The National Endowment for the Arts released a study earlier in the month proclaiming that children are reading less. This study follows their 2004 study titled Reading at Risk.
Their new findings made me think about the books that took hold of me when I was in elementary school. I browsed SparkNotes to remind myself what I might have read back in the day. Part of me wishes I was blogging back in my youth, so I could dig out an actual list.
Here are the books (and specifically, the stories) that helped make me a life-long reader, the ones that gave me the first taste that reading was worth "doing for fun."
The Illustrated Man - Every geek's entry point to a reading life must begin with science fiction. I still remember that the cover of my edition featured a man sitting with his back exposed, completely covered with tattoos. The one short story I remember was "The Long Rain", which I devoured in an afternoon, amazed that something as simple as rain could be made so sinister.
Different Seasons - King's book of four short stories (one for each season) made me wish I could somehow read faster. I especially loved "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" (which is now a famous movie). The name of the town mentioned at the end of the book, Zihuatanejo, has been stuck inside my head ever since I finished it.
Catcher in the Rye - This book made me realize that a unique voice could emerge out of words, and take over my imagination. And that this voice could be (somehow!) similar to my own. I knew how Holden Caulfield sounded. I understood his sarcastic take on life. I got his humor. This book made me think that there must be other books like this.
Honorable mentions: The Little Prince, The Great Gatsby, A Clockwork Orange.