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mac macgillicuddy

It was "Our bodies, Ourselves." I didn't relate to it at all, and I reacted strangely to it, until I realized it was because I wasn't in the demo.


One of my FAV PBS series is "Jeeves and Wooster" (and the books too).

Hard to find many folks that even watch these programs - Kudos to You for having some *good taste* in reading materials and TeeVee offerings.

Enjoy yer coffee break!!!

Exiled in NJ

A boy who saw 'Sunset Boulevard' at 7 or 8 and had it stick with him for life cannot remember an adult book until "Great Expectations" in who knows what grade, but that too has held onto him like a boa constrictor. Don't believe me? Just look at this piece written in my sixtieth year: Miss Havisham in the Windsor Queen.


I have no memory of which book that might be. Does Poe count? Christie? Conan Doyle?

I leave you with one of the Aunts' remarks that has stuck with me and is infinitely transferable: "Bertie! You foul blot on the landscape!"


Just wait, I am still caught up on the flight to Toledo. Who the hell goes to Toledo? Is this like the time I went to Dayton, OH and got some underage college kid drunk with me in First Class? Then, he had to drive me to the Marriott in MY rental car because I was too drunk.

Oh for shame, AG! For shame!

OK, maybe I was just looking for a way to tell that story. :)

Anne Laurie

My first consciously "grown-up book" was a paperback copy of Arthur C. Clarke's THE CITY & THE STARS, which I figured I was ready for because I'd already finished tons of my dad's science-fiction short-story collections. I was six or seven & truly full of my own forward-to-the-future advanced-mind self. Clarke's opus wasn't as much fun as I'd hoped, but I did wade through it, night after night after lights-out, and was quite pleased with myself for sticking to the task. First "grown-up book" that my parents knew about was, I believe, one of Gerald Durrell's animal-collecting adventures -- probably THREE TICKETS TO ADVENTURE or A ZOO IN MY LUGGAGE, although I have read most of them so many times since then that I can recite bits from memory. Austen's NORTHANGER ABBEY was another early favorite; I'd been told it was a satire, which of course it is, and I still think it's a better introduction to Miss Austen for pre-teens than her "better" novels, just because it's deliberately broader & less earnest. But Jeeves is a good starting point as well, because Wodehouse can be enjoyed for some many reasons, and because he has such a Read-Me-Aloud texture that it's easy for a beginner to keep track. Kudos & best wishes to the Nine-Year-Old as he starts this new journey!

cali dem

"The Plague" and "Night" in Jr. High.


The first grown-up book I remember reading is The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas. For years I'd been eyeing the huge, yellow-paged book on my grandmother's shelf. She was an avid reader and used to share her literary experiences with me. I remember the book looking so huge and mysterious. When she gave me permission to read it, I remember reading every one of the 1000+ pages of this unabridged version. I loved every word of it, so much so, that the next grown-up book I read was The Man in the Iron Mask.


Dr. Spock (age 7)
Well, it's the truth. I'd call it grown-up reading.


Oh, it's really sad. The first "adult" book I chose for myself was a Piers Anthony book I borrowed off my dad's shelf.* It did get me started on a lifetime of loving sci-fi and fantasy at least.

*Unless you count my mother reading the Hobbit to me when I was about four.


Edgar Allen Poe, 4th grade.I've had a horror of horror ever since. I read Mark Twain the summer after 2nd grade, but I always thought of them as children's books. I was reading 1984, Animal Farm, and the rest, as well as Shakespere's plays and A Perfect Peace in 8th grade.


Wow. Poe for me too. I read everything by him voraciously. Somewhere around 3rd or 4th grade.

But I don't know when "grown up" means. I've read grown-up books since the age of about five, but 30+ years later I'm still not very grown up.

harry near indy

lance, too bad you don't like cheever. i've enjoyed his story collection very much, and falconer was one of my favorite novels.

you dind't say why you don't like cheever. please explain.



It's irrational, but I don't like to read his stuff because it reminds me of reading Bullet Park. Something about that book made me very queasy and uneasy and the same feeling keeps coming back on me even when I read his best short stories.

