What was your first book crush?

What books do you cringe at having loved? Nadia Chaudhury collects the teen-age literary crushes of 30 popular writers.

The feelings are so strong and obsessive. The books seem smart, sophisticated, cool; the characters in them say and do such great things, they seem like guides sent to teach you how to be that way too. But then the crush goes, and the object of one's former affection becomes an embarrassment—or at least the memory of you quoting them so seriously does.

It's heartwarming to realize that no matter how cheesy Dragonlance/Forgotten Realms books are, they insulated me from Ayn Rand at a most vulnerable age.


  1. It’s not one i’m ashamed of.. but i ran into L. Neil Smith’s probability broach at about…11 or 12 years old.  I decided then and there i was an anarcho-capitalist propertarian.
    I believe it primed me for when i ran into Discordia, RAWilson, libertarianism, and all the wonderful shaping influences i found a few years later.  
    He’s kind of an awesome guy, i dropped him an email a few years later and confirmed my guess that he’s a bit of a discordian himself.  (though the asteroid being 5023 Eris in Forge of the Elders was a pretty strong hint).   

    I’m now planning on leaving a copy around for my kids to find in a few years, hoping lightning will strike twice.

    1. No offense intended, seriously, but your user name covers the first one that comes to mind for me. I still don’t think it was a terrible book, but I’ve since become convinced that Card is off the rails.

      I guess I’ll have to go with the Xanth books. It took me reading some of his other books to realize just how creepy Piers Anthony’s is, with his fixation on sexualizing children.

  2. Wow, has it really become so fashionable to diss Raymond Carver and Jack Kerouac? I’m not saying that they’re the greatest authors that America has to offer, but their work still holds up. A handful of Carver short stories, in particular, can still stop me in my tracks. I can relate to the “oh, we’ve soo moved on” vibe, but of everything I read in my young-adult life, I wouldn’t single those two out as guilty pleasures.

    1. Carver still gets nods from big time industry voices as a master few to none shall equal. But I think The Awl is going to skew toward asking people in the literary world who are reacting to what Carver and his generation represent.

      Bonus link: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n06/christian-lorentzen/turtle-upon-turtle

      That’s a link to Christian Lorentzen lamenting that no one can really equal Carver, then quoting the last line Hemmingway’s ridiculously anti-semetic the Sun Also rises to sass Englander (who was raised an orthodox Jew) for, essentially, not being weighty enough in his discussion of Jewish identity.

  3. Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Grey Mouser series. I feel more than a little embarrassed admitting that. Before those books, though, Ray Bradbury made me want to be a writer. Now I go back and reread some of those same stories and I can at least understand why I liked them, even if they don’t hold the same magic they once did.

    A few years later I’d have a more mature “book crush” on Dylan Thomas. I even made a special pilgrimage to his home. I’m not as passionate about him now as I once was, but I wouldn’t trade the experience of that trip for anything.

    1.  I still have no problems with the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stuff, but I was a great Bradbury fan as a kid and I can’t go back to that – it’s like eating pure sugar with extra sugar sprinkles.

      1.  My only real serious problem with the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser is the treatment of women, particularly in the later stories, although, as I recall, Vlana and Ivrian were strong, interesting female characters…who were unfortunately dispatched much too quickly.

        And B E Pratt if you’d like to lay your grubby hands on the books I know I’ve seen some of them in a local (Nashville, TN) used bookstore called McKay’s. They might be able to help you out.

  4. John Uri Lloyd’s Etidorhpa. I still want to discover the cave of Llewellyn Drury and “I-Am-The-Man” in Kentucky somewhere.

  5. er, damn. I was sucked into the world of Ayn Rand at a tender (read: teenaged) year.  I read everything. I was even suckered in to her ‘Newsletter’. Sigh. I grew up though and now count it as a learning experience. I am now a flaming liberal democrat and will NEVER ever call myself a Libertarian because Ayn taught me (backhandedly and unmeaninfully) that such thinking is horribly wrong.

    1. Me too, but I’ve stubbornly resisted considering Ayn Rand political. I know a lot of Republicans and Libertarians claim her as some sort of leader, and I’m about as liberal as one could be (I live in San Francisco and love me some soy lattes), but I can still manage to enjoy Ayn Rand every now and again. I know its an unpopular thing to say around here, but I still think she’s a good writer. Granted her plots and characters are a bit one dimensional, but if you think of them as fantasy or maybe “books for young adults”, they’re downright fun.

