspense genre. I read them in high school, along with Victoria Holt, but once I hit college, I didn’t read much else until I picked up one of Jayne Anne Krentz’s Arcane Society novels. I was drawn to it more from the paranormal angle, but I moved from there into her non-paranormal romantic suspense (both as Krentz and, in the historical mode, as Amanda Quick) and then to Nora Roberts. Oh – and I still love Mary Stewart!
- Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series was probably my earliest historical fiction, and gave me a thirst for stories about earlier times. That thirst was fed by Louisa May Alcott, L. M. Montgomery, Noel Streatfield, Rosemary Sutcliffe, and Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond, until I was old enough to move on to adult historical fiction.
- Mary Balogh was probably my gateway to historical romance — in fact, to romance as a genre altogether. Although it may have been Mary Jo Putney. I can’t be certain whether I read A Summer to Remember or Angel Rogue first, but once I discovered that historical romance was more than the “bodice rippers” of my bookstore days (the ones I didn’t read), I was hooked.
- Robyn Carr’s Virgin River started me on contemporary romance, which I had been avoiding until for some reason I picked up that book. I still don’t read a lot of contemporary romance authors, focusing on a short list of top-notch authors (Carr, Mallory, March, Wiggs, Woods, and Thayne, so far.) But I’m grateful that I found them. (Come to think of it, I suppose you could say Rosamunde Pilcher came first… but I don’t think of her early romances as contemporary, somehow.)
- Romeo and Juliet was my introduction to Shakespeare. I saw my first play at age 10, performed by the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon, and fell in love — with the language and with the romance. I read bits of the play a week later, but didn’t have an opportunity to study Shakespeare until high school, when my school put on first Romeo and Juliet and then A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That first play in Stratford also kindled my love of theater, which became my college major. One of my few regrets in life is that I haven’t stayed involved in theater, at least not consistently. But as a homeschool mom, I made sure our daughter read and watched more live Shakespeare than most high school students ever get to (and she loves him, too!)
So what are your gateway books, and where have they led you?