Michael J. Sullivan: Hooked into reading

Michael J. SullivanToday we welcome Michael J. Sullivan who’s here to talk about how he became a reader. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of his latest book The Crown Tower which I reviewed earlier this week. It’s a prequel to his popular RIYRIA books, so it’s the perfect book for both new readers and established fans. (We can send to U.S. addresses only.)

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsIt’s probably not something that an author should admit but I wasn’t a “big reader” when young. In fact, I hated to read. My first “chapter book” was Big Red and I struggled for over two months to get through its 250 pages.

So what changed? My brother started reading THE LORD OF THE RINGS. He was so excited by the what he had read that he used to come in and wake me in the middle of the night to tell me what was going on in the story. I was always half asleep and only caught bits and pieces but looking back I can see that this is what changed me into a reader.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsYou see years later I was stuck inside on a rainy day. It was a Sunday and the only thing on television was golf, which to a nine year old was about as exciting as watching grass grow. On my way back to my room I passed by a very small bookshelf with very few books, but I recognized the title of one and remembered the late night retellings vaguely came back to me.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsI picked it up and fell head over heels in love. Soon I was off to the library to read everything else I could find “like this.” I devoured every fantasy book I could find which in 1969 wasn’t nearly as many books as we have now. When I ran out, I started writing my own stories. The corner had been turned, I became a reader for life and it even led to a career where I get to do the thing I like the most… creating worlds and spinning tales.

So my Thoughtful Thursday question is this: What was the first book that really got you hooked into reading? If you were always an avid reader, which one stands out the strongest in your mind from books you read at a young age?

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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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  1. Melanie Goldmund /

    I was always an avid reader, but one reading memory of mine stands out distinctly from my early years.

    I must have been about seven or eight when the condensed version of Roots appeared in Reader’s Digest, but I distinctly remember reading it over my mother’s shoulder — well, under her shoulder, actually, as I was smaller than she was, and seated next to her on the couch. I still remember the circumcision scene, even though it was several years before I really understood what circumcision was, and also the scene when Kunta Kinte tried to run away and they chopped half his foot off.

    Didn’t put me off reading at all.

  2. I’ve loved to read for as long as I can remember — especially science fiction and mysteries. The THREE INVESTIGATORS books got me hooked on mysteries. As for SF, I specifically remember A Wrinkle in Time and several of the Heinlein juveniles.

    I’m encouraged to read this column since I have a daughter, age 11, who hates to read and her reading fluency and spelling has suffered. I made the mistake of buying her the kinds of books I liked at her age, or the kinds of books I wanted her to like (SFF mostly). It really wasn’t until this summer that I realized that wasn’t working and decided to try something different. Instead, I asked her what kinds of books she liked best from school. We figured out that she should be reading books about animals instead (e.g Because of Winn Dixie). I purchased some of these on Kindle and finally she is reading without complaining, though still not voluntarily. I hope she’ll learn to love reading.

    I do have one son (17 now) who likes to read SFF and it’s fun to recommend books to him. He just finished Dune, LOTR for the second time, and is now reading Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth. Stephen King is next, he says.

  3. Beth Mills /

    I’m another lifelong avid reader. The Nancy Drew books, along with Phyllis Whitney’s children’s mysteries probably started my lifelong affection for mysteries; George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblins started me off on fantasy–I never forgot the scene where Princess Irene’s godmother puts her in the magic bath–and discovering Lord of the Rings a few years later led to a full-blown love affair with the genre.

  4. Romeo Kennedy /

    First book that got me into being an avid reader was The Long Patrol by Brian Jacques, part of the sublime Redwall series. It opened my eyes to a world of countless possibilities and firmly placed my feet in the world of speculative fiction.
    The works of Tolkien then subsequently followed and Pratchett.

  5. Sandyg265 /

    I’ve always been a reader. The first series I can remember getting really hooked on was Tom Swift.

  6. I can’t remember not reading.

    That said, I have a bunch of Books That Made Me, mostly Dutch children’s books (because I grew up as a mostly-Dutch child). The first SF/F I remember reading is a translated-into-Dutch SF anthology my parents had, which gave me nightmares– later I parsed that as the postapocalyptic stuff giving me nightmares, which it still does decades later.

    I first started reading LoTR in my aunt and uncle’s house at the age of (I think) ten; took it out of the bookcase with my uncle’s approval, started and couldn’t stop. He made fun of me in front of the whole family because of it later, which is what that uncle was like. (My aunt divorced him eventually. Good for her.)

  7. April /

    Reading in general – that was Trixie Belden and The Three Investigators. But SFF was all Alan Dean Foster’s fault – Nor Crystal Tears was my catalyst drug.

  8. My mother, a fantasy fan herself, bought me the Dragonlance Chronicles for Christmas when I was six. I was devouring Hardy Boys novels like they were popcorn at that point, and I was already a Star Wars and Doctor Who fan, so I believe it was her best attempt at cementing the fact that I was destined to never date in high school.

