Gateway books: What were the first books that began your love of SF?

I was intrigued by the short stories of HG Wells quite early on. The first of his novels I read were 'The War of the Worlds,' and 'The Time Machine,' when I was about 14. For Jules Verne it was 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth,' and 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.' But my first choice you may find surprising: It was 'The Day of the Triffids,' by John Wyndham, which I read when I was about 14, quickly followed by every other book he had ever written
Christopher Priest famously criticized Wyndham's work as "the master of the middle-class catastrophe". Brian Aldiss condemned his books as suitable for an audience who 'enjoyed cosy disasters," but for me it seemed so 'real,' set as it was in modern Britain, and at the time I read it, 'Ban the Bomb' was a topical subject made even more real by the Cuba Crisis when the world seemed to be on the brink of WW3. By choosing to write about situations that were not about space, but relevant to the present day, Wyndham was a pioneer of a form of sci-fi we might nowadays call 'speculative fiction". I used to lay in bed dreaming of how I planned to survive when the bomb dropped. Later my tastes became wider and much more diverse in SF but I will never forget the day I first read 'The Day of the Triffids.'
Yes! - H.G. Well's short stories are surprisingly good. You can see his influence shining through when you read Heinlein - especially the fantasy, e.g. Well's "The Magic Shop" and Heinlein's "Magic Inc."
 
I was reading SF from an early age -- Great Illustrated Classics versions of Wells and Verne, Bruce Coville's SF stories, Star Trek junior fiction, Animorphs --- but I don't think I admitted I was a SF fan until I was much older (early twenties), once I'd tried Asimov's short story collections and wound up reading every short story collection and novel I could find by him save for End of Eternity.
 

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