      1.  Ok, well ‘Anthem’, maybe. But ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is  just a total slog. Especially when you get to that horrifying one hundred page dud of an essay at the end of the book. Amusingly, Rand would quote that sucker at length rather than say anything new.

      2. “I know its an unpopular thing to say around here, but I still think she’s a good writer”

        If you like pulp hacks, but hey, some people still like L Ron Hubbard’s drek. As long as you can unashamedly admit that they’re pulp hacks, I have no beef with this.

        1. I thoughly disagree that she’s a pulp hack. At a minimum she’s a very good writer, which is what sucks so many people in. She’s like Pink Floyd in that way: gorgeous music, somewhat pedantic writing, but because of the music we all went through a phase with them.

    2. Heinlein was a major early influence on me, which unfortunately was the opposite of an innoculation against Ayn Rand.  (I did enjoy Rand for a few years, but boy she was a hack writer aside from the philosophy.)

      On the other hand, I also grew up with a lot of Alice In Wonderland.  Did some of your moms sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to you when you were young instead of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat”?  No wonder too many of you are normal.

  6. In high school, I read pretty much everything by David Eddings.  I tried going back to reread one of them, and couldn’t get through more than a couple pages without wanting to scream “Real people don’t talk like that!”  

    But, as Rob says, at least it kept me away from Ayn Rand.

    1. oh, wow.  I was just thinking, “you know, there was something else I read before Eddings, which didn’t suck so far as I can remember, and what the heck was it now. . .  there was, like, a labyrinth, and a dude with magic tattoos. . .”
      A bit of googling later, it turns out it’s the Death Gate cycle.  Seems like Weis and Hickman are some kind of universal constant of nerdom.  I wonder how I would feel going back to it now.

      1. I actually reread the Death Gate cycle recently, and still enjoyed it! Few of the characters are black & white in terms of morality, there wasn’t any awful misogyny to piss me off, and I liked the whole “derp herp work together” message.

        Zifnab was WAY more annoying than I remembered as a kid, though. YMMV.

  7. Well, I’m glad Rob lowered the bar for us here so that I can freely admit to many of the Dragonlance books as well. :) Also some David Eddings which I was amused to see mentioned in the linked article (along with the valid point about his later series copying his first to an insane degree… funny thing was, I read the newer series first and was disgusted when I backtracked to the Belgariad and they felt like copies). 

    Pre-teen, I had a love for The Three Investigators mystery series that I discovered in my elementary school library and devoured as fast as I could lay hands on them. They had some arrangement for using Alfred Hitchcock’s name and likeness, though he never had anything to do with the writing of the books. In recent years, I’ve bought library and trade bound copies of the earlier ones just for their nostalgic value. Funny coincidence that I was just discussing those with my Dad the other night and seeing how easy they were to obtain on eBay. I’m bidding on one tonight, in fact. I read a number of Hardy Boys mysteries, too.

    One book I remember loving (also pre-teen) that I actually reread a few months ago as an eBook on my iPad (again… nostalgia): The Westing Game. 

    Aside from the Dragonlance books and other fantasy series in my mid to early teens, a defining book for me was Steven Levy’s Hackers. I also reread it recently on my iPad in a 25th anniversary edition with some updates. The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder impressed me a lot as well. The Cuckoo’s Egg by Cliff Stoll fit into my hunger for geek literature as well but was unique because I actually had some email correspondence with Cliff shortly after reading it… a time when the Internet was far, far smaller and more personal than it seems today. There’s a good chance my email exchange with him routed through my Amiga doing dial-up UUCP through PC Pursuit to some distant Unix box. :)

    Yep. Geek child of the 80’s. 

    Sadly, I doubt any of my teen reading consisted of any of the “great works of literature”. 

    1. You know what? Screw the “sadly” remark in my previous comment. 

      I loved the books I read growing up and don’t really give a crap if they are considered “great works” by some arbitrary literary standard (then or now).

      While I obviously still find hard-to-put-down and engrossing books in adulthood, it’s fun to remember the kind of joy you could have reading books of any quality as a kid as long as they inspired or captured your young imagination. 

