Nov 13 2011 11:00am

First Words: What Was the First Book You Bought With Your Hard-Earned Dollars?

Devouring any book you can get your hands on is a common shared train among fans of any genre, but we tend to think science fiction and fantasy fans have an edge.’s patron saint of prolific reading skills has to be Jo Walton, who is on a life-long quest to read every single science fiction book every published. And from our Indie and B&N Bookseller Picks, to Genre in the Mainstream, we’re always trying to find you new books to read. But how did this all begin? What was the first book you bought with your own money?

We asked our Facebook and Twitter peeps and we got some fantastic answers!

Not surprisingly, many of you mentioned science fiction or fantasy titles, with the bias seemingly in favor of fantasy. Here are some selections:

Ali Yamaan Saleem said “The Elfstones of Shannara, over 9 years ago...” You’re a young one Ali!

Kelly Gran said “Jeremy Thatcher: Dragon Hatcher from the school book fair!”

Nicholle Fair bought several of “the original OZ books in second grade.”

Karen Jacobs recalled buying Edgar Rice Burroughs — “Either in the Tarzan or John Carter series. My older brother had several, and I remember riding my bike to the local bookstore so that I could fill in the missing books to complete the sets.”

Robert Jordan made a fair showing, here, as did Anne McCaffrey, R.A. Salvatore, C.S. Lewis and Stephen King.

While not as many entries as Fantasy, Science Fiction made a decent showing with Sean Dorman telling us “The Caves of Steel” by Isaac Asimov. Meanwhile more than one Facebook and Twitter friend mentioned A Wrinkle in Time. If we could only teseract back and buy that book over and over again!

Books designed for young readers are a natural choice for a first purchase; after all not all of us can buy James Michener’s Hawaii as our very first book. (Like reader Yulande Lindsay!)  Anyway, several “kid’s books” were mentioned including:

The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine (Laura Koumos and Leetah Begallie).

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell from Katie Weathers (she thinks anyway).

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (from Pamela Tajmaer)

And our personal favorite in terms of books aimed at young readers: Jonathan Abbot said: “I’m guessing a Boxcar Children book.”

Media Tie-in books had a few shout-outs, and its perhaps here where science fiction made its comeback. If you can imagine it, there was book version of Tron. (Thanks, Owen Lucas!) Really, what would a novel version of Tron offer that wasn’t captured in that oh-so-specific screenplay? Kenneth Lee McDaniel also reminded us that Alan Dean Foster wrote several adaptations of animated Star Trek episodes! Bruno Lucena pointed out that there was once a series of X-Files novels, noting the first purchase of Kevin J. Anderson’s X-Files: Ruins.

Finally, the type of book, which seems to trump all in the world of first books is a mystery! Everyone loves a good mystery, and many of you seemed to be on the case with your very first book purchase! Here were some highlights:

  • A Clue in the Ivy: Dana Girls Mystery
  • A Three Investigators Mystery
  • Hardy Boys
  • Encyclopedia Brown
  • And more Boxcar Children!

What about you readers? Can you remember the first books you purchased? Tell us about it below!


Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of The very first book Stubby bought with its own money was, sadly, a Hanes Rocketship Repair Manual.

Erica Jones
1. Erica Jones
The first book I bought with money I earned (not allowance or parents money) was The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman. :D
Erica Jones
2. firstgentrekkie
"First Through Time," by Rex Gordon. Price, 35 cents, iirc.
Erica Jones
4. curiositykt
I don't remember what the first book was, but my method was taking the quarters I recieved every day for milk, putting them in a jar, and every month I'd have 5 dollars, which was generally enough for a paperback. Milk was gross anyway.
Erica Jones
5. Mr. Muchacho
SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH: STORIES IN HONOUR OF JACK VANCE. The signed, numbered edition from Subterranean Press.

Money well spent, what can I say?
Erica Jones
6. Kara Hartz
For me, it was "The Phantom Toolbooth". I remember standing in the bookstore, picking it out. Wow, I'm proud of myself for remembering!
Erica Jones
7. mad_for_fantasy
The first book I bought with my own money was "The Stand"
Erica Jones
8. dwndrgn
I don't recall exactly what the very first book I bought with my own earned money was but, I do recall reading The Sword of Shannara soon after I had my first job so presumably that was one of the first.
Erica Jones
9. liontime
Way back in 1965 in one of our local grocery stores, I bought in paperback for something like 50 Cents, the first part of " Adventures in Time and Space". It was great and I still have that copy on my shelves.
Philip Thomann
10. normalphil
Well, I was nineteen so there's no excuse but it was "The Neverending Story", Michael Ende. Penguin edition.

I know that because I've carried it around everywhere I've gone since, and so I just had to reach up and look at its back cover.
Erica Jones
11. vcmw
Probably Tamora Pierce's Alanna: the First Adventure.
Richard Boye
12. sarcastro

I bought.... The Art of the Dragonlance Saga (1st edition!) because I saw it n the bookstore and was enthralled but was thinking that my 13 year old self couldn't handle the saga itself.

