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A defining moment in reading...

Mark C.

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I'd like to hear about instances in the past, there was a moment in time you had a clear "Aha" moment with story or book. Reading has been so important to me and this critical skill is so interesting.

Three of mine:

I was 5 years old and we had moved to Rota, Spain. My father was the Harbor Master for the new Navy base being built at Rota (located somewhat near Gibraltar for those who do not know where it is...) and we were one of the first families to move there. The library was new and I remember being given a nickel with which to check out a book. I almost always chose the same book about dragons who had blue strips. I don't remember the name but would recognize the pictures to this day. That book was magical for me.

We were in Cutler, Maine, where the closest big city was Eastport. I was in the 7th grade and attending a school where the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades were in the same room, taught by the same teacher. (From there we went to San Diego and I then attended a huge California Jr. high. Talk about a culture shock, grin...) One day the bookmobile visited the base and the librarian saw me and gave me a new book that she had been saving for me. It was Andre Norton's "Witch World". I can still remember to this day, the awe and excitement I felt when reading this Sci-fi book! I was hooked for life and can point to this as a defining moment in my life. I had enjoyed reading but now whole new worlds were open to me.

And lastly, upon picking up "Dune" and getting lost in its pages. I was totally mesmerized, enchanted, awed, could not put it down and was right there on Caladan and Arrakis right beside Paul. One of the most satisfying books out there.

Of course there are others but those had long lasting impacts on me....

Want are some of your moments?

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My mother had subscribed to a book-of-the-month club after WWII and her books were in our storage room.  I discovered them in first or second grade, while being taught to read with the 'Dick and Jane' books in school.  So many writers of the 1940s were in there, including one book with illustrations by Salvador Dali.  Adventure, travel, romance, histories, biographies... And my father had books from his family that had passed from the turn of the 19th Century.  Grimm's Fairy Tales (not the Disney sanitized versions) were incredible.  But also books on drawing and gardening.  And my parents bought books for us from Encyclopedia Britannica.  I devoured them. 


I am not sure what grade I was in at my elementary school, when I found Robert Heinlein's 'The Rolling Stones' but that was my first science fiction novel.  When I went into the public library to chase down his other titles, I was told I was not allowed into the adult reading section!


In there, my oldest cousin, Ricky, gave me a 'Superboy' comic, that featured Supergirl visiting from the future.  I was hooked!  I rabidly collected comics from DC and Marvel during the 1960s and a bit into the 1970s, when it became too difficult to find them, or too expensive.  


J.R.R. Tolkien, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Katherine Kurtz, Tanya Huff, Mercedes Lackey so many other author's that started to be easily available in the 1960s and later as I was an adult.  (My library is boxed up, so can't skim it and list all my favorites, so my apologies to so very many great writers out there.)


No matter where I went in the world during my career, my books were packed up and shipped with me.  Some have been destroyed (mice invasions, puppy chewing), some replaced with ebook versions and others just lost.  But I also found leather bound books by Jane Austin in London from the 19th Century sized like paperbacks.

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"The Key to the Treasure" I was 7 or 8 and my Grandfather, gave me this book one day. We were on our way home from church, My grandfather and I always rode together for church, we were the first to get there and the last to leave as he was the pastor and I always helped him get everything ready and then close everything up. As we were headed home he reached in his brief case and handed me a wrapped gift. It was "The Key to the Treasure" by Peggy Parish. (I still have the original). It was definitely a kids book but it created a sense of adventure and excitement.


"The Bolitho Series" By Alexander Kent. I found the first book in this series "Midshipman Bolitho" in a used book store when I was in my late 20's I had always had a fascination with Naval history but after reading the first book I went on a hunt for all 22 books. And found them all. This is what made me want to write Naval stories.

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My mother taught me to read by the time I was 4, maybe 5. I started First Grade and for some reason I was put in the middle level for reading, not the upper level. My mother was very upset by this, and demanded that I be tested again. The night before the re-test, I brought my reader home - "Fun with Dick and Jane" or something like that. I read the entire book out loud in the car while my family drove to a shopping center that evening. I remember the proud look on my mother's face when I finished. I was put in the upper level reading group the next day. From that day on reading has always been a source of pride and enjoyment. My mother and I shared a deep love for reading - she often read a book a day in the summer when she was off from her teaching job. After she retired she continued to read at least 2-3 books per week, right up until she passed. One of my favorite things to do when I would visit her as an adult was to go to her bookshelves or cabinets or paper bags full of books and see what new wonders she had acquired.