      1. Ok, I’m gonna admit here that my first ‘real’ book was a Nancy Drew. Shut up! It was my sister’s. I quickly moved to the Hardy Boys. I tried to read Moby Dick in the fourth grade, but it proved to be impenetrable at the time. On the other hand, I did memorized ‘The Raven’ Really didn’t have a clue as to what it was about, but it had great cadence.
        My mom told me that when I came home from the first day in Kindergarden, that I absolutely refused to go back. Why? I found out that they were not going to teach me to read. I was disgusted.

  8. Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea trilogy. It resonated with me as a tween stuck in a domestic world that seemed arbitrary and negative. I felt like my doppelganger was doing bad things for which I was being punished- and that motif of dealing with your own darkness runs through the series. It was also a great gateway drug for sci-fi/fantasy lit- full of old-world mystery and lore, far-out mystical happenings, and yearning for closeness with nature. I’m not embarrassed by it at all.

    1. I just re-read the first book the other day. I’d say it’s still good even at my ancient age of 3_. Hope to read it to my kids some day. Her science fiction works, like The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, and The Lathe of Heaven, are also good stuff.

    1. There was a good reason for me to start reading Stephen King in college. When ‘Jerusalem’s Lot’ first came out in paperback, it had the most audacious cover I had ever seen. It was totally black. I mean completely black except for a small drop of red. No title. No author. Just black with a bas relief of the face of a child. And, of course, that drop of red. At the mouth. I have never in my life seen such an effective cover. And even better, it turned out to be a vampire novel. And I was taking a course in college (Univ. of TX, Austin) called ‘Vampirism in Eastern Europe’
      I am not joking.

      1. I wish I could go back and re-read that for the first time (as well as his other first 15 or so books)

        1.  King is odd insofar as even when he turns out a clunker (and there’s more than a few of them) they are always addictively readable. A wee bit of King trivia. He also plays guitar in a band. The Rock Bottom Remainders. Along with, an I ain’t joking, Carl Hiassen and Dave Barry. Check ’em out!  http://www.rockbottomremainders.com/

  9. There’s a lot of books that I used to like, but don’t care for any more, but none that I feel “embarrassed” about unless it’s misinformation like “Chariots of the Gods” or “Worlds in Collision” or something similar. In retrospect, even stuff like that informs my cultural literacy and skepticism now. It’s like being exposed to diseases to build up your immune system.

    Why should I be ashamed that I used to love the Three Investigator books? Or that I enjoyed “Han Solo at Star’s End”? Or that I still like Stephen King (even the bad ones)? Or that I can re-read a Heinlein juvenile in it’s proper historical context and find it entertaining and interesting?

    Even if I know now (or even knew then) that the author was a hack (*cough* David Eddings *cough*), who cares? I might feel ripped off that I wasted time or money, but it is snobbish and rude to look back pretentiously and say, “Oh my, what a immature person I was, reading such obviously juvenile trash. I am so glad that I am now grown up and only appreciate serious literature. Obviously, anything with linear, coherent narratives or dealing with subjects outside everyday life is contemptible.”

    I hope that one or more of those 50 authors wind up on a similar list years from now, but I suspect most of them will be wishing they were as well enough known as Jack Kerouac or Heinlein to even make the list.

    1. I mostly don’t regret what I read and, you know, I enjoyed it at the time and it got me though etc.

      However I will say that if, hypothetically, one had difficulty with social interactions already, then reading a lot of Eddings might have failed to provide one with a valid model for conversing without sounding like a twit.

      1.  That’s actually an interesting topic in itself. What kinds of books would provide good models for social interactions? It would rule out many genres as well as much non-contemporary fiction.

        But point taken about Eddings. I wasn’t that big of a fan of his books, but I did already play D&D and read SF/F, so I was doomed on that front. It all turned out fine, though.

    2. Exactly.  I have to wonder about some of these people who are “embarassed” to have read Kerouac and Camus.  The embarrassing thing is realizing that you thought having read those authors made you more sophisticated than your peers.

  10. I’d still read The Bobbsey Twins.  Why does anyone bother being embarrassed about not always having been sophisticated?

    1. The Xanth series is exactly what comes to mind for me, too. I was so into those books as a middle-schooler. My wife was going through a phase recently where she was checking out young-adult fiction that she’d never read, and I suggested this series. She read the first one and described it back to me, concluding with “what were you thinking?” I haven’t actually gone back to read any Piers Anthony, but her description brought enough of it back into my now-adult mind to make me realize how awful they probably were.