The pictures were so cool! Victorian houses in trees! Elfmaids on silver dragons! Kender! High Lord Vernminaard. American Indians with swords! Draconinans! That amazingly awesome super-sized iceship being attacked by Sleet, the White Dragon (you know what I am talking about) .

It was full of all the cool planning and background details, tantalizing references to the D&D module adventures that are alluded to in the series proper.

Anyway, I finally bought the first trilogy and it was my gateway drug into the genre.
Erica Jones
13. Finny
A large print casewrap hardcover of The Grey King by Susan Cooper for $1.50 at a used bookstore. Beat up and battered, but still my favourite book by my favourite author.
Tim Lewis
14. RaPToRFunK
I believe the first book I purchased is Elfstones of Shannara. After my dad gave me Sword of Shannara, I had to keep reading.
Erica Jones
15. Not that Frank
Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles at a school book fair in the seventh grade, Illustrated Man a year later. Living in rural Wisconsin, a bookstore was only available when we did a school trip to UW-Stevens Point for math league. My brother bought pretty much everything else Bradbury had in print, whilst I discovered Larry Niven's Neutron Star.

Went on to discover the mail order page in the back and I've been well and truly hooked ever since...
Erica Jones
16. Kvon
I bought Ursula K. Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea, which I liked for the dragon on the cover.
Erica Jones
17. Jeff S.
"The Runaway Robot" by Lester Del Rey.
I bought it in grade school through Scholastic Book Services for appx 35 cents. I still have the original paperback in my bookshelf along with my second purchase "Stranger from the Depths" by Gerry Turner. I think that one was 50 cents also from SBS. Paper route money for both of them in the late 60's and early 70's.
Does SBS still exist? I know it introduced me to many different authors and genres at a reasonable price.
john mullen
18. johntheirishmongol
I first bought a book with money I actually earned picking blueberries when I was 14 years old. I think the average price of a book was $.75. I used to love the Ace doubles too. I am pretty sure that it was a Heinlein novel, Stranger or Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

I already had a book collection..Hardy Boys, Oz books, Tom Swift, Black Stallion ....and a bunch of other stuff..but those were gifts. When I got home from the service several years later I was furious that my mother gave them all away. I've spent decades resurrecting them.
Erica Jones
19. daz
It would have been one of the 'Target' Dr Who adaptations. Probably a second or third Doctor adventure.

Erica Jones
20. Lupus-deus-est
@19 - My fifth (if I don't count The Silmarillion) would have beenthe novelisation of "Underworld". :)
Erica Jones
21. Lupus-deus-est
I can't remember if I bought The Silmarillion (from Mum's uni bookstore) with Christmas money or with parental goodwill, but I would have been about 7 or 8. The next one would have been The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, and Lord of Chaos, bought all in one purchase from a second-hand store (my grandfather had passed his copies of the first 3 to me a month or two earlier) when i was about 10, the very first thing I bought after receiving allowance.
It's hard to keep track.
aaron thompson
22. trench
It has to be the Choose Your Own Adventure books, I bought them by the ton.
Binyamin Weinreich
23. Imitorar
I can't actually remember which book I first bought with my own money. I'm not even sure I ever have bought a book with my own money. The vast majority of the books I own were books I chose from the school book fair on a parental budget of about $20 or $30, or books I was allowed to choose in the summer before going to camp (usually around 3). As such, the book I consider "the first that was mine" would be the first one I picked out at the school book fair in 3rd grade, which would be the mass market paperback edition of The Lost Years of Merlin by T. A. Barron. I loved it, and have read it many times since. I also got The High King by Lloyd Alexander and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis from that book fair. It was a good haul.
Erica Jones
24. wiredog
Tough question. So much of my early reading (like Jo's) was persuing the SF section of the local library. Many were Christmas gifts (Silmarillion 1st edition hardcover when I was 12. In very bad shape now.) or birthday presents.

I know that by the time I was 11 I had the Little House books, LoTR and The Hobbit, Chronicles of Narnia, and Sherlock Holmes. Not sure if I had the Foundation trilogy by then, but certainly before I was 13. Had Dune by 13 as well.
Jo Walton
25. bluejo
No I'm not!

There's a lot I know I don't want to read and I do have some discrimination, really!

And it was Imperial Earth.
Joe Dillingham
26. theblacklaser
Why is Peter Cushing on the cover of "Wrinkle In Time"??!?!?!? WHY?!?!?!??!
Kristoff Bergenholm
27. Magentawolf
I have no idea, only that I tended to devour the school Book Fairs like a plague of locusts. Something from the Boxcar Children is a decent compromise, since I've still got a stack of them packed away in a box. (Of course, I was also reading LoTR and the Lensman series at about the same time, but those were passed down from my father.)

Oh, and a Wrinkle in Time was a bloody strange book twenty-odd years ago when I first read it... and it still is now, too.

EDIT: Well, not so much as was A Wind in the Door, which I decided to confuse with the above.
marian moore
28. mariesdaughter
"At the Back of the North Wind" in the 3rd grade. There was a sale at the school library.

