Reading Memories: Authors on the Books Their Fathers Shared with Them

Reading Memories: Authors on the Books Their Fathers Shared with Them

Lifelong bookworms are born at bedtime. Often the most voracious readers have fond memories of their fathers reading to them after being tucked into bed. In honor of Father’s Day, we invited authors to share a book they remember their father or father figure sharing with them.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

“One of the books that my dad read to me and my brother before bedtime when we were children was Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. My dad loves stories of adventure and exploration where the characters have to rely on their daring and intelligence to survive. He also read me Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, hooked me on Star Trek, and introduced me to wuxia books and movies. I’m pretty sure one of my subconscious goals as an author is to write books that are smart and exciting enough for my dad.” —Fonda Lee, author of Jade City

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

“Our dad is a professor and always understood the importance of reading. We were lucky that either he or my mom would read us a book every night before bedtime. The one book we asked our dad to read us almost every single night was Where the Wild Things Are. Sometimes we would ask for it to be read again the same night, and sometimes a third time (sorry, Dad). It’s funny to think that the book—at that time—would have only been four or five years old. It shares a birth year with Terry, in fact. Even back then it didn’t feel like a new book though; it felt like a classic, like it had always been with us, as if it was essential that it existed in the world somehow. Reading it as adults, we’re still captivated by it. The text alone exerts a powerful draw, even without the incredible illustrations that so mesmerized us as children. It was a huge springboard for our childhood imaginations, and had all the ingredients that appealed to us: monsters, a sea voyage, a magical forest that grows in Max’s bedroom. I think that inspired us to transform our own bedroom into an undersea world. We drew fish and whales and seaweed and taped them to the walls, as if we could dissolve those walls and open them up to adventure, like Max. There was something else about the book too: the hint of danger. It was a little scary, which made it fun to read while safely in bed. After Max returns home to find his supper waiting for him—and it was still hot—we would be tucked in and all would be right with the world.” —Eric and Terry Fan, authors of Ocean Meets Sky

“I can remember my dad reading Where the Wild Things Are, and my imagination going through the roof! As we read it I couldn’t help but imagine my own monsters and what island I would sail to if I were Max. When we weren’t reading together, we would spend lots of time making up stories together and drawing at the dining room table. My father is one tall guy at 6’5”, so riding up on his shoulders as a little kid certainly made you feel like the king of the wild things.” —Cale Atkinson, author of Off & Away

The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin

“The recliner’s since been retired, but once upon a time there was a grand chair that perfectly fit both my dad and me. We’d cuddle and watch his favorite show—Star Trek—and do read-alouds of The Baby-Sitters Club, featuring my favorite entrepreneurial girls, the books inspiring my own schemes and plans. It was a big day when my dad rented The Baby-Sitters Club film adaptation. We were in our chair, the tape in the VCR, but the TV was a snowstorm. Without hesitation, my dad drove back to the video shop for a new copy. The memory always makes me smile.” —Jenni L. Walsh, author of Side by Side: A Novel of Bonnie and Clyde

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

“In my early years, I loved reading picture books and comics but was a reluctant reader when it came to longer-form narratives. Then one day, my uncle dropped off the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. My jaw dropped. Was this a story or an encyclopedia? I had never read a book with so many pages! My uncle made me a deal. If I read the story and made book reports, he would sponsor my summer camp trip. After I started reading, I didn’t need the bribe. I was hooked. That summer, I went to summer camp and went on to devour Roald Dahl’s books. Reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was the start.” —Arree Chung, author of Mixed: A Colorful Story

Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss

“I feel a great deal of pity for my friends with children because I’m pretty sure I bought every single one of them a copy of Fox in Socks in the hope their kids would become as obsessed with it as I was. It’s full of tongue-twisters, like ‘When tweetle beetles fight, it’s called a tweetle beetle battle. And when they battle in a puddle, it’s a tweetle beetle puddle battle.’ I made my very patient father read it to me every day for months, if not years. I think he still has it memorized.” —Michelle Falkoff, author of Questions I Want to Ask You

Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa

“When I was young, my father loved to make up stories for us, so when I think about a meaningful book that I associate with him, it’s actually not a children’s book. Rather, it’s the samurai epic Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa. It’s a book he read as a kid in Vietnam and gave to me when I went off to college. Musashi is about a young man who took an unconventional route (challenging himself physically, spiritually, and intellectually) to become one of Japan’s most celebrated swordsmen. I reread it every few years and plan to pass it onto my children.” —Minh Lê, author of Drawn Together

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

“My father didn’t travel often for work, but when he did, he’d always bring home a present of some sort. I remember a yoyo, a magnifying glass, and, once, a paperback copy of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. This was the mid-70s and the stylized cover was rather ugly and menacing looking. I was disappointed until we started reading it. There is a snowy train ride through a lonely countryside, a sprawling stoney estate surrounded by wolves to prevent exit, and hateful adults in charge of keeping our child heroines under control. The book was a forerunner, in my reading life, to the old gothics of Mary Stewart and Dorothy Eden which I loved reading and which ultimately led me to write. I have so much to thank my father for, but what I appreciate the most is the love of reading I will have forever.” —Beth Harbison, author of Every Time You Go Away

The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss

“Dad couldn’t have known that reading me this story would affect me forever. As the Star-Belly Sneetches lorded their superiority over the Plain-Belly Sneetches, dad helped a kid no more than six understand class arrogance and prejudice. But Seuss being Seuss, along comes Sylvester McMonkey McBean, whose wondrous machine provides stars to those who lack them. This strips the starred ones of their superiority, at which point McBean makes them starless: To not have a star, that is the way to be! Until the newly-starred go back to bare bellies, thus starting an infinite, satiric loop of meaningless class-climbing.” —Tom Matthews, author of Raising the Dad

Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston

“For landing on the honor roll one year in grammar school, my parents offered to buy a reward of my choosing. Unsurprisingly, I chose a book. But not a storybook or fairy tale. Not even a novel for young readers. This art volume was so heavy I could barely carry it to the front of the store—Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life by famed animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. It’s not a typical choice, but it became the book to join my architect dad’s heart with his art-loving daughter’s. That book is still treasured on my shelf, years after my dad has passed away. I’ll always cherish the time we spent in its pages because its where my future love for storytelling was born.” —Kristy Cambron, author of The Lost Castle

Sphere by Michael Crichton

“Not long after Jurassic Park hit the big screen, my dad and I went on a Michael Crichton reading kick, starting way back at the beginning with The Great Train Robbery and Andromeda Strain. But it was the experience of reading Sphere that sticks out in my memory. We shared one copy from the Wautoma library and still managed to burn through it in three days, trading back and forth as we ate up the chapters, giddy about what we’d read and excited to talk about it once the other one had caught up. That book more than any other really sealed my love of genre fiction at an early age. Far-future sci-fi tech, time travel done well, black holes, monsters, it had it all.” —Patrick S. Tomlinson, author of Gate Crashers

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