      1. She read the first one and described it back to me, concluding with “what were you thinking?”

        I’ve gotten that reaction from friends for both Dune and LOTR.  Some readers are just serious.  Srsly serious.

      2. I read Anthony as a young adult, Macroscope (which I loved) and On a Pale Horse, I didn’t get a hold of the Xanth books until I was a bit older actually.
        I actually wrote Anthony when I was deployed with the military, and he sent back a whole box of author’s copy books for me and my unit, including a signed biography.  WUB O_O

        1. Admittedly I can’t trash him too hard because his “Tarot” trilogy is probably one of the things that ultimately resulted in me doing a Tarot deck that’s gotten my art career going, but oh god I simply can NOT read his prose now.

          1. I haven’t read him since the 80s. I was just considering buying all the Xanth books on eBay.

        2.  I hope one of those books was his short story collection (the title of which I can’t recall at the moment) that included his story “Death Of A Stripe”.

      3. My favourite series as a 12 year old was the Xanth series by Piers Anthony. They where the first “novels” I read as a child – an excellent way to turn me into a lifelong reader. 

        He’s still writing them I think, but no longer being a twelve year old boy, they kinda suck. I remember getting older and not even bothering to finish some of his books, The Incarnations of Immortality for example. Growing up, it changes you. 

      4. I *just* bought the first five Xanth books on monday for my 11 year old. He’s nearly done with the first one and at the rate he gobbles books, I anticipate the stack will occupy him for all of 2 weeks.

    2. > Ender’s Game


      I went to see _The Hunger Games_  the other day, without having read the books, or even heard that much about them. It was a decent watch, but throughout the movie part of me was thinking “This is teenager bait!”

    3. Yes! I couldn’t get enough of Piers Anthony in middle school. I remember stumbling upon his Geodyssey series and learning a few things about human nature that I wasn’t quite expecting…

  11. Cat’s Cradle. Loved loved loved that book. Oh is this supposed to be books we are embarrassed to have loved?

  12. Paulo Cohelo’s The Alchemist seemed really deep and profound when I was 12, 14 or so. I tried re-reading it recently, but the overpowering stench of preachy woo-woo & anvilicious allegory was putting me right off — until I hit the incredibly blatant author avatar character (‘Melchizedek, the king of Salem’, according to Wikipedia) and gave up entirely.

    I can genuinely no longer see why I found that overwrought tripe appealing.

    1.  Uh, you found it appealing simply because you could read it and even understand it to some extent. Just being able to decipher those squiggles on a page is enough enjoyment.

  13. The Last Whole Earth Catalog: Access To Tools ISBN 0394704592 I’ve not been the same, since.

  14. Earthsea here, too — and the first three books still work for me as, not just adult fantasy fiction, but some of the best adult fantasy fiction you can read.

    Also, Spider Robinson’s first novel, Telempath.  Still re-read that, too.

    I get embarrassed easily.  But not about books.  I’ll even admit to re-reading a couple of Ken Holt mystery books recently — they made The Hardy Boys read like Mother Goose.

  15. Herman Hesse, Ray Bradbury, some of Richard Brautigan – they certainly don’t make me cringe, but I was the right age for them when I read them, and now I’m not, is all.  I just don’t have the angst to spare.

    Tom Robbins I started reading about a year too late.  The first of his books I picked up, I tore through in a single night; I read the second in a maybe week, and then I couldn’t for the life of me get past the first few chapters of anything else.

    Various pulpy fantasy series with obviously pseudonymous authors, or no named authors at all, were cringe-worthy if anything is, but I side with the no-cringing faction.  At least, today I do…

    1. Oh, wait.  Ender’s Game – thanks Egypt for the reminder.  That’s one I’ll cop to cringing at.

      1. What?  I’ll admit I’m not fond of Orson Scott Card as a person for his homophobic rants among other his other unsavory rants, but Ender’s Game is still a classic IMHO.

        1. And you’d probably roll your eyes at some of the stuff I think is great.  Just goes to show – something or other…

        2. It’s captivating – it’s a damned good read and the zero gravity combat room is delightful. But you can feel it catering to its audience, telling them how special and misunderstood they are.

          Doesn’t mean I’m sorry I read it, but I see it in a different light now.

