I once read that Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May Alcott, stated that a book beloved from childhood will remain a favorite for life, and while many great books will be read in later years, nothing will match that childhood favorite. For Louisa, that book was The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. She even used it as a frame for her own masterpiece, Little Women.
For me, it’s that very book, Little Women. I agree with Bronson that the book I fell in love with at about age 10 has never been surpassed in my affections by any other book. I believe this is due as much to the nostalgic memories, the feelings associated with that “first love” as it is due to the book’s superlative qualities. I still remember the feeling of shock and loss at coming to end for the first time. It was as if I’d suddenly lost my dearest friend. Immediately, I opened to the beginning page and started reading it all over again.
Later, when I discovered that the book I was reading was an abridged version and there was actually more to the story I could hardly contain my delight. I was visiting my grandmother in Vermont when I came across an unabridged copy in a local shop. I bought it, barely able to wait to begin devouring it. I was in heaven.
Though Little Women tops my list of all-time favorite books, there are a few others that have earned a spot as well. At about the same time as I discovered Alcott’s book, I also began reading the Nancy Drew Mystery Series. I started out with a stack of five that I received as a Christmas present. So began my life as a librocubicularist, aka a person who reads in bed. Beginning that Christmas night, the lamp on my headboard stayed on much later than allowed so that I could accompany Nancy and her friends on their adventures.
Another book that kept me up at night was Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. In freshman year, my high school English teacher allowed us to choose any book from a catalog she passed around to the class. The picture of Jane Eyre's cover and the mysteriousness conveyed by the book’s blurb intrigued me. I wasn’t daunted by the length of it as by then I’d become an avid reader. I devoured the book and thoroughly enjoyed writing a report on it. Like Little Women, Jane Eyre became one of the very few books I would read multiple times.
There have been many, many books that I’ve read over the years and loved. Too many to list. But this trio of Little Women, Jane Eyre, and the Nancy Drew Mystery Series holds a special place in my heart and always will.