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Once Upon a Book: First Love

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What is the first book you remember reading? What about the first that made you really love reading?

I cannot remember exactly what the first book was because I grew up receiving a formal education of the English language through textbooks. Once a colony, Hong Kong adopts the British school system and curriculum. English was taught with a series of textbooks by grade levels with an emphasis on writing and grammar. Access (published by Oxford) and Integrated Primary English (published by Longman) were the titles. One of the first books I read from cover to cover was The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. Years later I read that Dr. Seuss wrote the book largely in response to a 1954 Life Magazine article decrying the state of beginning reading texts in the schools—the books were boring the children out of their minds. He worked magic in this book with very limited vocabulary and short words.

I wasn’t an avid reader as a kid. I barely finished reading what was required for class. I remember the minute I dropped my bag coming home I had to start on my homework. At least one item for each subject. Weekend was not for recreation but more homework. Very rarely did I come home with no homework or study for frequent tests, quizzes, and dictations. In my scarce free time i visited the library. Library books were more informative and hobby-oriented and less academic—mainly to distract my mind from demanding school work. The easiest transition (and the only consolation to nostalgia and homesickness) between Hong Kong and San Francisco was the drastic drop in homework load. It was in ninth grade that I cultivated a love for reading, after A Tale of Two Cities, which I re-read this year. I never thought history and literature could be combined in such thrilling and lyrical manner. I was totally taken up by the book that I finished it all in two days, way ahead of the deadline set by my teacher. Overnight I became a bookworm, scouring libraries, bookstores, and book piles in garage sale.

34 Responses

  1. I think Dr. Suess helped to plant the reading bug for many of us…for me it was The Diggingest Dog…I loved that book!

  2. One of my early loves was also a Dr. Seuss book – The Lorax.

  3. I haven’t read any Dickens yet, I’m actually kind of afraid to because I have heard so many mixed thoughts about his books, but its good to see that he inspired your love for reading. Maybe I’ll have to break down and give him a shot sooner rather than later.

  4. Wow I didn’t know the history behind Cat in the Hat! How fascinating and a great pick!

    • I was too young to appreciate his ingenuity! But now looking back and re-reading the book, it’s simply super! He uses the simplest vocabulary, string them together and makes an entertaining story.

  5. Oh you know it. I remember my mom reading the Seuss books to me before I could read, and I knew them all by heart so that I pretended that I WAS reading them. I remember The Cat in the Hat (btw, if you ever make it to Orlando, Universal has the most wonderful Cat in the Hat ride. I ride it every time I go…), Hop on Pop, Green Eggs and Ham, and One Fish Two Fish.

    • Really?! Now that would be a solid reason to come to Orlando! I’ve always wanted to visit after you mentioned about the indie bookstores and the library. I’m game!

  6. Hop on Pop and Fox in Socks were my first. I loved them.

  7. A tale of Two Cities in TWO DAYS? That’s truly amazing!

  8. I still love Cat in the Hat!

  9. I am an acid fan of Dickens. I have read almost everything by him.

    I can’t recall my first book but I do recall that, I was hooked on Enid Blyton. She, in a way, has influenced my interest in Crime fiction.

    Then I used to devour the Nancy Drew books along with Hardy Boys. However, but those came much later.

    Here is my BTT: First Time post!

    • I want to read Pickwick papers and Bleak House. Enid Blyton was my escape from school work when I was in high school. I remember reading her books like a week before the Advanced Placement (sort of like A-Level) tests. I decided to chill and read some crime fiction!

  10. Oops!

    It should have been AVID not acid!


  11. I may be shunned by the entire book blogging community for saying this, but I’ve never read The Cat in the Hat. Not a big thing in Serbia. 🙂

    And I hear they’ve made the movie as well?

    • The Cat in the Hat was widely read in the US, although I grew up in Hong Kong. My parents bought me several volumes of Dr. Seuss and this one in particular has remained very close to my heart over the years.

  12. You are SO right about Tale of Two Cities – the perfect combination of history and literary prose! Not sure I could read it in two days though 🙂

    I couldn’t decide if Dr. Seuss or Little Bear was the first book I remember reading by myself and discovering the magical ability of black and white words on a page conjuring up colorful images in my mind — but I was hooked at that point.

    • I spent the whole weekend reading A Tale of Two Cities in 11th grade. It was just so engrossing, and I could make the connection to what I had learned in AP US History that year, concerning the French Revolution.

  13. By the time Theodore Geisel published his Dr. Seuss books, I was in a somewhat more advanced reading category. So I didn’t love these books as a beginning reader, as some individuals do. I did, however, read them to my considerably younger siblings and derived a lot of pleasure from the shared experience.

    I guess the first grown-up book I remember cherishing was Dickens’ Great Expectations, about the time I was in the 9th grade. Even though I consider myself an avid fan of Dickens, it usually takes me a couple of weeks (or more) to get through one of his novels — especially the later ones.

    • Interesting that you share how the Dr. Seuss books have brought together siblings of different ages. I wasn’t very keen on children’s books after Dr. Seuss. I had graduated from them not too long after I had discovered encyclopedia written for kids. You can call that a young inquisitive mind!

      A Tale of Two Cities is the only exception in terms of reading time. My very first Dickens, The Great Expectation, was required reading for 9th grade and I didn’t remember enjoying it as much as any other his works.

  14. What a wonderful story. I think my first adult book was GONE WITH THE WIND, which is still a favorite. It took me a couple of weeks in the 7th grade but wow, what a book.

    • I didn’t read Gone with the Wind until last year! Although it’s an easy read, I’m still very impressed you had taken up a book of daunting size at 7th grade! 🙂

  15. I just found your blog, during a few rare moments of down time on a Saturday. I loved Harriet the Spy, when I was a kid. I don’t remember my first book though. I wish I did.

    • Harriet the Spy is on my reading list. I need to go get a copy. Lately I’ve been re-visiting my favorite children’s books since some of my friends are now parents who ask for recommendation. I went through my list and realized I have never read Harriet the Spy. 🙂

  16. I loved Cat in the Hat, still do. It’s one of the few books I won’t let my daughter give away.

  17. I have kept mine since my parents first gave me when I was in 1st (?) grade.

  18. […] Once Upon a Book: First Love […]

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