Remember your first book?  It can be like that again!

Memory check – title and author of the first full novel you ever read.

Since I’m the one asking willie nillie, I’ll go first.  That’ll give you a few minutes to retrieve your own answer from wherever you store such trivial things in your busy mind.  If it helps, my answer was near where I keep the names of my second grade teacher and first pair of blue jeans.

Mrs. Lake and Jordache, BTW.

My first real book, however, was a 1974 piece of fiction called, ‘The Boy Who Invented the Bubble Gun,’ by Paul Gallico.  It’s a coming of age story about said boy’s dangerous yet adventurous bus trip to D.C. to patent said bubble shooting gun.  I spent three days traveling on a Greyhound alongside that boy dodging Russian spies and a psychotic killer and when I finished that story and escaped certain death I knew that reading was something I’d be doing for the rest of my life.

And for a long while that was true.

All through grade school, I read constantly – all the Hardy Boys books, every western I could find by Louis L’Amour or mystery by Agatha Christie.  I scoured the local and school libraries every week for any potential new adventure or mystery that might be worth going on.  My sisters and I took library reading-challenges and my parents would give us books as gifts or for something to do when we were sick or had a day off of school.

Reading is entertainment’s best bargain.

It costs nothing with a library card, and once you learn how you only keep getting better at it.  Plus, no Imax theater or widescreen TV can create a more vivid and thrilling picture for you than your own mind can when it’s triggered by the right words in just the right order.  You can travel the world, journey through history, learn how to do anything, or experience someone else’s personal life and thoughts firsthand.  Reading does for free what most entertainers try to sell you so why would you ever stop?

For me it was high school.

As soon as I was required to consume multiple textbooks and literature for the purpose of writing papers and earning grades, I began to think of reading as required and functional so I began to back away from it completely as an entertainment source.  Also this was in the early eighties when cable TV was getting into full swing at the Lukas household.  Love Boat and Fantasy Island and reruns of movies I’d never seen became my go to escape.  Once in a while I’d pick up a book for fun but after a few paragraphs my mind would wander and I’d put it down and go back to watching my old friends Archie Bunker and Arthur Fonzerelli.

Without reading, my mind atrophied like a broken arm in a sour cast.

When I began doing standup, I started reading again.  Grapes of Wrath, A Confederacy of Dunces, On the Road, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair, I worked my way through some mind-building classics that were much more complex than the reading lists of my past.  This evolved to such non-fiction must-reads as A People’s History of the U.S., The Road Less Traveled, and every book by Steven Ambrose I could find, like Undaunted Courage and Nothing Like it in the World.  Now that I’m writing, I make reading a part of every one of my days.

My 5-year-old son just read his first book yesterday.

He and I read every night for his homework and he wanted to show my wife his progress.  With tears she watched him take on a book called Hello Texas by Christophe Jennings and judging by how ecstatic my son got reading to her, books are something he’ll be enjoying for the rest of his life.

So could you recall the first full novel you ever read?

Just for kicks, read it again.  Remind yourself of how much you love to read.  And you don’t even have to put down your screen to do it.  Did you know that if you download the OverDrive App you can borrow free Kindle books from your local library and read them right there on your smart phone?

Reading is entertainment’s best bargain – why not make it yours again?

  • Mike Lukas


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