  16. first … the Hardy Boys (yea, I’m that old)

    then…Tolkien, followed by Anne McCaffrey,  and Terry Brooks, with side trips to … Dean Kuntz, Steven King, Alexander Dumas, and Victor Hugobtw, I still think Steven King’s “It” is the greatest example of character development in any book that I’ve ever read

    1. You had me pegged, up to Stephen King. *(I only like his Gunslinger series, and the full version of the Stand.).

      But yeah, you have good taste, and that shirt is very flattering on you. 

    2. I remember reading many Hardy Boys books.  I do not remember them being particularly entertaining.  They often featured things like rockets and speedboats.  

      I never went back to the Boys after I started reading Judy Blume.

      I used to love The Hornblower series, by C.S. Forester.

  17. “It’s heartwarming to realize that no matter how cheesy Dragonlance/Forgotten Realms books are, they insulated me from Ayn Rand at a most vulnerable age.”

    As I read the article earlier today I lamented all the quality stuff I could have been reading instead of Dragonlance books. You put the spin on it I needed. Thank you.

  18. My most embarrassing early childhood book crushes involved nuclear war apocalypse scenarios…  Usually where some geeky smart boy gets trapped in a fallout shelter with some hot chick when the bombs dropped.   Sigh.  It was the 80s and I was impressionable.
      I will defend Drizzt and Forgotten Realms with both scimitars, still.  Just sayin.

  19. I can’t honestly think of any “bad books”.  I started reading voraciously when I was about 4 I think.  At 5 my Dad read The Hobbit to me, every night I would beg him to keep reading a little more when he said it was bedtime.  I read everything I could as a young boy.  I was the only kid at school that our school library upped my book checkout limit from 5 to 15 because I would read so much.  My favorite authors include Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Piers Anthony (before I ever heard of Xanth/Incarnations), P. Dick, Ellison, Tolkien, Brooks and so on.  I’m also a huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy in the vein of cross-over type stuff (mixed SF/Fan) and anything with a bit of humor.

  20. In 6th grade, I was totally into mystery novels, and while I did read some good ones, I mostly loved the super repetitive kind like “The Cat Who…” books (also, ones with animals.) I had my sixth grade teacher tell me that I would eventually grow out of them, and was horribly offended, but about three months later I outgrew them, ha.

    I was also really into a series of books by an author whose name escapes me now about cats that could turn into people. The first one was about a fantasy land and kind of dark- there was a rape scene that went entirely over my head- but eventually they turned into cozy mysteries. Then I fell really hard for the dragonriders of pern. Really, really, really hard. Around 8th grade, I started reading Stephen King, and man, how I obsessed over those books. Until 9th grade, when I started reading Terry Pratchett…though I wouldn’t necessarily say that was an obsession.

    The one book though that really stands out to me from my youth, though, is The Postman by David Brin. I read it as a freshman in high school and it just Spoke To Me. It was my absolutely favorite book. But I can’t really say that I regret that, because it really got me thinking about how we use stories and the way culture is constructed, and convinced me that those were important things to think about.

    1. I’m not familiar with “The Cat Who” series of books but “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls” by Heinlein is one of my favorite books.

      1. Yeah, no, nothing I could be even vaguely proud of like that. They were about a dude who has these cats, and they inadvertently help him solve mysteries. That’s pretty much all I remember about them, other than that they were about as formulaic as any procedural. The silver lining in this is that from about 5th-10th grades, I basically read everything I could get my hands on. So I also read quite a lot of fairly good literature, too. It just didn’t leave much of an impression ;)

        1.  I read and liked those too, around the same age as you (maybe slightly younger). The dude’s name was Qwill (with a W) and the cats were Siamese. I think Qwill was a journalist.

      2. Compared to Heinlein’s earlier works, TCWWTW was weiiiird. I like ‘Magic, Inc’, ‘The Rolling Stones’, and ‘Rocket Ship Galileo’, though.

    2.  I’ll read just about anything, but I do love mysteries. Esp. the Agatha Christie variety known as ‘fair’ mysteries. That is, if you paid close attention, you could figure them out before the denouement. So, what I would like to point out here is the author John Dickson Carr who was known as THE master of the locked-room mystery. His writing can be a bit clunky, but even Agatha admitted that she could never figure out his plots beforehand. He also wrote, in a more humorous vein, under the name of Carter Dickson. Go to your local used bookstore and see if you can find “The Three Coffins” The solution to that one is just insanely complicated.
      Oh, everyone seems to think he is British. He is not. Born and bred in the US, son of a Senator :)

