Hooked on the story

Hooked on the story

I recently read The Princess Bride for the first time. I loved the book (though it may or may not be better than the movie).

I’ve had a passage stuck in my head since I finished, but it has nothing to do with Wesley or Buttercup or Inigo Montoya. It appears very early in the book–page 9, in my edition–and it’s about reading.

The author, William Goldman, says of his 10-year-old self:

Who can know when his world is going to change? …. Even a week later I was not aware of what had begun that night, the doors that were slamming shut while others slid into the clear. Perhaps I should have at least known something, but maybe not; who can sense revelation in the wind?

What happened was just this: I got hooked on the story.

For the first time in my life, I became actively interested in a BOOK. Me the sports fanatic, me the game freak, me the only ten-year-old in Illinois with a hate on the alphabet wanted to know WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.

Ah, how I relate to this.  I can tell you the first time I got hooked on the story: it was Emily of New Moon: the first book I finished under the covers with a flashlight at 2:00 a.m., because I wanted to know what happened next.

My husband will tell you The Firm was the book that made him a reader. He’d liked books before, but this was the first one he couldn’t put down.

I’ve watched my kids get hooked on the story, too. My son fell in love with reading when he found The Magic Tree House series. (It doesn’t have the caché of the classics, but since he loves to read and his taste is pretty good these days, I’ll take it.)

My daughter blossomed into a reader before my eyes when she found the American Girl historical books. She started Meet Felicity as a weak reader but finished the six-book series a strong one, motivated to struggle through because she needed to know what happened next.

I’d like to think every devoted reader can point back to the book that first hooked them. Is it true? You tell me.

What was the book that got you hooked on the story?

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71 comments

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  1. Karlyne says:

    I remember the Little House series as being probably the first books I was hooked on. I was quite young, and the librarian wouldn’t believe Mom that I was actually reading them. I read them over and over – and I still re-read them every couple of years!

  2. Tuija says:

    I can’t remember what story first got me into books. My mother remembers that I would stack our picture books beside an armchair and demand to be read to – and no stopping before the books were all done! I was hooked on books since before the age of two. (My poor mama…) As soon as I learned to read (age 5 or so), I dove into the books myself. Since I started so young, I don’t remember specific books, I just remember the stacks we brought home from the library…and I never stopped.

  3. Danielle says:

    While I loved books and reading from a young age, it was the “chapter books” in middle school that really got me hooked. The Giver and Holes are the books that really did it for me!

  4. Pamela says:

    For me it was a biography of Mother Teresa. Before that, my mom had read lots of chapter books to me (Little House, Narnia, etc), but the Mother Teresa book was what hooked me into being a reader.

  5. Jessica says:

    I LOVED Anne of Green Gables. But I think what REALLY REALLY kept me reading as a girl were the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley series. 🙂 Sad but true! I remember getting in trouble for having a book on my lap during dinner.

  6. Rachel says:

    I don’t remember the first book that hooked me. It was probably a Little House book but many others soon joined the list of favorites. I remember learning to use the card catalog because I wanted to find what other books there were by my favorite authors – Gertrude Warner, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett. I didn’t want to take a chance on missing one on the shelves. After going through all the Anne books I was thrilled to discover Emily so your comment about Emily of New Moon made me smile.

  7. I’m not sure what the first book was that hooked me, but I remember reading Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, the American Girl books and Anne of Green Gables when I was very young. I still love them all. (And Emily! Though I didn’t discover her till later.)

  8. Erin says:

    p.s. For my daughter (who is seven), it was the Heidi Heckelbeck series, followed closely by Ivy & Bean and Violet Mackerel. She’s picky, and I still have a hard time finding just the right chapter books for her, but those three were HUGE hits. Wish I could find more series like them.

  9. Heather says:

    I don’t remember a particular book that hooked me but I remember the when and the how! I was “bussed” in 4th grade and sent to downtown Louisville to school. My parents were distraught that I would have to take 3 buses and a 1.5 hour commute each way – all to an inner city school! It ended up being my favorite year of school for two main reasons: 1) I could read the whole way to school – 3 hrs. of reading built into every single day. 2) We had awesome field trips to places we could walk downtown, especially the main public library. Loved. It.

  10. Nancy says:

    I don’t ever remember not being a reader. My mother read to me when I was very young. One of my favorite stories was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – – I still have the pages from the McCall’s magazine that it was published in. Earliest memories from reading on my own were the Little House books, Encyclopedia Brown, the Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew.