    Tanis Half-Elven, Raistlin, Tas, and the rest seemed to leap from the pages. There was just something about that book, those characters, and that adventure that to my six-year-old mind was incredible. I tore through those books in weeks and moved on to more Dragonlance and then the Pern novels by Anne McCaffery, then to Earthsea and Narnia and so and so forth.

    It just became a necessary part of my life. To this day, I would much prefer to hang out at the Inn of the Last Home than any bar I have ever set foot in reality.

    • Wow, Sean! Dragonlance at age 6?? That’s amazing!

      • Not so amazing. I was something of a reading prodigy, I guess. My parents swore they never taught me to read, they just read to me a lot and I figured it out on my own, I guess. I read the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder series when I was four.

  9. Joanne Stenson /

    My brother bought me Memory, Sorrow and Thorn for my 14th birthday. Before that I’d only read Enid Blyton. I loved it, read it in a week and then raided my brothers bookcase for further fantasy tales. Thereafter, I devoured the first Wheel of Time and read Magician. However, Tad Williams’ books will always be my favourite.

    • I love Tad Williams’ books, too. I loved MST and plan to read it again to see if it holds up with my older self.

  10. Rhonda /

    Like many of the others have mentioned, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a reader. However, my real love of reading came between the ages of 8 and 11 when we lived out in the backwoods of Idaho with no television or radio and reading was the only real source of entertainment to be had. My mother read to me and my younger brother a lot, but I remember coming back from the library with stacks of books. The fist fantasy series I remember reading was the Narnia books during those years. But I read a lot of non-fiction and historical fiction too. Those were good years… once I got over the the trauma of not having a television! :)

  11. I’ve always been an avid reader, and my entrance into fantasy was through David Eddings. I have no means to count the number of times I’ve read his books. However, the first book I can remember really hooking me to the point of many multiple re-reads was The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks. I recently discovered a box in my mother’s garage as she was preparing to move that contained my original copy of the book. I’m seriously considering reading it again.

  12. Andrew LaNeve /

    I’ve always been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. Starting way back with Choose your own Adventure books and Encyclopedia Brown books, and a bit later The Three Investigators and the Hardy Boy books. I mostly read mystery books until finding the Icewind Dale Trilogy, and that got me into fantasy, and Lord of the Rings is still my favorite book to this day. I only wish I could have read the Hobbit as a child!

  13. Another life long avid reader here. Early books that really hooked me were Little Women and Sara Crewe (The Little Princess) and the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series by Betty MacDonald. A little later it was the Oz series by L. Frank Baum and the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. In my teen years, I diverged into a split path…one leading to Stephen King and Dean Koontz and the other to historical fiction by James Michener and the Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel. These are just some of the stand outs. There really were, and still are, so many books I’ve loved.

  14. I have to assume the first book that got me hooked on reading was whatever my parents read me, because I can’t remember ever not being hooked. The first book I remember reading on my own, actually owning, was in kindergarten–My First Book of Electricity. Who knows how many times I followed its instructions and brushed my hair really hard in the dark bathroom to see static sparks (really, that’s what I was doing in the dark bathroom with the door shut). By first or second grade II was hooked on series: Danny Dunn, Miss Pickerell, biographies of American patriots, Borrowers, Tom Swift, The Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew and thus was well-primed for all those fantasy series I’d eventually get to . . .

  15. K. Harris /

    I read everything I could get my hands on from The Secret Garden to The Hobbit and Trixie Belden to Clair Bee, but for science fiction and fantasy I think my first loves were the Mr. Bass books by Eleanor Cameron and The Mad Scientists Club stories by Bertrand Brinley. Those stories had everything – adventure, humor, a club and eccentric small town, even adult friends and a smart girl (although the other members thought voluntarily having a girlfriend was mind-boggling).

  16. Misti /

    I’ve also been a reader all my life. I used to read those books about famous Americans during their childhood. I read every single one of them my library had. But it was when my teacher read us “The Book of Three” by Lloyd Alexander that I discovered fantasy and my whole world opened up.

  17. I wasn’t big on reading as a kid. I’m legally blind and hated my hours spent learning Braille with a passion. Regular reading was tough for me, and it wasn’t until books on tape that I learned to love reading. A Wrinkle in Time got me started down the path, and I’m never going back.

  18. Paula /

    I grew up with a family of reader. However, the book that holds the fondest memory for me…is The Secret Garden. I still remember the joy of finding it in the school library.

  19. Can’t remember when I didn’t read, but the books I remember first being hooked on was the Bobbsey Twins series. I’d be given a couple of those books for my birthday and/or Christmas and I be ecstatic for days! Then there were The Dana Girls Mysteries, Trixie Belden, and The Black Stallion series and any other book about horses!

  20. Beth Mills, if you live in the USA, you’ve won a copy of Crown Tower.

    Please contact me (Marion) with your US address and I’ll have the book sent right away. Happy reading!

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