  21. Blasted through Laura Ingalls Wilder in first grade. Thought I was a fan, but couldn’t re-read anything past 2nd grade. Ran through Tolkien in 2nd grade, couldn’t re-read it in 4th grade. Chronicles of Narnia in 3rd grade, but it wilted by the 4th book. Hardy Boys in 4th grade. Every last one. Mad L’engle- stuck with me, including Jr High, from 3rd grade onward. The Foundation series was a memorable read in 4th grade. Hesse, Kierkegaard, Sartre,…ate them all up until Jr Hi, but then they seemed to be hopelessly irrelevant to anything I wanted to know about life. The two Rand books I read simply didn’t bear any resemblance to reality as they were intended, and were simply awful as a fantasy concept. Dostoevsky was briefly fascinating in high school, and so was Alan Watts. I can’t read any of these as a middle aged adult, reaching instead back to Grimm and Beverly Cleary, the two crushes that still burn a little in short samples.

    1.  Hum. You really need to go pick up The Brothers Karamazov again. This is one book I will re-read throughout my life. Four times and counting so far. The astonishing chapter, ‘The Grand Inquisitor’, alone makes the book worthy of all the praise you can heap on it.

      1. I read it a few times. The ‘Grand Inquisitor’ was practically the parable of my teen cynicism, and unfortunately more useful to remember today than ever.

  22. One of my Dad’s friend brought a huge box of SF and Fan books to our house when I was about 12 or 13 that literally changed my life.  Can you imagine reading Heinlein’s “To Sale Beyond the Sunset” at 13?  It was downright scandolous.  My Dad approved and he was somewhat familiar with Heinlein but I have a feeling he was nowhere near as familiar with Heinlein as I got.  I did have to explain to Mom once why I had a book with a half-naked woman on it but I told her I got the books from Dad and she just grumbled something. :P

  23. Piers Anthony’s Xanth series! I think I read every single one!

    Later, I really got into his Incarnations of Immortality books – I read the entire series, and it’s still on my list of all-time favorite books.

    Pre-teen, I remember being really into the Danny Dunn series by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams. I still remember a quote from one of those books I used to use whenever anyone would say “I wonder…” to which I would respond, “What do you wonder, oh wondrous one?” haha that feels really dumb saying it now!

    Oh, and Hardy Boys.

  24. Clive Barker. The Great and Secret Show. No shame at all, it’s still my favorite book.

  25. Carlos Castaneda “Don Juan” series.  I tried to re-read it a few years back and all I could think was what a bunch of dope smoking sh*^.  

  26. Well, first book crush was Lord of the Rings, which I am not actually embarrassed about. But the second one was The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which does make me cringe.

  27. Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain. Disney mangled it w/The Black Cauldron, but Sierra partially unmangled it. Pretty sure Al Lowe worked on that one. ;)

    Pretty dark stuff.

    I wonder if the OpenGL Extension Wrangler (GLEW) was written by a fan…

  28. I went through a massive Piers Anthony phase at exactly age 12 (fantasy! puns! talking horses!) until the lightbulb of feminism went off in my head, at which point I went “Ew!” and never read another one.

    I read a lot of the Dragonlance books, including the spinoffs. Some might even have been good. Some I thought were terrible even then; I have vague memories of one in which the gnomes went to the moons in a wooden rocket ship. No, really. 

    No Ayn Rand, thankfully.

    Oh yeah, Anne Rice. I loved the first three vampire books when I was 16; I even bought some fan art of Louis and Lestat at a local convention. Aiee.

    1. I recently re-read Anne Rice. The first three were entertaining. A friend of mine warned me off all the subsequent books. I should have listened. That woman really, really wants to marry a gay man who wants to have sex with her.

  29. I’m not sure how tender we’re talking here. But if you’re going to drop some Dragonlance, I’m happy to admit to loving Brian Jacques: Redwall;  Mattimeo;  Mossflower.  Much like Tintin, I’m amazed it has taken – whomever – this long to re-capitalize on the bloody, angsty, ‘rodent genre’ from my youth, i.e., Jacques, NIMH, or Watership Down.  Name something that DOESN’T appeal to pre-teens about a proto-Che sword-weilding stout with an eyepatch.  It was the GoT of its time.  The ‘abbey’ was even class(as in not phylum)-ist.  The villains were often reptiles, ala Tolkein’s xenofiction.  Sure, I can look at the now-overbloated series and call it hamfisted.  But I adore those books, and I will force my children to read them at swettart-point.  My wife is more of an Ender girl.  Can’t thank GoT, Potter and Hunger games enough for bridging the gap.  

  30. So I’ve read the list-proper now.  Ugh.  Maybe it’s a loaded question to ask of people who write for a living, but “I’m embarrassed to have ever read Kerouac” reeks of self-importance.  My nephew is named Holden.  Based on Chasing Amy.  The father, informed, has still not read Catcher.  True story.  But, frankly, I’m embarrassed to have enjoyed Finnegan’s Wake last week.  How puerile I once was.  (Thanks spellcheck!)

    1. Indeed – there’s maybe a bit too much Kerouac worship in some spots, but that doesn’t mean his writing was no good.

      Never did get the deal with Catcher in the Rye.  It was alright, I suppose, but not really much of anything to it – a nice enough light read, nothing in it to be worth banning, and certainly nothing in it to be worth spending a week of classes discussing…

  31. I dunno, it seems to me that its harder to find a truly embarrassing literary crush than say, music or fashion.  Having scrolled down through the comments, the only name that stood out to me as being truly worthy of embarrassment was Paulo Cohelo.

  32. When I was a kid, I found a couple of books by James Herriot (pen name of James Alfred Wight) at an open air book sale. “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “All Creatures Great and Small.” I don’t even know how many times I read those books. It was my first encounter with another living soul who loved animals and led what seemed like an idyllic life in pre-WWI Yorkshire (Wight was a country veterinarian, usually tending to the needs of livestock).

    I’m not ashamed of liking Herriot’s work, but I’ve grown to accept that most people I know aren’t of the same mind about him, if they’re aware of him at all. I still have those old books around here somewhere, too.

    One I liked but am a bit embarrassed of now is the survivalist, Tom Brown. I think I have (or had) every survival guide the man ever wrote. Stuff like that seemed monumentally cool to me as a kid, and Brown seemed like he knew everything about wilderness survival.

  33. I rather like Maureen Corrigan’s remark:

    In fact, at the risk of sounding sentimental—oh, what the hell, I’ll be sentimental—to dis those embarrassing young adult faves now feels like snickering at the friends I had in high school and college whom I’ve “outgrown.” I loved them and needed them at the time and, for that, I’ll always be grateful to them.

    I read a lot of Harlan Ellison when I was a teenager, and he was the only author that I’d regularly check his section of my local library branch’s fiction section for new work. I bought as many of his books as were in print at the time, and for the most part I think that the stories have aged well, but Ellison himself hasn’t, and I’m not embarrassed for having enjoyed his work as I am for him personally.

    I also sought out and cultivated books with explicit sex scenes in them, but if I’d grown up with the internet I’m not so sure that I’d have bothered.

  34. Terry Brooks, for sure.  Sure it’s not the tightest universe out there, but that take on the supernatural is pretty awesome. 

  35. This is supposed to be your ‘first’ book crush, right? What defines it? Reading the book/series over and over again? Loving it? Does it have to make you cringe today? My first was a series of children’s books about famous people. There must have been about 30 of them. I remember Helen Keller, Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, Reggie Jackson… I can’t seem to find them online anywhere. That and Dr. Seuss (how is that not already mentioned?) About age four or five though I outgrew that crush and moved on to the crush that never really ended… The Hobbit/LOTR.

  36. I was just recently thinking of reading Herman Hesse again. I stopped myself. I want to remember the feeling I had when I read him 30 years ago. I was really smart then and think maybe I still am. I am especially in love with the one I know as “The Glass Bead Game”. I love how cool I was that I read it. 

    1. Good move – to get myself back into the right frame of mind would probably take a really taxing overdose of hormone replacement therapy, caffeine, idle unemployment, and probably half a dozen other things.  Just thinking about it makes me feel exhausted.

  37. I don’t believe in the concept of a “guilty pleasure”. I like the stuff that I like and that’s the end of it.

    So, all the stuff that I was way big into when I was younger, well, I’m still fond of it. (Mostly.) Including a lot of authors mentioned above. (Many of whom are simply good authors and should in no way be considered embarrassing.)

    Like, I like Dragonlance. I don’t confuse it with great art but I like it. I liked Eddings better at the time; the years have revealed his flaws in ever-increasing clarity but that doesn’t mean that he never wrote anything worth reading.