  11. Bonnie-Jean says:

    Gordon Korman’s ‘This can’t be happening at MacDonald Hall’ was a book from my childhood that I recall vividly as it had me laughing out loud nearly all the way through and I couldn’t put it down. I was already an avid reader by this point though and would always get lost in any story from the beginning and hate to have to put it down. I’m not sure whether I was just fortunate to be directed to lots of good books or whether I’m just not much of a critic but it wasn’t until we read ‘War of the Worlds’ in high school that I discovered the first book ever that I really didn’t want to read to the end.

    • Caitlin Mallery says:

      A Wrinkle in Time was the first book I lost sleep over. I stayed up way past my lights out time, and my mom took the book away. I stayed up all night wondering what if Meg and Charles Wallace would escape from IT. To this day it is the only book to do that, though I have stayed up way to late finishing books, because morning seemed just to long to wait for.

    • Angie says:

      This is the first book I remember hiding under the blanket with a flashlight all night for too! Now I’m biting my nails, wondering when to leave it lying around on a coffee table for my own kids to discover. I so hope they love it too!

  12. Jeannie says:

    When I was little we had a book called “365 Bedtime Stories” by Nan Gilbert. It was about the kids on “What-a-Jolly-Street” — and that’s actually what we called the book (only a few years ago when I Googled it did I figure out what this book was actually called). There was a one-page chapter for every day of the year, and my brothers and I would gather in their bedroom to have my mom read us one story each night before we went to bed. I can’t remember any details of the stories now, but that was probably the reading experience that hooked me and made me a lifelong reader.
    http://www.amazon.com/365-Bedtime-Stories-What-Jolly/dp/B0007EODMU

    • Karlyne says:

      I haven’t thought about What-a-Jolly-Street in years! I had a copy of “365 Bedtime Stories” that must have disintegrated years ago from much use. From this memory (thanks, Jeannie!) I had a sudden flash-back to the “Honey Bunch” series. Those were the books I was reading as a kindergartner. And then, the next year, Trixie Belden. How I loved the cook-outs and food those kids ate!

  13. Amy says:

    The Phantom Tollbooth. I have one vivid memory of reading it riding up the hospital elevator to see my grandpa in third grade. I couldn’t even put it down for the 40-second elevator ride if I thought I could squeeze in one more page before I HAD to be social. 🙂

  14. Amy says:

    You know, I would have said that was true for me, but now that I’m thinking about it, I can’t really remember what I read on my own much before junior high. I just have these flashes of memories of book illustrations, an edition of the original Little Mermaid, or A Hundred Dresses, or school books like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Indian in the Cupboard, Sign of the Beaver. But I have all these very clear memories of being read to and watching the words as my parents read to me: Laura Ingles Wilder, CS Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle. I think I got hooked on the story read aloud before I started to read them myself. But I think that I did read a lot, but I just don’t remember it as well. I think I feel in love with the stories that came out of books even if I wasn’t the reading it at first.

  15. Amanda R says:

    I can’t remember learning to read, or the first book that hooked me. I’m not sure if I think this is a good thing, or a bad thing. I have some memories that date back to being in the crib. (My mom can verify that this is true. I have described in detail a toy that sat on the crib railing that she took away before I learned to stand. She was shocked that I could remember it so vividly as an adult.) Yet, I have no recollection of learning to read, or of not knowing how to read. I remember sounding out big words, and based on the house we were living in at that time, I know I was younger than seven. I remember typing up my first story back in first grade, in the late 80s. I remember vaguely what that story was about (it was a blatant retelling of Goldilocks, but the details are fuzzy). Now that I am thinking about it, I can remember a lot of literary moments in my lifetime, but not that one.

  16. I read THE PRINCESS BRIDE on the shuttle from the parking lot to my university. It was laugh-out-loud funny (as was A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, my other shuttle read that I know drew odd stares).

    One of the things I loved about the book were the nuances the movie didn’t include, like Buttercup’s ranking lined up against all the other beautiful women in the world and Fezzik’s childhood.

    • Sue says:

      I read the book way before the movie came out, and felt it was my little secret. I thought it was hysterically funny and ought to be famous!

  17. I was pretty much BORN loving to read, but Magic Tree House was the first series I remember reading on my own and falling in love with. I read it in kindergarten but I still distinctly remember how much I absolutely adored it.

  18. Jenny says:

    Oh, it was the Little House books for me. I was even Laura Ingalls for Halloween one year. The class called me Little Miss Muffet for the rest of the year.

  19. Mimi says:

    Like many, my mother read to me until I could read on my own. She didn’t limit the reading to only stories. She also read poetry to me. I remember many childhood favorites but I also remember that the library was a favorite place to go and I would bring a stack of books home and immediately go hide somewhere in my room and read.

