Pulling this list together, we’ve realised it’s impossible to pinpoint the one book that made you fall in love with reading. But there are always stories that stick in your mind years and even decades after you first read it. Here, some of the Picador team pick their first book loves...
Sophie Jonathan, assistant editor
I was always an avid reader as a child but the story that really cemented my love of books was probably Jill Tomlinson's Penguin's Progress which I read repeatedly and displayed proudly as the first book in what I intended to be a large library. As an adult, books that stand out for me either are firm favourites, such as Dirt Music by Tim Winton and The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, or because they were read at a particular time in my life and mark a turning point in my reading – Jane Austen's Emma and Possession by A. S. Byatt fall into that category.
Paul Baggaley, publisher
I loved faintly anarchic books about boarding school life, a world that eluded me personally but always seemed a lot more exciting than the goings on of my northern grammar school. So first, Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans (with Ronald Searle’s brilliant illustrations), and then Jennings by Anthony Buckeridge. But my absolute favourite was Grimble by Clement Freud (the later edition – the one I had as a child – was wonderfully illustrated by Quentin Blake) which had the added bonus of some extremely unappetising recipe ideas – it resulted in my first and only fan letter to an author who I remember sent me a charming reply.
Lucy Hine, sales manager
I remember the Malory Towers books being the first that I read obsessively on my own – torch under the quilt at night sort of stuff. It all sounded like so much fun – sneaking out for midnight feasts and swimming in the rock pools down by the sea.
Kris Doyle, senior editor
My earliest clear memory is of obstinate reading. I remember arriving at my granddad’s house and refusing to go in to see him until I’d finished my book. Despite my mother’s obvious displeasure, I sat in the back of her car, parked outside my granddad’s front door, and finished a book that I still think marvellous: The Twits by Roald Dahl. I would have been about four or five years old, and I’ve pretty much allowed reading to set my schedule ever since.
The book I return to most often is the Collected Poems of Philip Larkin; I always find newly appropriate wisdom in Larkin’s poems, but the thing I find most joyous is how – in his best poems, or at least my favourite ones – Larkin’s expression of thoughts and feelings always seems to me just that bit better than I believed might be possible to set down in words.
I’d be tempted to set a reluctant reader on their journey with a story featuring the great Sherlock Holmes: short, mysterious, gripping and satisfying – they’ve been keeping me entertained for 20 years!
Camilla Elworthy, publicity director
Although they were far from the first books I read or loved as a child, I think the Moomin books by Tove Jansson made me a Reader. In their pages I was aware for the first time of savouring how the story was told, not just what that story was. I adored the friendships and extended family love, the different dynamics between the characters, the strange and poetic yet somehow familiar beauty of the world created and, of course, all the adventures, great and small, of Moominvalley and beyond. They taught one so much – with the lightest of touches – about relationships, understanding people and respecting difference. They remain among my most treasured books; I love them with an undimmed passion to this day.
Rosanna Boscawen, content editor
There are lots of stories I loved growing up, and which I would make my parents read to me night after night. I imagine there must have been others, but the first book I remember reading – and finding – by myself was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I loved the idea of the four brothers and sisters going off on their own adventure into the magical world of Narnia. I remember rushing off to the library when my teacher pointed out that there were six more books in the series.
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