The Book that Turned Me into a Reader

An illustration of Milo from The Phantom Tollbooth
An illustration of Milo from The Phantom Tollbooth

Although I remember reading fairly often as a child I don’t have too many memories of myself being engrossed in what I was reading. For me reading was on par with anything else as a gentle aversion. Reading was like riding my bike or eating ice cream. It was something to while away the hours until The Simpsons came or between building marble races.  Then when I was in fourth grade everything changed.

When I was in the fourth grade we had twenty minutes of each day set aside for quite reading. It didn’t matter what we read. We could choose a book off our teacher’s shelf or bring something of our own in; all that mattered is that we were reading.  It was during this quiet reading time that I first read The Phantom Tollbooth and discovered that books can something more. To say that The Phantom Tollbooth changed my life is overstretching it a bit but Norton Juster’s whimsical epic did impart to me one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned: the world is full of wonderful things that you’ve never heard of.

The lesson came more from my experience of reading The Phantom Tollbooth than the actual text itself. Although, I suppose if the book wasn’t so wonderful I would’ve had to wait a bit longer to learn this lesson. Anyways I remember sitting in class and reading when I had the thought “How come no one has told me about this?” It’s a question I still ask myself all the time. Did you know I had to spend twenty years before I found out about Oingo Boingo? Do you know how many times I had to read Our Town before I got to read Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros?  The Phantom Tollbooth prepared me for a life of hunting for the things that I like.  It taught me that the world of the unknown if worth exploring and that you don’t have to settle for boredom and apathy.

When I began writing this blog series, my intent was to share fantastic pieces of literature that still inspire that old hunger in me. Writing that as soon as I read it I ask “How come no one has told me about this?” In part, I started writing this blog as a challenge to myself.  A test to see if could find enough material to fill a weekly void.  It’s been a wonderful chore and one that has introduced me to a whole bunch of texts I might not have otherwise been looking for.

So what do you think? What was the first book you read that turned you into a reader? What is something really awesome that you feel compelled to tell others about? What is something you do in attempt to “stay hungry?” Please leave some comments below so that we can continue our conversation on childhood memories, The Phantom Tollbooth, and why no one ever tells me about cool things.

– Jet Fuel Blogger, Lucas Sifuentes

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