Today’s quiz: grown up books

When you were a kid, did you read any “grown up” books you really shouldn’t have?

I got to thinking about this after a young friend told me that when he was in grade school, he loved John Grisham novels. His reading comprehension impressed me. He then said that the first adult novel he read was Silence of the Lambs — when he was eight.

I must have shrieked, or jumped, because he tried to calm me down… by explaining that the next book he read was A Clockwork Orange. At that point I came close to dialing for help — for him — so he added, “But you know who I really loved? Madeleine L’Engle. A Wrinkle in Time.”

Good try. But no amount of Meg Murry will undo Hannibal Lecter.

So who else read ahead, so to speak?

Oh, I know: me! And I’m not talking about those Ray Bradbury books I read in junior high that scared the living piss out of me. The summer I was ten or eleven, I found a dogeared copy of Coffee, Tea or Me? (Subtitle: “The Uninhibited Memoirs of Two Airline Stewardesses.”)

Boy howdy, it was an education. And I’m not talking about its descriptions of emergency evacuation procedures.

And Mom: Before you wonder which of my parochial school friends’ parents left that book lying around their rumpus room… I found it at my grandparents’ house in Roswell.

Anybody else?

15 responses to “Today’s quiz: grown up books

  1. I remember upsetting my grandmother greatly when she caught me reading “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I was probably 10 or 12. However, somewhere around that age, I also found “Valley of the Dolls.” And of course, my junior high class had that copy of “The Godfather” that we all passed around, just to read page 157 (or whatever it was), where Sonny hooked up with the bridesmaid at the wedding.

  2. Oh, and I also had “Brave New World” as assigned reading in 5th grade. With contraceptive drills. Seemed pretty “grown-up” to me at the time.

  3. I hope that kid’s ok!

  4. My parents were very old-fashioned in some of their views, but they never censored my reading. I read (and was allowed and encouraged to read) anything in the house. That included “The Joy of Sex” when I was about 11, and “Kinflicks”, which was a bit of an eye-opener. My Granddad bought me a compilation of Raymond Chandler novels when I was still young and innocent enough to wonder why people left such big gaps in their conversations. (‘ “—- you,” he said’. Yep, back then some of editions blanked out the swearing. But not the scenes where the naked junkie chick comes on to the PI.)

    My childhood reading diet included Enid Blyton, any fairytales I could get my hands on, Frances Parkinson Keyes, Frances Durbridge, Stephen King, the Pan Book of Horror compilations, Dick Francis, Agatha Christie, Wilbur Smith (“Sunbird” was my first introduction to a parallel timeline story. I was massively impressed), Daphne Du Maurier, Dennis Wheatley, John le Carre (but only when I’d read everything else that was lying around, I found those hard work), a bizarre book about a man with 3 testicles and Nora Lofts. Anything really, although heavy on crime, thrillers and romance because that’s what my parents bought. When we went on holidays, I read my books and everybody else’s.

    In my early teens I discovered “The War of the Powers”, a fantasy epic which is probably pretty terrible in every possible way, but does have a hell of a lot of sex.

    I’m pretty sure your young friend is doing just fine, and probably already has an excellent grasp of how to seed information in a narrative, as that’s particularly vital in crime writing.

  5. Aargh! How come no matter how many times you re-read you spot the typos after you hit submit? *grandad.

  6. The Godfather at age 11. The Exorcist around 12. THe Grapes of Wrath at around 26. (Obviously I wasn’t mature enough to appreciate that one.)

  7. I also read The Exorcist at very early age (5th grade, I think). I had to ask my mom what a certain slang word meant. She was a bit taken aback at the question. From the context of Regan shouting that the priest should keep his hands out of her c-word, I decided that it meant “business”. Mom agreed.

  8. I read whatever my parents had in the house. Michener’s Hawaii (still recall a hot love scene on the beach) and In Cold Blood in 6th grade. Wasn’t able to go into my bedroom for weeks without checking in the closet and under the bed because of Capote’s graphic murder scenes.

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