So. My first book was among the free downloads of out-of-copyright classics: Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. This was kind of a cop-out because it's a kid's book, but hey, it was the last week of classes and I needed mindless entertainment! I don't think I'm the first adult to read it, either. It was kind of the Harry Potter of it's day, written for young readers but read by all.
Stevenson wrote it when he was in his early 30s, and it remained his most popular work (he only lived to 44). This book is full of cliches; but it is also the one that started them! Pirates with wooden legs and parrots on their shoulders (Long John Silver), treasure maps with X's on them, singing seamen, tropical islands, rum-swilling buccaneers, the Black Spot, etc. It's got it all. This is a must read if 1) you're a guy, and 2) you're into pirate stuff. (Come to think of it, those are kind of the same thing.)
The style is a bit dated, naturally. It was written over 100 years ago about a time 100 years before that. But there are also some hints of more modern narrative approaches. Some of these bad guys could have walked right our of McCarthy's The Road. It begins with a quick pretence for a first-person memoir (Jim Hawkins, the young man who comes of age during the adventure, has been asked to tell the story for the court), switches to the voice of the mentoring/father-figure Doctor Livesey for a couple of chapters (when Stevenson realizes he needs to recount something Jim is not around for), then switches back until the end of the book.
There is some moral ambiguity in the character Long John Silver, but overall the Christian morality is pretty over the top. At one point Jim Hawkins is pinned to the main-mast--literally nailed to the cross--by the soulless pirate Israel Hands. Hmmm...I wonder what that's supposed to symbolize.
If you want to get a taste of the one that started them all, this bite-sized story is certainly worth what it costs you--which is just the few short hours it will take to read it. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!