In fourth grade I was introduced to the public library in my little town of less that 2000. Their collection was small, but there was a series of books called "Alfred Hitchcock presents The Three Investigators in the Mystery of..." I fell in love with the three boys (the main characters) as they tried to solve crimes and bring hooligans and even criminal adults to justice. I was enraptured by the genre of the mystery and suspense novel. This was also the time I realized I loved to read for the characters, not just the individual story. To this day, if I like a character in a novel, and the author has written more than one book with that character, I will read every book in sequence, just to see the character development as it takes place in the various books over time.


The Hardy Boys was a classic and a particular favorite, all the way into high school. In my day they were sold for $2 at KMart, and any and all birthday and Christmas gift money, and later paper route money, was spent on buying those blue, hard cover books. At the time there were 52 of them in print - I owned at last count 44 of them. There all gone now, given away to friend's children. I read many of them numerous times. If I'm honest, even at 49 years old, I would still like to read one or two of them - my first was #5 - Hunting for Hidden Gold - and I've even thought about downloading them onto my Kindle.


My first Robert B. Parker Spenser novel was eye opening because of the rapid pace dialog. I had never read anything with such pacing and intensity and sheer perfection in story telling. It helped that it was a detective mystery with a hunky, rough and tumble male lead character. I started in the middle of the series but immediately read them in sequence, and they did not disappoint. He went on to write three other series, as well as several stand alone novels. I've read most everything he wrote, and now continue to read the newer releases written by new authors carrying on the tradition of the beloved characters after Robert Parker's death a few years ago.


I remember I was home from college, working the summer at McDonald's 4-midnights, and I came home from work one evening and my mother was predictably at the kitchen table. She had just finished reading a thick paperback and pushed it over to me. It was Robert Ludlum's "The Bourne Identity". I started it and never put it down. I stayed up all night and through the next day until it was finished. I had never done that before. I realized then the power of well written literature. It captivated me and held me on the edge of my seat from first paragraph to the thrilling conclusion. Imagine my joy when I discovered two sequels. I went on to read all of his books.


In high school I stumbled upon a paperback book called "The Lord Won't Mind" by Gordon Merrick in a B. Dalton's bookstore at the mall. The cover was a suggestive one with two boys, not the usual man and woman. I was very deep in the closet, but knew I was gay, and there was no way I could ever buy such a book and take it home for fear of discovery. But I did go to the mall as often as I could and I would find that book and read it like I was in a library. I would read as fast as I could, trying to hide my obvious physical excitement at the subject matter. It was eye-opening and titillating and if I remember correctly, a pretty good story. But I was reading it for the discovery of what two men could do to each other.


Putting all that together, I am not surprised I decided to try and write a story. I'm nowhere near as gifted as my favorite authors, but there's nothing like getting the feedback from a reader that you touched something in their soul or they connected to a character in a deep and meaningful way. Good stuff.

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Wheen I was a kid, my mom used to read stories to me. To this day, I can still hear her voice as she would read children's stories. She would change voices for each character, and gave each one different charactists.


I have been visually impared since birth, so reading regular size print books were not easy for me to read. I must have been five or six years old when we would sit together and read. I must have been quite a pain in the butt for her, since I was so fascinated by books that I never wanted her to stop reading. "Please Mom, just one more chapter....... Poor lady! Well, it was several years later that we found out about a program from the library of congress for blind people whereby books were recorded on phonograph records called Talking books. and they sent them to you in the mail. The first book that we got from them was by a guy named Ralph Moody. The book was called Little Britches. Imagine if you can, a boy of about 9 or 10 getting a book called little britches. "MOM, I don't want to read a book called Little Britches!"


I think there were two or three other books that we got, since they usually sent them about once a week. I 'read' the martian Chronicals. by Ray Bradburry. and several other books, while still not reading the moody book. Remember, when I say I read them, I played the records and listened to the various readeers read them to me. They never had to stop reading like my mom did. grin. Anyway, my mom kept telling me to read little britches, and finally, since I had finished everything else that I had received, and I still wanted to read something, I started reading the  book.


I was completely hooked. It was, in effect, an autobiography. He told of growing up aroung the turn of the twentieth cenrury the in the early 1900s on a 'ranch' near Littleton CO and his adventures were so real and so exciting, I couldn't stop reading. I believe there were seven books in the series which he told of his adventures through his early adulthood, and to this day, I find myself reading those stories, and enjoying them as much as the first time I read them.


If you ever fond one of them, I highly reccomend them.Look him up on Wickipedia. That book or set of books taught me some wonderful life lessons and in such a way that I enjoyed learning them.


Thanks for this topic!

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I too was an early avid reader.  Mom got me hooked.  There were the usual reading primers of the time, and when school began, she made it a point to have me and later my brother make selections from the Weekly Reader Book Club.  I think later it became Scholastic Book Club.  All of this is very before the internet.  One of the first things I remember about that was a book called Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.  Kids fare, to be sure, but it stood out in my mind, moreso than the Curious George books, so popular at the time.


