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What Book Made You a Reader?
The Magic of Books
Carl Sagan once wrote: “What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
I adore this quote and I love that no matter a person’s experiences, field of studies, beliefs, or values, millions around the world understand the beauty and unmatched value of books. I still vividly remember books I read growing up that impacted me deeply. Those books that sealed my love of reading.
Do you remember the first book that made you a reader? People, not so shockingly, assume that mine might either be The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia, but I didn’t encounter Tolkien or Lewis until much later in life (during college). Although, I do have a very vague childhood memory of the epic 1970s epic Hobbit cartoon and the most terrifying Gollum to ever be on screen, but I didn’t make the connection until after watching the LOTR movies.
For myself, there are two books that I look back on that made me a reader. Unfortunately one title and author is lost to the fuzzy memories of my youth. All I can remember is that I loved all the adventures of the heroine and her sidekicks. It was a fantasy book published around the late 80s/early 90s and about a young girl who had to leave her castle (I think), go on adventures, and save her family. The cover had her (I think she had a brown braid) and a mountain on it. Possibly included animal sidekicks. I actually came across it on TikTok video comment chain, but in my excitement forgot to screenshot the comment, so WOE IS ME. If your investigation skills lead you to this mythical book, I promise to send you something awesome.
The other book though, I still have my 1986 edition. It’s The Land I Lost by Huynh Quang Nhuong. An ALA Notable Children’s Book and a Booklist Editors’ Choice, this is full of stories from Nhuong, who grew up in the highlands of Vietnam, next to the jungle teeming with wildlife.
I read this book so many times when I was young! I was completely fascinated by Huynh’s stories. How different they were from my own. I loved the stories of his animal encounters of tigers, wild hogs, snakes (even the scary ones and, after reading it again recently, some violent ones), his pets (Tank!), the adventures, and the love of his home country.
I can remember the excitement I felt reading and learning about a culture and place that felt millions of miles away from me. I didn’t couldn’t understand all that it meant at that age and put it into words, I knew it made me want to learn more about other people, places, and cultures. Isn't that one of the greatest gifts a book gives us?
I’d love to hear from you! What book made you a reader?
Also, if you have kids in your life, give them all the books! You never know which stories will impact them.
An update (January 2023):
After posting this and sharing around socials, my friend Debbie sent me a screenshot of the mysterious book I mentioned, asking if it might be it, and it was the exact book I remember!! I was so excited. It’s The Farthest-Away Mountain by Lynne Reid Banks and I found a used copy (its out of print) and I can’t wait to re-read it soon!
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© 2023 Jamie Lapeyrolerie