Chatterbox, MOTM August 2013
What book changed the way you viewed the world the most?
It wasn’t a book that was profound, or of great importance, or on a list of recommended reading, it was a fun read, which is precisely why it was impactful.
I got it at the book fair in junior high school. A publishing house would come to our school for week and set up camp in the library. Each English class would “field trip” to the library to view the stacks of books for sale - tables and tables piled high with them - paperbacks in every genre and topic available.
This was at a time (I’m old... lol) when Amazon didn’t exist, bookstores were small Mom&Pop type brick-fronts, and you had to go out of your way to find books, so this was a huuuuuge deal. We were given a small canvas bookbag (supplied by the publisher) and coupon good for one free book, and could spend the hour browsing and loading up our bags. You could buy whatever and as much as you wanted.
We were poor(ish), and my parents were immigrants who were not only functionally illiterate in English, but in their own language (German), as well. They grew up in Germany during WWII. My father didn’t make it beyond the 5th grade, my mother, 2nd grade. They had difficulty reading the newspaper in either language. Books were never a part of their life, and they didn’t understand my hunger for them. As I was growing up, we never had any books in the house, and my only exposure to them was through school and the school library.
I had no money of my own to buy books, and my parents never bought me any, so, there was no money for me to buy any books at that book fair ... but I did have that free coupon. Faced with the tormenting anguish of only being able to get one book - there were hundreds of different titles available —how can you choose just one? I decided to pick something fun. I asked the rep from the publishing company what he thought was the funniest thing he read lately. He handed me a copy of “The Hot Rock” by Donald E. Westlake. I used my free coupon for it.
It was a ridiculous “caper” story, where anything and everything goes wrong, completely pointless fluff ... I loved it. It was the first thing I had ever read for pleasure. Cashing in my “free” coupon for that book is what created my love for reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. Having books around was a simple thing that others took for granted, but for me, that day and that book sparked my love of reading, learning, and laughing at the absurdity of things.
I still read at least 100 books a year. With each one, I expand my world view, and learn something new. And it all started with “Here read this. It’s funny.”
For those of you who have read it ... “Afghanistan banana stand” :wink: