Let's all admit it: We never got over those first loves. Listen to the difference in the voices of any groups of well-read, overeducated people discussing contemporary fiction, or the greatest books they've ever read, and the voices of those same people, only two drinks later, talking about the books they loved as kids.
I was doing a lot of nodding as I read this article, because I did a lot of Significant Reading aged eleven or twelve. It's a time when you're moving on from children's books to meatier fare, and a time when you read with an open-minded passion undimmed by the educated cynicism to come.
So, what was I reading at this apex of literary enjoyment?
- Jack London. It's obvious that his tales of the Northland and its canine inhabitants, both lupus and familiaris, have had an enormous influence on my life.
- John Buchan. I can still remember great Homeric chunks of The Thirty-Nine Steps: 'his type had put the knife into Scudder'; 'the man who could hood his eyes like a hawk'. I was happily young enough not to notice how enormously racist/sexist/classist it all is. Ripping stuff.
- John Wyndham always seems to end up in the older-kids section of the library. My gateway to science fiction (along with the Target novelisations of Doctor Who) and the standard by which I still judge all the sci-fi I read.
- P. G. Wodehouse. I desperately wanted to be this funny. I still do.
These are the books that stand out from that magic age, though plenty of other big influences came earlier (The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy; How to be Topp) or later (Don Quixote).
And you guys?