The First Book I Read

The love for reading is a welcome inheritance from my father. I couldn’t have had it any other way. I wouldn’t have!

I can hardly recall when I began reading books by myself. But what I do remember is that every year, just before the summer break, our school would hold a book exhibition and hundreds of books were sold at concessional rates.

Mom would take us; me and younger brother, to the exhibition and I would help myself to a bookish treat of skimming through piles of books for hours. I would buy a handsome number of books each summer, mostly mysteries – Drew, Christie, Sir Doyle – majorly. I guess the habit of buying books and reading more and more, has been instilled since then, since the age of 8.

So although I developed a habit of reading since an early age, the sad part is that I hardly remember the titles I read then. Nothing much of the reading memories has lasted this long. My first book, in the true sense of it, is one that I read in grade 6 for our English curriculum. It was a short story by the Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy – What Men Live by. Little else has remained with me, as this story.

Michael, an angel is heaven is punished by God for not following God’s bidding and is sent to earth. He is set a task to find answers to God’s 3 questions, only then can he return. It is a heart-touching tale, one narrated from the angel’s perspective, which as a student and later as a writer, has inspired me immensely. Written in Tolstoy’s classic style, it teaches us just how important is to love, to forgive, to understand, to obey, and finally, not look down upon one.

The book in a glimpse.

tolstoy quote 2
God asks Michael to find answers to these questions and return to heaven
leo tolstoy quote
Michael finds the answers to God’s questions

Personally, it’s been a feeling of sheer pride that a writer as great as Tolstoy has been my idol. He inspired my reading as he inspires my writing. As I grew up, I read more and more of his books. Anna Karenina, War and Peace, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Cossacks, Resurrection, his collections of short stories, have been among the books I love most. In the years that followed, I read a lot of other authors too. But somehow, nothing got close to creating the magic – What Men Live by – did.

I guess it all boils down to this.

“You may have read a thousand books. But the one that stirs your soul is the one written for you.”

There are a lot many books I love. But hardly any could leave an impression upon my heart like this book did. ‘What Men Live by’ is and will always be – My First Book and the #BookILoveMost. You may read the full story here. Alternatively, the audiobook is available on LibriVox. I hope you read it! And here is a list of some of the non-Tolstoy books I love.

Waiting to hear all about your first book. Do share your experiences below. 🙂

This post was written for the #Blogchatter prompt ‘Books I Love’.

Asha Seth

85 thoughts on “The First Book I Read

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    1. I am sorry for your less than excited experience. But I’ve always known better than going for a CB book. And luckily I’ve also been always warned away from them by other readers. Have you ever tried Tolstoy, Asna?

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  1. I don’t remember the very first book I read because I was only 2. I do remember that some of my favorite books were “The Boxcar Children” (got me into trains) “The Secret Garden” (got me into gardening), and “Charlotte’s Web” (got me into nature).

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  2. We all have memories of our first book, or books if you wish, I started at five years of age just after learning to read, my father one morning handled me a book from his bookshelf, and said to me: Read it!
    Nothing as great as Tolstoy I am afraid, but as a dutiful son, I set immediately to the task, and by the end of the day I had not read, but devoured the book, all 120 pages of it, an adventure book made specifically for young people.

    So that evening I went to my father, and said: Here I have read it, please give me the continuation of this book, I want to know how things ends.
    In a few days I read his whole collection from that author, and never stop reading since. 🙂

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    1. It’s brilliant i suppose, the habits our parents instill in us. It doesn’t have to great, it just has to be there. Because that sets the tone for the rest of our lives. We’d rather die than give them up. You have had a beautiful start that most children these days don’t reckon with. You are truly lucky. Do you remember the name of this series?

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  3. The first book I remember reading .hmm..It wasn’t anything mind blowing and I can’t even remember what the title was 😌 It was a knock off of the Goosebumps series. The cover had a tentacle monster coming out of a toilet. It didn’t have a life lesson or anything in it, but I remember being so gripped by the book, that reading is all I wanted to do.

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    1. Yes. I am a great admirer of Russian writers and passionately fond of Russian Literature. Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Bulgakov, Chekov, Gogol are the ones I’ve read. I’ve read Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot and The Gambler. The Brothers Karamazov is on the list. Any you recommend?

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      1. I recommend “Crime and Punishment” and “Notes from Underground”. The latter is a novella.

        I haven’t read Bulgakov and Gogol yet. Will definitely check them out!

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  4. I love every word, every sentence penned down by your ink, Asha. It’s magic (not exaggerating). ❤
    Unfortunately, school reads, I don't remember.
    As per my book list, not much to anybody's surprise, I happened to had gone through 'I too have a love story' by Ravinder Singh, suggested by one of my friends, in my 11th standard. Then there were few novels by Nicholas Sparks during college days.
    But the major read that I had was 'A thousand Splendid Suns' by Khaled Hosseini last year. And then started my journey, a real one, with books. Since then my book's list has grown substantially. So, yes, it's not long enough that I am here, but I know as here I am now, I am bound to stay this way for ever. 🙂

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    1. It’s always so delighting to read your words. It’s sad most of our childhood memories around books are washed out.
      I also read Sparks in college days, and was blown by his style. Totally captivating. Ravinder Singh, Chetan Bhagat, Durjoy Dutta all belong to books-I-hate-league. Never explored beyond a book or 2. You name an all-time-fav author Hosseini. Started with him in college and I still remember how I wished he wrote books, often.
      Ahh.. such beautiful bookish reminiscences. I long for them. And then came Harry Potter and took me by mind and body. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 😄Another entry in that league-Mine.
        Hosseini, yes my all-time-favorite too. Though I didn’t like his third book much as I liked first two. How about you? Have you read ‘And the mountains echoed’?