  20. Ana says:

    I don’t remember ‘the book’ that got me hooked, I’ve just always been a reader. I do remember, very specifically, reading a sentence for the first time on my own–in the back of my parents car, a book about dinosaurs. And sadly, I was a fan of The Babysitter’s Club too, as much as I hate to admit it!

  21. MJ says:

    THe Little House on the Prairie series did it for me. My school library had them, and I read them over and over. Around the time I was in the third grade, the school’s copy of By The Shores of Silver Lake went missing and they never replaced it, so when I read the series again this year as an adult that one was quite unfamiliar to me, but the from others I still had whole passages memorized.

  22. Leanne says:

    You’re lucky- I don’t remember what book “hooked” me. I was always a reader because my parents made it a high priority. I loved a lot of the books and series other commenters mentioned- Anne of Green Gables, Little House, Babysitters Club, A Wrinkle in Time. I still have my library card from when I was in elementary school.
    I do remember the book that made me realize I was both good at reading and serious about it. My dad gave me Gone With The Wind when I was in sixth grade, promising we could watch the movie when I finished reading the book. I knew it was much harder reading than I was being assigned in school- I think that was what made me realize I was a “good” reader. I also remember getting really perturbed by it- mid-way through the book, I threw it down and started pacing around the room, wondering how on earth Scarlett could marry Rhett when she was in love with Ashley. (Clearly, though I may have been ready for the vocabulary, my eleven-year-old mind didn’t understand enough about grown-up love and marriage!)

          • Leanne says:

            Sure, Caroline! I just clicked over to your website- I love your blogging style! I haven’t found many blogs about writing that I like, despite being a writer- but I just added yours to my feed reader.

          • Victoria says:

            I’d love to join you two in re-reading Gone With the Wind! I read it early too, and I keep a copy on my bedside table for sentimental reasons. Please email me when you start. Victoria dot goins at gmail.

            First book for me…hmmm…I echo so many others by saying I was an early reader and can’t remember the first. But, I do have an early memory of being totally absorbed by The Secret Garden.

          • Debbie says:

            Me, too! I’ve never read it through. I tried a few times. Always stopped for some reason. I NEED TO READ THIS BOOK!!!

  23. Jennifer H says:

    I don’t think I can. I do remember my mom getting me books for Christmas and reading them in a day, or doling them out to me on vacation so I had something to read on the drive home. The Shoe books, Trixie Beldon mysteries, are among the earliest books I remember reading by myself, except for Green Eggs and Ham which is the earliest memory I have of realizing the these symbols on a page actually told the story.

  24. Katie says:

    My dad taught me to read on the Chronicles of Narnia. By the time we reached the end of The Last Battle, I was reading them myself, and when it was over, I cried.

    I devoured all the Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew mysteries through kindergarten and first grade, but when I was in second grade, I read The Black Stallion, and that was it for me. I was (even more) hooked on reading–and horses, ha.

    So many good books listed in the comments here! Makes me want to go back and re-read the classics. 🙂

  25. tacy says:

    I have always loved reading, and I devoured the books assigned in English classes and all through growing up. Number the Stars, The Hiding Place. My guilty pleasures? The Babysitter’s Club and Nancy Drew! Those were the ones that got me “hooked,” I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit. My kids love The Magic Treehouse and my oldest isn’t even reading yet!

  26. I don’t really remember the one book that got me hooked on reading because my parents tell me that I basically taught myself to read at the age of four. I know I was obsessed with the Little House books by the time I was about six and American Girl shortly thereafter. I remember reading “Happy Birthday, Kirsten” to my mom when she was pregnant with my little sister (I was seven and a half at the time). Like Tacy above, I loved Number the Stars, The Hiding Place, and other WWII-era stories, fiction and non. My “guilty pleasures” were The Babysitter’s Club (only ever a few of them 🙂 ) and Nancy Drew, as well! I also LOVED the Boxcar Children series. Our library placed a blue-ribbon sticker on each Newberry-Award winning book in the children’s section, so I read all of those. I also loved the “Dear America” books (I’ve always had a thing for historical fiction, apparently). My list of favorite books is about a mile long!

  27. Erin says:

    I’ve always loved to read, but I’m sure it was the Felicity series for me too! I was so proud of myself for reading them all by myself.

    My mom would read books to us aloud when we were young I remember feeling that way about so many of them – The Trumpeter Swan, Stuart Little, Homer Price (great kids books), and Where the Red Fern Grows, to name a few.