Through those days there were many favorites, shifting like beach sand in the wind.  Dr. Seuss among them.  Stories about animals and nature.  Things got bland.  Around fifth grade, while coming home from Christmas vacation with my grandparents, my parents picked up a few books that were in storage at my grands' tiny apartment.  One of them was a school reader from around the late 50's.  And in it there were stories of kids doing marvelous things.  A pair of brothers who could fly their own sea plane and had to survive when they crashed on a tropical island somewhere in the Florida Keys.  A story of a 16 year old Air Force cadet who, in the opening paragraphs of the story, flew a space fighter jet down from orbit with his class, and even had the wings change shape as he flew.


I wish I still had a copy of that book.  Man, was that an eye opener.  Next Christmas, I asked for books.  I was entering into my, shall we be generous and call it, accident prone stage.  Doing dumb stupid kid tricks that often led to emergency room visits and a lifelong hatred for plaster.  Anyways, the books they got me were Ivanhoe (boring drivel, never made it past the third page), Robinson Carouso (Not as much fun as Guilligan's Island promised), and The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas.  I managed to stick with the archaic language and vagaries of French to English translation.  You can probably guess my reaction to it... and you'd be wrong.  I hated it.  Sometimes the movies are better.  Took me a long time to appreciate that book, but it did finally catch fire.


For Easter one year, I was gifted with a book called Windsong Summer.  The story centered around a brother and sister befriending a boy named Rolf who had his own sail boat.  It was definitely a kids book, but it awoke in me a sense of adventure, a love of sailing and made me want to write more myself.  I credit that book with putting me on the right path.


During middle and high school (as much in the closet as all the times i got shoved into lockers) I grew into an appreciation of my father's favorite type of literature, pulp science fiction.  He started me off on Edgar Rice Burrows with "A Princess of Mars" and from there I found myself reading his bathroom books: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ray Bradbury, his Star Trek series paperbacks, Andre Norton, Phillip K. Dick, on and on.  So when I grew tired of how fast he went through such books, I started hitting up the library for such fare.  Robert A. Heinlein.  Bang-zoom!  Without a doubt one of the best sci fi writers I ever found.  I wanted to meet him so badly, pick his brain.  Such a huge influence on me.


I stayed in the sci fi genre for a long time.  Things and fads came and went.  The Dragonlance Series was popular with the clique I hung out with in those days because we were role playing geeks and for the most part D&D was the only game we knew of.  I had been introduced to the art and literature of Wendi Pini and her Elf Quest story.  If you have the ability to look this up, I highly recommend it.  Such a wonderfully crafted tale, both visually appealing and well written.  Cameron and Max's combined dream in Educating Max features those two characters as if in an Elf Quest setting, so for those looking for visual references, scan the net at once.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elfquest  for starters.


I should say that during this time, I was experimenting with creating my own role playing game.  It is not as easy as you might think, and after many trials, i finally adopted an already established and beloved system, and layered the "world" I'd created over it.  That stuck around through high school and college years, and I tried many times to bang out stories in that universe on a typewriter that I begged my parents to get me for my birthday.  Again, before the general availability and practicality of a home PC, much less my ability to afford one.


Many years later, while in college, if memory can be trusted, I ran into a book that also inspired me to write.  I believe the authors name was Bryce Courtney and the book was entitled "The Power of One."  The story follows a young English boy's growing up experiences in South Africa after World War II.  This story, which was immensely better than the horrid movie adaptation, brought back to me a love of things I'd sort of learned but didn't think much of anymore.  Nature, language, sports, music.  It re-energized me after a period where I didn't much like myself.


So, now I find myself in this new electronic age, wondering where all this had been when I was a kid and could have been writing and reading all along.  I started writing my first online story, Educating Max, while still trying to bang out stories in that game universe.  I came across two stories at another site, one called Just Hit Send, and the other being Chris and Nigel.  So I took a chance and asked if they wanted my story.  And here we are. 


I like to think that I live up to the books and stories and imaginations that inspire me to write.  Could go on endlessly talking about great books and stories I've come across.  I guess many of us could.  If anything, I've learned this much.  The great books and stories, no matter what their subjects or characters, all have one truth in common: they help us define our own human experience by sharing theirs.  Any writer out there, aspiring or otherwise, that's the greatest advice any one could give you.  Writing and reading define what it means to be human.  Add to what it means to be human, in fact.


Sorry for taking so much time.  I'll ask this, though.  What about a given story grabbed your attention the most, made you fall in love with it?