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        1. I’ve read all but the one in question. I was gifted a copy early last year but sadly haven’t managed reading it yet.
          Perhaps, this year, if I exhaust all the Indian literature I hope to read.

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  5. Hmmm… I can’t recall my first book book, but my mother tells me I learned to read by reading the backs of cereal boxes. So my first “book” may have been The Nutritional Components of Cheerios”… : )

    Lovely post, Asha. I was not familiar with Tolstoy’s story. Thanks for sharing, and for being such a good influence in the worlds (literary and otherwise). Hope all’s well with you– cheers! : )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a queer start, Mark. But a start nonetheless. And who knows how it may help. 😛
      As for Tolstoy, he was one smart man. You must acquaint with him.
      I’m all good. And waiting for March mundanes to be gone soon.
      How about you?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful …. you seem to have a strong character which is a blend of both pragmatism, emotions, and innocence .. Pls tc of yourself !!

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    1. That’s some elegance coming in like sunshine. I haven’t had such lovely thoughts in a while now. Thank you for lighting up my day. 🙂
      How have you been? And what is your first book experience?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Still cannot eat and talk… but hopefully will be saved this time… 🙂
        You deserved all these lines that I wrote even more… my first book experience was shashi tharoor’s From midnight to the millennium and beyond” apart from my academic books… I haven’t read fiction still I was in university …I regret it..
        Whatever I read was non fiction.

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  7. “You may have read a thousand books. But the one that stirs your soul is the one written for you.” Couldn’t agree more!

    I mostly remember the titles. My first full length book (as a child reader) was Sitaaron Se Aage. It was a (very imaginative) fantasy novel where children take a trip to the Moon and funny/interesting things happen there.

    Such a sweet ‘book’ post! 🙂

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    1. Blimey! That’d have been such a fantastic treat. I can imagine being glued to the pages of ‘Sitaaron Se Aage’ like kids today glued to mobile phones. Alas!
      Perhaps, I should look for it too.
      Happy to have you over, Tarang. 🙂 Happy Women’s Day to you!

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  8. Yes….but i like to collect paperbacks…and reading printed versions is more enjoyable..any other book apart from it..which you liked..i am also ordering the lord of the flies..have you read it?

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          1. Yeah. Let’s see. I have so many. I read The Girl with the Dragon tattoo series. I was so excited when I found out there was fourth book. I remember the feeling of anticipation. It was like OMG what’s going to happen next. It was amazing. It’s a great series if you haven’t read them I would highly recommend them.

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            1. Oh yes! I second. I loved the first book GWDT. But yet to catch up with the series. And that anticipation kick happened with LOTR… Though it was draggy, it was worth the pain. 😛 I loved Harry Potter, of course. ❤ And absolutely hated Twilight and Fifty Shades series. Have you read, any of these, Kath?

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Awesome. The rest in the series are just as good as the first one. If you get a chance read them. They are great. Oh yeah. I ready Harry Potter. I loved Harry Potter. One of my favorites. I’ve read them all I loved Twilight and I loved Fifty shades of Gray series as well.

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  9. My reading started with comics of Amar Chitra Katha. ..followed by books of science fiction stories which attracted me the most..during my high school days the first proper book I read was “We the children of India ” by Leila Seth the former chief justice of India. It strengthened my concepts of Social studies and civics.

    Winners never cheat by Jon M Huntsman was the second one.

    The third one was Mrutyunjay by Shivaji Sawant.

    But Study Books have become my closest companions right now 😀😀

    Happy Woman’s Day to you dear Asha Di.😊. ..have a nice day

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s good to see your religious dedication towards books. Nevermind the genre, my dear. Every book has something to give. I’ve loved Anna Karenina, like a baby. And then, Love in the Time of Cholera is next best. There are so many. I need not even start with Harry Potter. 😛

      Liked by 2 people

  10. A lovely post indeed 🙂 As for me, I had met Drew & Doyle early during my school days followed by Rowling. These three together had made my day for a long time. In between I befriended Bond & Narayan who though were occasional visitors did show me to enjoy the simple things in life. Later on I meet Chethan who was fun to hang out with. I still don’t know how I came to meet Coelho but he too became a good companion in the run. Marquise and Hemingway were the last of the best I had met during the end of my school days who, I should say, made the mark of a genius. I love them. Anyway I too have someone who I had made friends with for the first time, and his name was Defoe 🙂 Hope you too like my friends 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Delighted to meet your buddies, as they are my fond ones too. Rowling, Marquez, Twain, are few of my lovelies. I never liked Chetan much though. And Bond, oh what a heartthrob!
      Who doesn’t love Defoe and Dickens, and Austen and Hemingway. Such beautiful stories, such amazing memories of each one of them.
      I love your friends, I do. 🙂 Your comment has made me so happy.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it amazing how the memories we hold of our bookish encounters are so varied and so fulfilling? 🙂 I too read Blyton, Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss, Lewis Carroll, and Indian greats such as Premchand, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Kabir, their poems. Ghalib and Gulzar, who I was introduced to again by my father. I’d love to know more about Arthur Hailey though. Never read his books.
      Why don’t you do a post on it, Radhika?

      Liked by 2 people

“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” ― James A. Michener

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