And, no, Blue Girl, it has nothing to do with the Cheever letters episode of Seinfeld.

blue girl

I've just been lurking today. Didn't even think of the Cheever/Seinfeld thing. Nope. Didn't. Didn't at all...

rameau's nephew

Thomas Costain, Frank Yerby, or Dell Shannon. For grownups, if not intellectual grownups.

coffe, tea or me at 11 was a door into one version of adulthood, which helped me make more sense of Updike.

Twain and Poe were classics, good for all ages.


Did anyone ever pick up mum and dad's copy of Jerry Rubin's "Do It!" during childhood and find the page that is entirely filled with "fuck"s? I did. That's probably my first grown-up reading. Not Poe, after all. Probably why I'm not grown up either, fuck it all.

Amanda Marcotte

I don't remember, but man, I love me some Wodehouse. I just don't get anyone who doesn't find it screamingly hilarious.

The Heretik

Adult books? I will never admit to reading them. Or looking at the pictures. Or going to one of those stores.

Small Axe

Not sure if non-fiction counts as "reading," but I remember feeling I'd learned something about the world from Dispatches, Michael Herr's book about Vietnam, when I was about 11. It wasn't just all the adult language. I mean, I wasn't the same boy after I read it. Looking back, I see it's a book about kids at war, and slightly older kids observing those kids at war.

Exiled in NJ

Are the Dewars Scotch ads still in print, the ones that portray some insufferable bore who has gained some modicum of fame? These people always listed their last film and last book read. Somehow looking at Lance's list to my right, I doubt he would make the cut, since these people favored tomes chock full of psychobabble.

Me? If asked, I paraphrase Chandler and say at my age any book I read moves the plot along by having a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.

mac macgillicuddy

I still think about the last line of Bullet Park, which I read more than 30 years ago. That line sticks with me, and I'm sure it's the reason the book sticks.


Karen McC: "Kudos to You for having some *good taste* in reading materials and TeeVee offerings."

Thanks, but I have to admit not everything read or viewed here is so high-toned. Last night's family movie night was The Reluctant Astronaut starring Don Knotts.

Idy, Dr Spock, eh? Was that a case of a precious young you trying to get the drop on your well-meaning parents by figuring out their strategies in advance?

Amanda, the only people I've met who don't enjoy Wodehouse are people who haven't read Wodehouse.

NJ, I haven't seen those Dewer's ads in years, but American Express has a similar series that runs in the New Yorker regularly. This week Kate Winslet's claiming that her favorite movie is Waiting for Guffman.

mac macgillicuddy

OK, The Reluctant Astronaut is a classic. And Don Knotts was a very funny guy!


The Dr. Spock. (a) It was a case of there not being very much reading material in the house, and I was a voracious reader and would read toothpaste tubes twenty times over if there was nothing else on hand. (b) Being the eldest of three (on the way to a fourth) I found it relevant and meaningful--child care, diseases, fetus development. (c) Must have had something about sex in it because I afterward became the child who got in trouble with neighborhood mothers for telling others all about it. I recollect a neighborhood mother asking me, angrily, where I learned all that, and I replied, "Dr. Spock."

At the age of 8 I found "The Valley of the Dolls" in the piano bench in the basement and that was my next "adult" book. I got a lot of it but didn't comprehend at first that dolls were pills and so it was my introduction to absurdism. I did understand it wasn't literature.

I read my way through the school libraries (hating school, I immmersed myself in the libraries) but it was unguided and I had my preferences. At 15, I lugged around the collected works of Aristotle for a year because for some reason he was like poetry to me and I was fascinated--that was the first book I can say captivated me. And that same year "The Sound and the Fury" and Sandburg's poems and "Slaughterhouse Five". Those are some of the books I remember wrestling with, trying to get everything out of them I could, digging in and under. But I don't recollect really wrestling like that until 15--so it's not to me a matter of the first "adult" book I read, but the first one with which I wrestled, dragging out of every word and idea what I could.

I think I shot so quickly into French lit that I passed up a lot of American. For which reason I was over at Amazon yesterday reading the first pages of Cheever's "Bullet Park".

So I'm unfamliar with Cheever. Can say that when I saw Cheever/Pollack's "The Swimmer" on television when I was in my early 20s, it was fulfilling and wonderful in the way myth is fulfilling and wonderful. What a story. From the first second, apecial. At least that's what I remember feeling about it.


