I sense a natural hiatus in the thread, so I'll post a summary of the books mentioned:
Ballard, Robert D.(1991) Exploring the Bismarck. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Borgeson, Lil and Speirs, Jack (1962) Skin Diver Handbook. New York, NY: Arco Publishing Company, Inc.
Bronson-Howard, George (1956) Handbook for Skin Divers. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications.
Council for National Co-operation in Aquatics (1962) The New Science of Skin and Scuba Diving. New York, NY: Association Press.
Cousteau, J.Y. (1953) The Silent World. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers Publishers.
Cousteau, J.Y. (1970) The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.
Gordon, Hal (1971) Divers Down! Adventure Under Hawaiian Seas. Racine, WI: Whitman Publishing Company.
Harlow, Vance (1999) Scuba Regulator Maintenance and Repair: A Complete All-Makes Guide to Scuba Regulator Servicing, Troubleshooting, Repair and Tuning. Warner, NH: Airspeed Press.
Horner, Dave (1966) Better Scuba Diving for Boys. New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Company.
Kimmins, Barry J. (1956) Underwater sport on a small income. London: Hutchinson.
Lee, Owen (1968) The Complete Illustrated Guide To Snorkel And Deep Diving. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.
North, Wheeler J. (1968) The golden guide to scuba diving: Handbook of underwater activities. New York, NY: Golden Press.
PADI (1978) PADI Diver Manual. Santa Ana, CA: PADI.
Quilici, Folco (1954) The Blue Continent. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson.
Roberts, Fred M. (1960) Basic Scuba: Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc.
Strykowski, Joe (1969) Diving for Fun. Northfield, IL: Dacor Corp.
US Department of Commerce (1975) NOAA Diving Manual: Diving for Science and Technology. Washington DC: US Department of Commerce.
That's 17 in all, a mini-collection in itself. I have 11 of them in my bookcase. I've dated the titles by their first editions where that was possible. Quite a spread in terms of publication dates, from the 1950s to the 1990s, reflecting among other things the different times when we first entered the world of diving as well as differences in our ages. A similar variation in book genres, some biographical, some instructional.
There's also some variety in the target audience of these titles: just one explicitly intended for young people, Dave Horner's Better Scuba Diving for Boys. Whether we started with a book designed for adult or adolescent would-be divers depended, I guess, not only on what the bookstore happened to have in stock at the time but also on the year we first explored the literature of diving. Diving books for young people didn't come on to the scene until the mid-1960s. Horner's 1966 book starts with the following sentences: "There has long been a need for a "how to" book prepared especially for the young scuba diver and the scuba diver to be. Most of the available instruction manuals and textbooks have been written on the college or adult level. While these sources cover the subject thoroughly, they often fail to 'get through' to the boy who is a better than average swimmer, has used a mask and fins for several years, can converse in scuba terminology better than his father, and yet does not really understand the standard air-compression tables or the intricacies of the medical aspects of diving about which he speaks." I for one began with diving books targeted at adults and would have welcomed something more child-friendly in the way of diving literature.
Thanks everyone! Please feel free to add more books to this "first diving book purchase" list, as this message is just a summary of what we have so far. I've really enjoyed the personal narratives surrounding the book purchases. I'm convinced that stories aren't just found in the books we read but also in our interactions with those paperbacks and hardbacks. Indeed, books never come to life again until we open them up, learn from what we read and share our enjoyment with our fellow readers. Now I plan to start a new thread requesting titles of diving books that you might give to a relative or friend, young or old, contemplating becoming a vintage diver.