    And I like Ayn Rand. Not like I once did, but I see no reason to repudiate her. She was wrong about some things and she was also right about some things; overall, I’m better off for having read her stuff.

    The one author I’d like to have a do-over on is Piers Anthony. I freely admit having really liked his books when I was a teenager. But now I don’t, and I wish I hadn’t then. The man was not without his cool ideas… but.

  38. Some people like to use the phrase “first person smartass” when talking about certain types of SF – and they use it as a term of praise for the most part. That chatty flippant all-knowing narrative voice is all through SF like a bad case of termites.

    I grew up loving Roger Zelazny, but won’t go near him anymore because he has That Voice.

    1. Zelazny had pure style, created from ingredients of pure substance, and it has been unmatched since. Sam in Lord of Light or Jack in Jack of Shadows, Raymond Chandler couldnt hold a candle to him. Dont over think it.

  39. I’m not embarrassed by anything I read! But as far as going back to something later and wondering “What was I thinking?!” in terms of quality–
    Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
    Clan of the Cave Bear series by Jean Auel

  40. But, of course, Tom Swift, Jr. – the second series. A neighbor gave me a box of them that they had given their son when he was young.

    1. I had to scroll *this* far down into the comments to see the first mention of Tom Swift? Am I getting *that* old?

      Kids these days can rave all they want to about Riordan, Collins, Meyer and all those, but TOM SWIFT HAD FRICKIN’ LASERS!

  41. DragonLance Chronicles and Legends are bloody awesome. Shame on you for calling them cheesy ! You probably call Dune cheesy too.

  42. There have been many books I was enamored of – To Kill A Mockingbird, In Cold Blood, The Lathe of Heaven, Kafka’s stories, etc.
    If there was one that particularly comes to mind as my all-time teen heartache, it would be  Russell Hoban’s novel Riddley Walker.

  43. Hmmm.

    Around first grade, I read the “Little House on the Prairie” series, the Narnia books, the Ramona Quimby books, the Bobbsey Twins books, and a whole bunch of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books.

    If you want to talk early-puberty literary obsessions, though, it started with the “Wrinkle in Time” books, around fourth grade. I’m proud of having been super-into Madeleine L’Engle.

    Around the same time, I was also super-into the Baby-Sitters’ Club books. Those, I’m not exactly proud of — but I’m also not ashamed of them. They were pure silly popcorn reading, and that was totally okay. I am, however, ashamed that I tried to model my 5th- and 6th-grade fashion choices on the fashion choices of the BSC characters. It was the early ’90s, so stirrup pants and oversized tunic tops were, in fact, everywhere — but they were still bad choices. (There is an entire blog devoted to the fashion choices of Claudia, one of the BSC characters: What Claudia Wore. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check it out.)

    In fifth grade I was super-into Shakespeare, especially the sonnets and Romeo & Juliet. I wrote a lot of really bad sonnets to the boys I had crushes on (of course, I never showed them or anyone else these poems).

    Then it was the Dark is Rising books in sixth grade. LoTR, Dragonriders of Pern, 1984, Les Miserables in seventh grade. Hemingway and Gertrude Stein in eighth grade (I liked the idea of being into Hemingway and Stein more than I actually liked the literature).

    As for Ayn Rand, we were assigned Anthem in ninth grade English; I didn’t find it particularly interesting. I didn’t read The Fountainhead until college (not for class). When I did read it, I was so utterly icked out by the approving/sexy/excited tone of the rape scene that it broke any spell it might otherwise have had. I was just not okay with any philosophy where the protagonist raping a woman is proof of his powerful ubermensch awesomeness, and causes said woman to be totally into him forever.

  44. Lots of adults being arrogant and condescending over how arrogant and condescending they were as youngsters.

  45. ‘Foundation Series’ by Issac Asimov may have been my first real crush. I flirted with Arthur Clarke but I was young and got over it. I’m glad my Dragonlance got you past Ayn Rand — it was good for me, too!

    1. “I’m glad my Dragonlance got you past Ayn Rand”
      A  comment not to be taken out of context!

  46. Breakfast of Champions ruined me for all the other, more highly thought of Vonnegut books.  I could never get more than a few pages into Slaughterhouse Five, or Cat’s Cradle before losing interest, ’cause flipping through, I could see there’d be no drawings of assholes.

  47. I am sorry but I can’t say which book was my first favorite, it is a common security question.

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