I have no specific memory (which is annoying)of my transition to adult fiction, but you are actually detailing a book that struck you(not in the sense of the cleric and Spode), one that had an impact. A book memorable for its discordant content.
I was wandering the township library (not a large place, mind you) and stumbled, at age 15, upon "The Story of O" sitting there in the shelves with all the other "R"s (for Pauline Reage). It was a more naive time. I immediately recognized an opportunity and, without fanfare, checked it out.

My first really memorable book.


My first grownup book was 1984 by Orwell; I was 10. I was visited my aunt for a week or so where I found the book on the bookshelf of the room I was staying in. There is a repressed sexuality in the book that kept the 10 year old boy from putting the book down even though it scared me and I had nighmares.

By the way, my wife and I have the whole collection of the Jeeve's and Wooster series. Its an addiction.


"Peyton Place" by Grace Metalious at age 12, which was followed not long after by Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment," both of which I loved. Dostoyevsky is great reading for precocious adolescents (as is Ms. Metalious), but I can't seen to get through one of his books as an adult.


Twain and Orwell in junior high. Dickens too. Oliver Twist and Tale of Two Cities. In eigth grade I tried to read the Brothers Karamazov. My English teacher saw it on my desk and told me it might be a little ambitious for me, the only remotely friendly thing she ever said to me. I'm not sure but I think I placed it on my desk in order to impress people. I'm not proud of that, if its true.

Scott Lemieux

"I'm working on a post about Peggy Noonan and politics in the movies."



i remember a shock of pleasure reading vonnegut's god bless you, mr. rosewater when i was 14. i immediately picked up and read every book he wrote. while i still have very fond memories of mr rosewater and slaughterhouse-5, i haven't been able to read him since adolescence. just doesn't work for me anymore. not sure why.

i also remember gore vidal's 1876- also when i was 14. that's held up well, although it's my least favorite of his american chronicles.

i guess the first classic i read on my own wasn't until i was 20- war and peace. john
russell, the art critic had written that tolstoy had written everything that could be said about life and i thought whoa!
either that's a nonsense statement or reading it would change me and change how i understood life. the second.

Earl Bockenfeld

"The Most Dangerous Game" in Jr. High.

Anne Laurie

Idyllopus, now there are two of us! I read Dr. Spock too, page by page, the summer before I turned 9, because my mother was pregnant, at 38, with what turned out to be triplets, and was too exhausted by pregnancy & a record-breakingly hot NYC summer & her 3 post-born kids to take the dog-eared paperback she'd resurrected away from me. Dr. Spock certainly was instructive, and reassuring, in a strange way; not sure I'd recommend him to a kid in the same circumstances today, but I wouldn't hesitate to leave his modern equivalent around, either.


Wodehouse at 9 !! I initially found that .. uh .. strange .. but then I realized I was reading, intently, Crime and Punishment at 12 .. and of course Anna Kareninna at 15 or so .. and lo and behold I recently finished The Idiot at .. uh .. hmmm .. shall we say 40+ and let it be at that ?


I'd say Tolkein at 9 (I think) except that I really read it as an adventure story, not an adult read. Watership Down, maybe, at 10 or 11? That's the first book I really remember reading and recognizing more adult themes. Oddly enough, we watched the animated movie in class - but didn't discuss any of the themes. Other than that I'd have to say whatever the first "adult" book we read in school was - I stuck to sci-fi/fantasy/adventure until high school.

"I also remember trying Huckleberry Finn right after I finished Tom Sawyer and deciding that I wasn't old enough to understand it yet.  That was probably around fifth grade."

Ha! same here.