Followed by the LOTR books, one at a time during high school. They were 95 cents each plus tax. I saved all month until I could afford a new one at the end of each month.
Erica Jones
29. Syllabus
Three A. Christie books: Three Act Tragedy, Third Girl and Evil Under The Sun. All except Third Girl were ripping good reads.
Erica Jones
30. Baramos
The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore when I was 9 or 10, which was a D&D/Forgotten Realms novel.

I had previously bought things like Dracula, The Wreckers, etc., YA things from the order forms at school, but this was the first purchase I made at a real bookstore.

I got it for only 4.00 in paperback, brand new. *sigh* Bye bye, print media. We know you aren't going to be around much longer when you charge 10.00 for a book.
Erica Jones
31. N. Mamatas
Other Stories and the Attack of the Giant Baby by Kit Reed. I was nine, had made a few bucks peeling potatoes and such in an uncle's diner.
Erica Jones
32. Stefan Jones
Hmmm. It's been forty years, maybe more, but most liklely the first book I bought with my own cash was one of James Blish's Star Trek tie-ins. (These were essentially short stories adapted from episodes of the original series.)
Erica Jones
33. RobinM
It's a toss up between "Dragons of Autumn Twilight" by Weis and Hickman and "Pawn of Prophecy" by D. Eddings. I was around fourteen.
Joseph Kingsmill
34. JFKingsmill16
Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy Freshmen year
Bernadette Durbin
35. dexlives
I received a $50 gift certificate from my Nana for my tenth birthday and had no idea what to spend that small fortune on. I'd never bought books because our house was quite well-supplied. So my mother took me to Tower (the flagship store) and picked out every Heinlein juvenile she didn't already own.

I think it was several years before I bought a book on my own because I was confused by the amount of choice. Well, and my mother bought so many books that it didn't really seem necessary. I'm pretty sure that one of my first authentic book purchases was The Magic of Recluce, which turned out to be one hell of a gateway drug.
Ron Griggs
36. RonGriggs
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting.
Erica Jones
37. Lizzy H
I couldn't get enough of the Redwall books! Luckily, the library in my elementary school was well-stocked because the one purchase of Mattimeo bankrupted me entirely.
Erica Jones
38. myst44
my first book.... with own earned money? I intended to buy a book for a friend, and there was a buy 3 for 2 going on at Borders..... Naturally the two books i got for myself were Neverwhere and American Gods from Neil Gaiman. =D
James Whitehead
39. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
The first book I remember buying was a hardcover edition of The Hobbit when I was eight. I had been given a $5 gift card to the local bookstore & went down with my mum to choose. I spent what seemed like hours & then found Tolkien's green cover version of The Hobbit appealing.

My own money, however, was spent on Dickens' David Copperfield at a school book fair/swap. This started a continued love affair with Dickens' works; matched only by my love of Tolkien's works. ;-)

Erica Jones
40. jim162065
First book I bought after i learned to read The White Dragon by anne McCaffrey, it was the third book i read after two buddy books from the 1930-40s. The next one was mice and men.
j p
41. sps49
My first 3 were from Scholastic in 4th grade- The Secret Cave, Midway, and one I don't remember.

First SF/F probably is Have Space Suit, Will Travel. That started me buying a lot of the Del Rey collection. So many pretty covers! the yellow-spined DAW paperbacks rarely caught my eye in the same way.

But if the Tom Swift books had been on the shelves, I would've bought them. Actually, I recall one- Tom Swift and the City of Gold, a retitled Tom Swift and his Spectromarine Selector. I never saw another.
Mikey Bennett
42. EvilMonkey
I had to read A Wrinkle in Time for a 5th grade class and loved it so much I became a horrible bibliofile. I even started reading my mom's romance novels just because they were around and available. However, the first book I ever bought for myself was Ender's Game. It was one of those publisher's clearing house book club dealies and like one poster said above, one hell of a gateway drug. Thank you Orsen! Now I think more about spaceships than real life.
Erica Jones
43. RobPreece
I bought The Man From UNCLE because it was 10 cents cheaper than James Bond. My first hardback was Piers Anthony's Split Infinity.
Erica Jones
44. MacFanatic
The schools I went to before 7th grade had neither libraries nor book fairs. So I could only read my parent's books or gift books. My 7th grade school had both! The library introduced me to SF and the book fairs let me read books & KEEP them. The first book I bought was Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. By now, my own library is over 900 books, at least 95% SF&F.
Erica Jones
45. Jenny C.
The first book I bought was Sandman volume 10, The Wake, by Neil Gaiman, when I was 16. Does that sound strange? The first books I bought with money not from my parents, at the ripe old age of 21, was Sandman volumes 5, 6 and 7.
Gary Fauteux
46. faut
My first was Robert Silverberg's Time Of The Great Freeze bought in 67 and I still have it.
Erica Jones
47. Chuck R
At 10, I convinced another kid to buy The Cross of Iron (about German soldiers in WWII Russia) for me because the clerk would not sell it to me. But I paid the cash for it.

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