Monday, September 1, 2008

First Book Loves

"Once, in my father's bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later -- no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget -- we will return." -- Carlos Ruiz Zafon; The Shadow of the Wind, p.8

I love this picture of the impact a book -- especially that first resonating story -- has on a reader. For the narrator, Daniel Sempere, that book is The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. This book literally impacts the rest of Daniel's life, as it introduces him to his first crush, sends him on a quest to find out more about the mysterious author, and pits him against the eerie character who wants nothing more than to destroy all of Carax's works.

The quote above reminded me of my own first experience with an impact-filled, "echoing" read. Mine was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, my introduction to one of my all-time favorite series, The Chronicles of Narnia. I had already loved reading before this book, but this one just resonated with me as a 7-year-old. I loved discovering the references to my faith, imagining the existence of other worlds, and getting more out of the stories with every reread. I remember saving my quarters as an 8-year-old to buy the series in a paperback boxed set. Far from being merely attached to the stories, when I need to replace titles that were falling apart, I held out for the same series with the same cover art (though different publication dates) that I found at tag sales. Partly, this is in protest to the renumbering of the series since 1994, but mostly I can't imagine reading the books in a different size book, with a different font or margin width.

There's nothing like a first reading love. Though my experience is not as dramatically life-impacting as Daniel's, "those first images, the echo of words" were never left behind. What are your "first loves" in reading?

Works cited:
Ruiz Zafon, Carlos. The Shadow of the Wind. Trans. by Lucia Graves. New York: Penguin Press, 2004.