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D'Artagnon, please do not ever apologize for your posts. Ever. That is a heartfelt order. (Ok, so there goes my chance of friend of the the year 2014, grin...) Your posts are well thought out and sincere and I honestly enjoy reading them.

I loved the Andre Norton stories of human-animal telepaths. The concept to my younger self was amazing and I thought having an unconditional friendship and emotional tie with an animal was romantic and so heartwarming to me. There was caring and love on both sides, regardless of the imperfections of either human or animal. I love any heartwarming moments still today.

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My 'Aha' moment was late in life, I was 10 y.o. ...

It was the 4th week of my 5th grade school year. On the Monday of that week my class started going down to the school's small library [down being the right word for the library was in the basement of the school and had only small slit windows high in the north wall that really were at ground level] where to our/my suprice the librarian turned off all the lights then lit two candles and sat down in front of us and started reading J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" by the time that the 45 min. period ended I was hooked.

I spent the rest of that week bugging both of my parents to get me my own copy of the book... to my suprise and complete shock [for I could not ever remember my mom doing such a thing before]... my mom took me that Saturday down town to a small book shop and bought me my very first book that I could call my own [i still have that copy plus three others to this day].

For the rest of that fall I would follow along as the librarian read to us... when the end came for the class I then started to reread the book on my own... by spring break I had reread the book another 4 times... and had become a regular in the library... where I soon found Heinlein and Asimov... those three author in a way woke me up to the world of possiblities that where found in books... From then on I've been a avid reader... to the point I have a love/hate relationship with my local 'City of Books'... too many books... not enough time in life to read them all...

The one gift any person can give a child that will keep on giving for a life time is the love of reading.



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The one gift any person can give a child that will keep on giving for a life time is the love of reading.



I couldn't agree with this statement more. The gift of a book - to anyone of any age - is usually a can't miss gift. Think about that at Christmas time when you are stuck for the perfect something to give to that perfect someone on your list...

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When my father died, back in 2010, he had amassed a large collection of books, mostly Sci-Fi stuff.  Old sci-fi stuff.  At one point during his sea-duty years, he had joined a science fiction book club and got about two books a month, usually hardbound editions, often by really good authors.  I managed to save about 20% of the collection, being picky, when Mom donated the lot to our local library.


And while i no longer have my first copy of Three Musketeers, I still have Dad's "Princess of Mars" editions and that "Windsong Summer" book.  I think that when my niece's unborn child becomes reading age, I'll pass Windsong along, call it a gift from her great grandfather.  Some traditions should always be continued.

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When my dad retired from the Navy, and my parents moved to the house they intended to stay in, up near Seattle, my mother told my father that she was never going to throw away a book ever again. With all the moves, she had been forced to sacrifice books to the weight limit imposed on household goods. I don't think she had any that were valuable but of course, they were valuable to her.

I also joined the Science Fiction Book club many years ago but then we moved to the Virgin Islands and gave it up. But I remember receiving the monthly blurb about the Book of the month and others to order and sitting down and devouring it.

My partner some years ago found first editions of "Witch World" and it's sequels and gave them to me for Chrstmas. Those I still have packed away in storage up in Seattle, in my boxes of saved books. We only have 19 boxes of personal items to our name now and half of them are books.

We also owned a used bookstore for two years. I was working my regular job as well as at the bookstore and it was going to be my retirement job. We don't have it anymore but it was an experience. It was 5,200 sq.ft. and had over 170,000 books. Have some good stories from the store.

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

The most definitively defining moment I have ever gotten from reading a book was Magics Promise. The first book in The Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.


I was probably around 17 nearly 18 at the time. My parents had gone to DesMoines for the day to go Christmas shopping. I hadn't been allowed to go with them because lets face it they didn't want to ruin any surprises. When they returned home, I found out that my sister who went with them.. all her presents were bought and hidden already. Well, they each had gotten something immediate that day.


When I asked if I had gotten anything for NOW (Yeah, I was still doing that 'you all got something, I want something thing... I'm more mature now.) They presented me at that time with the book.


I still don't think they understood completely what it was about at the time they gave it to me other than a boy with magical powers. I made them read it later. But when I read that, something just clicked with me. I think it was something in the passage where Vanyel is talking with the Hawk Brothers. (I have, somewhere if I can find it again a copy where I have actually underlined whole paragraphs...) And he is told there is no shame in loving another.


Changing gears here. Although it's not technically a novel, Elf Quest  was an amazing graphic novel series. It filled me with wonder and delight at every turn.(Wendy and Richard Pini did story and artwork for these)  This was also a gift to me from a good friend I haven't spoken to in a while. We met as part of business. I didn't like visiting with him at first. But, as Robyn would say, that is another story.

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