So the first book I remember loving is “The Phantom Tollbooth”. I remember nothing else about it except that the cover portrayed an incrediblie flopeared dog using a phone booth. I always want to read it again but am terrified that it won’t hold the same joy and magic as I remember it holding all those years ago.
Now the important thing is that this is not the first book I ever read, not by a long shot, but it’s the first time I remember loving a book. Which is a special thing. Because before I ever read “Phantom Tollbooth,” which I read in fourth grade, I had read a lot of books. I had read the entire shelf of books in each of my previous class rooms. The librarian already knew my name, and I always, always, got a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut and had ten stickers on my Book It button.
People thought that I was going to be a writer. It’s true I did write things that even now I will admit showed a spark of awesome. But how could I not with so much material to choose from. In two months in third grade I read:
The Summer of the Monkeys
The Great Dimpole Oak
The Dancing Cats of Applesap
Afternoon of the Elves
Aliens ate my homework
I left my sneakers in Dimension X
My side of the Mountain
The far side of the mountain
Harriet the spy
THe Long Secret
Where the Red Fern Grows
The Beggar’s Ride
How lazy can you get
Jermey Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher
Jennifer Murdley’s Toad
Dead Bird’s Singing
The Cat Who Knew Shakespear
The Cuckoo’s CHild
Languyage of the goldfish
True Confession’s of Doyle
Where are the CHildren
The Magician’s Nephew
THe Lion THe Witch and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Last Battle
My teacher is an alien
My teacher friend my brains
My teacher glows in the dark
My teacher flunked the planet
The reason for Janey
A stranger is watching
But, and this is the important thing… I liked a number of these books, but I never LOVED them the way I LOVED “Phamtom Tollbooth” Even now, without knowing the plot or the names of the characters, I love it still. And it is the first storie.
After it was “The Bridge to Terebinthia” I cried for almost ten minutes after I finished this book. I swore I’d never read another book again. Clearlie this is not a promise I kept. So I got older and read longer and longer books. I’ve even read Atlas Shrugged, (although I will admit to you, that though I have read the book through three times, I have never completely read the “A is A” speech). It got to the point where I had a book a day habit. Sometimes two books if they were small. And one books leads to another. There are very few authors on the planet who write one book and leave it at that. Even fewer authors who don’t admire another author’s work and say so in print.
I don’t know what made me pick up “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” except that it was big and it was right up my alley… a guide to the galaxy? Who couldn’t use one of those? And so when our twelfth grade English teacher told us we had to write a research paper on a book, I asked the fateful question… “Any book?”
And so I found “Don’t Panic” a book about Hitchhiker’s written by Niel Gaiman. The first book I ever read of his was non-fiction, but you could still see the genius in the words. And so I looked for others. American Gods and then Good Omens (co-written by Terry Pratchett) and I thought, well this Pratchett guy must know his stuff let’s see if he’s written anything else… AND HE HAD.
So much more. * (Footnote Pratchett Style)
So I read them all. All the Discworld books, and others to boot.
This was my senior year of high school and I have read on average 4 or 5 books a week every week of my life. Some of them have been repeats because I believe two things… which is if you love a book, you should own it… and also that if a book is good you should read it again.
I own a over 800 books, and the number fluctuates as I buy more and then donate others that I no longer love but which someone else might. And I guess that I would love to write a book still, but my life is already written in other people’s words. It’s jotted down with other phrases and informed by themes and ideas that other people have put the phrase to. I might being playing the music, but the lyrics are stolen.
But I had the idea that the words are important, that the stories they tell don’t just make us human, but give us life and thought and hope. What is an idea without words? So I think that stories are important… that the ones we tell are important and that every one is an autobiography.
stories are important… sometimes as important as the facts…
And I know it’s been said before, but all stories are true.
*I don’t want to say that it means so much to me, but it does. Words are important and he knows it. And he gives you the words for things. The words for being human. On every television testimonial there is a person rambling on about how THIS has changed their life. But Terry Pratchett has changed my life. He gave me words… good words… right words for being alive. He took something that should be impossible to describe or define and he gave it words.Heinlein wrote that laughter is a sharing against the pain and the sorrow, but Terry Pratchett gave me the jokes. And I’ve met him now. Stood less than a foot away from him and it helps me, because yes in my head he’s “O MY GOD, O MY GOD, O MY GOD! THAT’S TERRY PRATCHETT!!!!” But he’s also a human being and that’s a useful thing to know, however obvious it might seem.