We asked Tampa Bay area writers and booksellers whether they had ever received a book as a gift that had an impact of their lives. Here are their answers.
owner of Tampa's Inkwood Books
I think I was 8 or 9 when Santa Claus left the whole Little House on the Prairie book set under the tree. I had only read Little House in the Big Woods so it felt like the jackpot. I remember imagining myself as Laura on the prairie, helping Pa feed the chickens and plow the fields, as I descended from my tree house in sunny Florida, ran across the grass and grabbed another cold dish of Jell-O pudding to start reading another book.
This set made me a lifelong reader. It taught me that you could stay right where you are and be transported to another time and place with your imagination and good writing. Of course, when the TV series came out, I had a huge crush on Michael Landon and despised Nellie. Years later I met Melissa Gilbert and was thoroughly disappointed that she wasn't wearing a bonnet and had obviously had plastic surgery. So, another lesson ... the book is always better than the TV series or movie because it stays right where it belongs ... in your imagination.
Tampa author of the bestselling Serge Storms series, including the upcoming Coconut Cowboy
The favorite book I ever received for Christmas was The Sea and Its Wonderful Creatures (A Whitman Learn About Book). I got it when I was 4, and the illustrations of hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, squid, barracuda and jellyfish are some of the most vivid images from my childhood. We lived on the east coast in Riviera Beach about a mile or so from the shore, and each time we went there, I was on an obsessive hunt for these creatures. I never had any luck until I finally found a washed-up jellyfish and picked it up in both hands, and that's how I learned not to pick up jellyfish. I didn't know I could scream that loud. But time heals, and now that sentimental, falling-apart copy is the only children's book on my office shelves.
Florida's poet laureate and St. Petersburg resident
I like the idea of meaningful things happening at an older age. I can't remember how old I was when I read Alice in Wonderland and other books I loved, but I vividly remember Jeanne (his wife) saying "Go for it!" at Christmas in 2007, when I was about to turn 75. I'd just read an ecstatic review of a new translation of Tolstoy's War and Peace (by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky), and I had just listed all the reasons I couldn't buy it: It was my favorite novel but I'd already read it twice, in the old Constance Garnett translation; it was expensive (around $40); and it was over 1,200 pages and I had no time to read it. "Merry Christmas," Jeanne said. Rereading that magnificent book in a brilliant new translation (for the next six months!) was the most exciting literary experience I've ever had.
Tampa author of YA and children's books, including the upcoming Tru & Nelle
The Christmas gift I remember the most from when I was younger was one I got from my parents when I was 13. I was a reluctant reader who had somehow managed to read the entire Hobbit/Lord of the Rings quartet … twice! Those books opened me up to the possibilities of reading and, as a reward, these two leather-bound volumes showed up under the tree that Christmas. I have never read them, but keep them as a treasured reminder to this day.
Pinellas County resident and Edgar Award-winning author; her latest book is Let Me Die in His Footsteps
I believe I was 14 years old the Christmas I received a copy of The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton as a gift. I couldn't begin to guess how many times I reread that book as I was growing up. Not only did I fall in love with the characters, but I also fell in love with their struggle and came to appreciate the power of language.