The Book That Made Me a Reader

Dina Nayeri

On Behrangi, Golding, and Ishiguro


I’ve become a reader three times. The first time, I was barely six and lived in Iran, under the Islamic Republic. read more





Jim Shepard

On Two Very Different Writers


I was the first in my family to go to college, and my father’s not-so-secret plan for getting me there involved A) my getting good grades, and B) his filling the house with books. read more








Christina Baker Kline

on Little House in the Big Woods

by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I was six years old; we had recently moved to Maine from Tennessee, and my father read it aloud to my sister Cynthia and me, one chapter at a time, before we went to sleep. read more 




Bonnie Nadzam

on a Biography of Helen Keller

Maybe it’s instructive that I more or less recall the book but not the exact title or author of the book. It was a YA biography of Helen Keller, given to me in second grade by Sister Therese at what was then called St. Ann’s School, in Cleveland, Ohio. READ MORE






Anuradha Roy

on Abol Tabol and the Bengali Language

Before I could read, I was read to, and there was only one book that was read aloud in our house. I am four years old. Then five, then six, seven. Even when I’ve learned how to read, the routine doesn’t change. The book comes out from its place on the shelf in the evening after my father is home from work. READ MORE




Sara Paretsky

on Louisa May Alcott and James Joyce


I can’t remember the first books I read, although I do remember the first words I wasn’t able to sound out: “city” and “Penelope.” Perhaps I was reading a child’s history of the Trojan War. My older brother taught me to read and write as he was learning those things, so I don’t remember beginning, I only remember being in the middle. READ MORE




Elizabeth Nunez

on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice


I grew up in colonial Trinidad, my education similar to that of a British public school, excellent, but clearly intended to reinforce the superiority of the British Empire. When I was an elementary schoolchild, I devoured the novels of the English mystery writer Enid Blyton. READ MORE




Elizabeth McKenzie

on John Lennon


Two of the first books that made me a reader were In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works by John Lennon. This was when I was about ten. I already perceived that the Beatles were great humorists and word benders. READ MORE




James Hannaham

on Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth


When I read The Phantom Tollbooth, at approximately age nine or so, it had some kind of bizarre cathartic effect on me. By that time I had probably started experimenting with puns, doubtless had been accused of having a corny sense of humor by my peers, and called a “brainiac” because I brought several books home from the library at a time. But even at nine I scorned conformity. READ MORE



Francine Prose

on Fun With Dick and Jane and Mary Poppins


The book that made me a reader was, to be honest, Fun with Dick and Jane. I can’t remember much about it. See Spot run, I guess. The point was that I learned to read at an early age, so that it became a sort of party trick, much admired by the grown-ups. I liked being able to do it before I cared much about content. READ MORE



Gary Shteyngart

on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer


My name Igor Shteyngart. I refugant to Kew Gardens, Queens, nine years old. Now they say I also name Gary. I like to read many book, but only Russian book because English not so good. READ MORE




Stephen King

on Dr. Seuss


It was my first encounter with a horror story, because poor Bartholomew was going to get his head chopped off if he couldn't take off his hat for the king. READ MORE



Sam Lipsyte

on Henry Roth's Call It Sleep


Many books made me a reader. But one book that stands out from my younger years is Henry Roth's Call It Sleep, which I believe I read in 10th grade in my public high school in New Jersey. READ MORE



William Gass

on King Arthur and Thomas Mann 


Two books made me a reader. I dragged my anchor and sat through the fourth grade sullen and slow, my cargo a hold full of negativities, and even those were spoiled. Somehow I came into the possession of a child’s version of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table READ MORE 



George Saunders

on Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time


The book that first made me a reader was In Our Time, by Ernest Hemingway, and a specific edition of the book: a hardcover, probably not a first edition, but with the distinctive look and smell and typography of a book. READ MORE



Junot Díaz

on Richard Adams' Watership Down


Like some, I became a reader as soon as I learned to read. READ MORE




Esmeralda Santiago

on Dictionaries


Before I loved reading, I loved words. Palabras, in Spanish. When I was eight in Puerto Rico, a traveling salesman came to our one-room schoolhouse right in the middle of class. READ MORE








Ben Marcus

on How He Became a Reader


A person, not a book, made me a reader. Her name is Jane Marcus. She was born on January 23, 1938, in St. Albans, Vermont. We lived in the same area when I was growing up, and she brought me books. READ MORE




Louis Begley

on Henryk Sienkiewicz's historical trilogy

Between the age of nine and twelve, I read nonstop. Circumstances of my life in Poland during World War II were such that there was little else I could do safely. READ MORE



David Wroblewski

on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book


It helps to imagine your reading life as a staircase rather than a doorway—a winding staircase, with each tread a book, and each riser your incautious love for that book's characters, or plot, which kept you writhing, or the writer's way with language, which felt so especially right. READ MORE



Roddy Doyle

on E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime


I always read. My memory tells me—it insists—that I read every waking hour. I’d wake up with a book on my face. READ MORE



Christine Schutt

on Poetry in Prose


At age fourteen I was given a small paperback with a patriotic cover: Contemporary American Poetry, edited by Donald Hall. READ MORE



Rick Moody

on Samuel Beckett

In freshman year of college, I was first exposed to Samuel Beckett's novel Murphy. For a guy who had mainly been reading science fiction and Irving/Cheever/Updike before then, this was quite an event. READ MORE



Philip Roth

on Thomas Wolfe


In 1949, when I was sixteen, I stumbled on Thomas Wolfe, who died at thirty-eight in 1938, and who made numerous adolescents aside from me devotees of literature for life. READ MORE



Martha Southgate

on The Bluest Eye

I was in college and had an unexpected lull between things I had, had, had to read. Though I’d always been a voracious reader, I did very little reading for pleasure in college. No time. But anyway, I’d acquired a few hours somehow. There was this novel—quite short—that I’d been interested in. READ MORE