  28. Ginger says:

    The first book that I remember “hooking” me was a collection of Beatrix Potter stories. It was the thickest book in the section of my school library where we could go when I was in the 1st grade. I checked it out over and over – not wanting to waste my time on little picture books. Little House, Anne Shirley, and Nancy Drew came into my life in the 2nd grade, and it was over for me! Bibliophile for life! 🙂 Oh! And I remember a book that was in my 2nd grade school library – does anyone remember a book called Megan the Klutz? I haven’t thought of that book in years, but I definitely remember it as an early love!

  29. Dianne says:

    I got hooked on comic books and Nancy Drew early. But I vividly remember the first memoir I read in 8th grade — Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Yes I Can”. I assume I picked it up from my mom’s stack. This was the first time I read a non-fiction book and I was so very impressed by this man’s travails and inspiration. Thinking of this brings me back to 1964 in my upstairs bedroom in Enfield, Ct. – the place I went to escape and fly.

  30. Debbie says:

    For me, it was A Tree Grows In Brooklyn! I read it when I was about 10 or 11. It created a love of books in me that has never left! I still can remember the feeling of never wanting to put it down. I got upset if I had to stop reading. Mom got upset with me when I didn’t hear her calling. Who can hear anything when they are deeply engrossed in a story????

  31. Emmy Wolfe says:

    I loved books as a young girl but didn’t do much reading in middle & high school years. Went off to college and at a lonely time in my life picked up River God by Wilbur Smith! That did it, I was hooked on reading! If you haven’t read it, you should!

  32. Elizabeth Whittaker says:

    I love this post and reading about everyone’s “first book”. Mine was Gone With The Wind. I read it as a teenager in the barn hay loft and loved reading from then and still do.

  33. Ashley says:

    I’m not sure I remember the first book that really hooked me, but I do remember the first time I read a book again. I got into my mom’s collection of Little House books when I was eight and read them all twice in rapid succession. Little did I know that would become a pattern for my biggest favorites!

  34. Susan says:

    I used to check out Sweet Valley Twins and Nancy Drew by the armload, I’m ashamed to say. But I have vivid memories of reading Little Women on my front porch one summer, turning on the porch light when it got dark and brushing away mosquitoes. It felt like such an accomplishment to finish it! And I’m so happy to see that someone loved Emily of New Moon too – I’ve always liked it better than Anne of Green Gables!

  35. Fonda says:

    Dr. Seuss…a family friend had loaned us their library and I kept getting in trouble for turning my light back on to read. About the fourth trip into my room, my mom finally decided to just let me read! I don’t know that it was for ‘what happens next’ but the excitement of possibilities kept me awake far into the night.

  36. Donna Mannon says:

    The first book I remember reading was Alice in Wonderland in 2nd grade, and I hated it. I am still not a fan of fantasy. Not sure which came first! But, soon after I picked up the book, The Silver Sword, and was hooked on chapter books. It is a story about children in Poland during WWII, and I believe it is out of print now. Still one of my favorite genres–anything to do with WWII.

  37. Molly says:

    I don’t remember the book that hooked me. I always looked forward to “library day” at school and would pick up anything I could get my hands on. I can recall reading a set tries of you-solve-it mysteries with Amy and Chip (I think). When I was about thirteen I found The Color Purple in the public library and sat reading it for about an hour. When I tried to check it out they refused to let me without a parent’s approval. I told my dad and he drove me right back to get the book.

  38. Laurel says:

    I can’t remember not reading…. I remember reading most of the fiction in my elementary school’s library. I loved Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Laura Ingalls Wilder books, The Bronze Bow and The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Chronicles of Narnia….When I read them to my children it was like introducing them to old friends.

  39. Liz Austin says:

    I had always enjoyed reading, but the one that truly hooked me and made me an avid, adoring reader was Louis L’Amour’s The Lonesome Gods. My goodness, I couldn’t put it down! I HAD to know what happened next and how it would all end! 🙂

  40. Sue says:

    I was a mediocre reader in first and second grades, but in third grade I discovered mysteries. I don’t remember a particular one (I got into Nancy Drew later), and I’m not sure which came first, but it might not be a coincidence—my teacher gave me a book as a prize for having the best math scores in the class towards the end of the year. It was a mystery. Pretty soon I was borrowing 7 and 8 books a week from the library, and the librarians were always such sourpusses about letting me have all of them! Anybody else have a disapproving librarian?
    I do know that I read “The Narnian Chronicles” out loud to my little (non-reader) brothers on a family vacation road trip, and bingo! They had to find out what happened next!! They are both devoted readers still.

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