Once, in my father's bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a place in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return. (The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, pg. 8)The first book that popped to my mind when I read this was, of course, Harry Potter. I was 12 when I read Sorcerer's Stone for the first time, relatively young in my reading life. Would I love the books as much as I do if I hadn't been a part of the lucky Harry Potter generation? Probably not.
But there are other books that I read early in life that have stayed close to my heart. (If you've seen my Favorites shelf on Goodreads, you probably noticed that a lot of them are young adult/middle grade.)
I have my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Applegate, to thank for introducing me to some of my favorite books. There's Ella Enchanted, still the best fairy-tale retelling I have ever read (and I've read a lot). There's The Giver, one of the first books that portrayed the world I lived in in grays, rather than black and white. And there's also A Return to Christmas, a cheesy, predictable Christmas story that always makes the Christmas season feel more complete.
I've read all of these books more than once, and they all still evoke that magical, childlike wonder. I add a few books to my Favorites shelf every year, but the ones I fell in love with in elementary school/middle school get a special spot on that shelf. They're the ones I go back to the most.