O, so very complicated! Like Joaquin, we were all crazy for Orwell and Huxley at 11 or 12 (and I was developing a taste for Edward Gorey, what a friend of mine might call, "An Early Sign,"), but I'd already read all of Tolkien (including the poignant short stories) a couple of years before that - I just kept re-reading LOTR until I caught up with all of it. My 5th grade teacher was to blame/is honored for all of that...:-)
OTOH, I read huge amounts of stuff on mythology, legend, and - to back it up - archeology. I still love guys like Roberto Calasso for delving deep into those traditions, and as a student of renaissance plays, I want to know all the background of the fertile, violent, and rapidly changing worldview.
O yeah, I was also reading a lot of historical bios - a lot of them written for kids, but by good writers. I learned the term , "benevolent despot" from a book about Catherine the Great (as well as "Potemkin village"); Fike's Emerald's, indeed!
I have dear friends who are devoted to Wodehouse, and a couple of them thought I might fit into that world. Because I've only read one of them (with great pleasure, but I can't recall which one - book, I mean, not the pleasure...), it's still a delight that dangles before me.

Didn't get past much of Bullet Park, but I really loved the Wapshots when I bumped into them, and the stories are even better. But, having a Southern side to the family, I'd go for Eudora Welty.


Anita: Wodehouse at 9 !!

Wodehouse may have to wait a few more years. My son had forgotten yesterday was library day. He checked out a couple books from the My Name is America series and he's all excited about them and is using one of the two for his free reading time. The other he gobbled up here at home.


What a cool series! When I was a kid, everything was still in the "Great Man" mode, pretty much - these look terrific. I credit people like my old teacher Jesse Lemisch for the turnaround.


My Name is America - a series that always makes me want to write a complaining letter to Scholastic (the books about boys are called "My Name is America" but the books about girls are called "Dear America") until I realize that boys don't have an equivalent to the American Girl phenomenom, and get bogged down in wondering if I would be a hypocrite unless a wrote a similar letter to Pleasant Company.


Gosh, it's hard to say. My reading is like my movie viewing; if you had to graph it, it would look more like a spreading puddle than a nice straight line. But it is quite possible that the first "adult" book I read was "Auntie Mame," now that I think of it. I was in our small local library complaining that I had read everything in the young adult section worth reading, and my mother thrust a copy of "Auntie Mame" at me. I must have been about 9 years old. I guess to most people the book is a bizarre choice for a kid that age, but she knew me very, very well. I adored the book on first reading and must have re-read it twenty times since, as well as the play, the musical, the sequel ...



The names of the series nothwithstanding, the 9 year old reports that his classmates are wild for the books, the boys as well as the girls. In addition to the two he checked out of the library Friday, he used his allowance to buy a third one at Borders Sunday---only one because Borders had sold out all their other copies. From what I can tell from the few I've seen, they seem to be historically accurate and they don't gloss over the less heroic parts of our past. And they're getting boys excited about reading.


I never read them, but I figured they were pretty decent, at least. Honestly, if I didn't think they weren't, it wouldn't bug me so much.

It's rather like my reaction Eragon - I'll recommend it to boys, and I'm glad so many boys have finally found a series they are into, but I have serious issues with the female characters.

I hate the fact that boys tend to require that the books they read "other" girls and women far more than girls expect the books they read to "other" boys and men - and Eragon seriously pissed me off in that regard. Mainly, because, like the "America" titles - there's really no good reason for it - except to stroke little boys egos at the expense of others.

And yet, I can't help but wonder if that's part of it's success. I mean, I know a big part of it's appeal is really just that it's plot driven, but there are all kinds of plot driven books the same boys turn their noses up at, and I can't help but worry about why. I do need to stop myself sometimes and realize that I can't really speak for boys when it comes to what appeals to them, what doesn't, and why. And yet....I love most of the books that "Guys Read" suggests for boys and I know lots of other girls/women that do as well. I've yet to meet any boy or man that has ever read Anne of Green Gables or even The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

It seems, at times, as though "othering" girls and women is a requirement to get most boys interested, and as long as that's true, it's going to be impossible not to pit girls against boys academically.

Then again, I probably just need to finally read one of those stupid Gossip Girl books to remind myself that there's plenty of crap books aimed at girls and visit Scott Westerfeld's blog again to remind myself that he has plenty of male fans. And then see what the Bartimaeus trilogy is like, maybe it will surprise me.


grownup reading or "grownup" reading? first grownup reading was les miserables which i attempted at the ripe old age of first "grownup" reading materials were terrible jackie collins and sidney sheldon novels my older sister left laying about when i was 8 - quite racy!

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