I can chart my life by the books I've read.
I read Mossflower by Brian Jacques right before I moved to Texas as a kid, and was both afraid and excited for an adventure.
When I read Best True Ghost Stories of the 20th Century by David C. Knight and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell, all the wonderful frights in the world opened up to me.
I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn over and over again as a teenager and in my early 20s when the "frights" were less from ghosts stories and more from the uncertainty of my dreams.
I read The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962, A Nearly Normal Life by Charles L. Mee, and Unbalancing Acts: Foundations for a Theater by Richard Foreman when I was obsessed with MAKING ART.
I read, and continue to read, anything by David Sedaris when I need comfort, humor, and to feel good about my weirdness.
Most recently, Listen to the Squawking Chicken by Elaine Lui helped me find hope and focus during my time in Hong Kong. If I ever finish the book I'm endeavoring to write, I owe Ms. Lui a drink and a thanks.
But the first book that opened the world of words to me was none other than Superfudge by Judy Blume. It was the first "chapter book" I read on my own.
I remember nervously turning to the first page of that first chapter, wondering if my 1st grade reading skills would get me through the beautiful-but-pictureless page of words, words, words. I got through the first sentence with ease, then the next, then the next. Nothing was so thrilling as galloping across pages of "big words" — words only my teacher Mrs. Luschei had been able to decode until then.
I gobbled up Superfudge in one day, then turned to the first page and started over — slower, basking in the awareness that the words made sense. I've never felt that exact mix of pride and pleasure again.
It's funny, thinking about this now, I barely remember the story, but I completely remember the thrill of reading.
Superfudge was my first. What was yours?