First books

First book — I seem to recall something involving cartoon puppies.

First real books — The Three Investigators, anything by Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew. (Yup; I read Nancy Drew, and I liked it. Happens to me all the time — people forget to say “You’re not supposed to enjoy that!” or “That’s not possible!”, and I do.)

First non-fiction — A red-covered series of well-illustrated books about life during different periods of history. Way cool. Also David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work. (How things work? It’s all about the mammoths, man.)

First tie-in — I read a Doctor Who book very early on, just because it happened to my hand in the library bus, and it had a flashy cover. It was bloody confusing as I didn’t know what Doctor Who was, and who this chap they all called “Doctor” was supposed to be; didn’t even quite realize it was a part of something, a brand. No recollection of the plot.

First time out of my depth — Imagine an Ian Fleming James Bond novel in a stack of Drews and Blytons. Boy that was age-inappropriate and puzzling. (“Ew, what’s that? What’s this all about? I don’t understand anything!” — but I read one of them through. Might have been You Only Live Twice; all I remember about it is wondering if James Bond novels really are meant to end with the main character remaining an amnesiac fisherman in a Japanese village. Didn’t seem right somehow.)

First Stephen King — Pet Sematary. Don’t start with this one. Especially not if you’re way young. Dear empty heavens, it’s the book King himself almost didn’t want to publish because it was so gruesome. (Didn’t touch King again until I was twenty and in the army; the library there had an English volume that had both Carrie and the Tommyknockers in it; brightened those fever-bright days some, it did. Have read, I think, most King has written, since.)

First science fiction — Either Asimov’s Foundation series or then Jules Verne. Then Dune and Clarke. Finding these was terribly random because when you’re young, not terribly good in asking questions, and don’t even have Wikipedia around yet, you don’t get a good picture of what is famous, what incidental, and how much of what author there remains. (Also, remember that not everything that’s written is translated into Finnish, or acquired into a library in a municipality of 2000 not terribly reading-interested people. Not even to mention that Asimov et al. were shelved and scattered in the general section — not the kiddie shelves, that is — and boy are the majority of those books soporific in aspect and appearance.)

First fantasy — I guess it was the Lord of the Rings. (I’m pretty confident that it wasn’t the Hobbit, because the localest library didn’t have a copy of that.) First picked the Two Towers off the shelf, a read bit, wondered why all these people were running around like headless chickens, and then, with my keen senses, observed it was part two. From then on, all was bliss.

First horror — H. P. Lovecraft I think, unless it was Pet Sematary, or a collection of unspeakably gruesome body horror stories that kept me awake when having some kind of a school-related work-sampling day riding with the library bus. The body horror stuff managed to turn me off horror for a few years. (Oh, and on HPL — quickly found out that the reason you read a lot of him is you don’t want to put the book down and turn out the lights. Passed a collection containing the Whisperer in Darkness to my little brother; according to his recall, all was well until the last sentence. Then he put the book down and spent the next few hours not sleeping.)

First bloody-many-volume-series — Eddings (Belgariad, Malloreon) and Dragonlance. Both eventually spiralled into buying the continuations in English because the Finnish translations weren’t there yet, and I wasn’t the sort of a person to ask if they ever would be. I jumped to original Eddings with the Tamuli, and to untranslated Dragonlance with all the non-Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman books.

(I can actually recall the first time I came across Dragonlance. It was, unlike the most of these, not in a library. It was a family holiday into a city in southern Finland, it was a shop that sold used books; and the shelf held three battered paperback ones: the Finnish translations of the Dragons of Autumn Twilight, of Winter Night, and of Spring Dawning. I had no idea what they were, who the writers were (though I remember thinking “Way cool! Written by two girls!” — which, however, was not the case. Sorry, Tracy Hickman.), but they were thick and not at all childish-looking books, and they had serious-looking people with swords and armors and DRAGONS on the covers. And thus I went to my father, whined a bit, and left the shop with the said books. The trip went swimmingly; well, except that after the first night, overoptimistically prepared for with five people and one tent, we bought another. Didn’t much care; I was reading.)

First book in English — I wish I remembered; most probably some Dragonlance novel. (I got a copy of the Shaping of Middle-Earth — one of the History of the Middle-Earth series — very early on; not the best book to start familiarizing yourself with the English language with.)

First book in German — Okay, I’ve read three books in German. Pratchett and Gaiman’s Good Omens, some Discworld book, and a third whose identity eludes me right now. Required two or three years of high school German, and a school-arranged class-trip-for-German-studying-ones to both get the said books, and the necessary fever to read them. Was then on the level that I could muddle through because I had read the same books in Finnish or English (in the case of Good Omens, both) before. Nowadays, I can barely sing along to Rammstein.

Oh, the good old days.

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