Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"I Couldn't Put It Down"

Often, when we want to express how good a book is, we will say, "I just couldn't put it down!" Which, of course, is not actually the truth but makes me want to say, "No, really, I literally couldn't put the book down! It became fused to my hand and, once I finished reading it, I had to have it surgically removed." Come to think of it, maybe I've actually said that before. It's hard to tell with me. Anyway...

When I was younger, it was difficult to tell the difference between me not putting a book down because I always had a book with me and those books that I "just couldn't put down." I think it might have been difficult for me to tell the difference, too, because, when you always have a book with you and are reading all the time, if you don't have any point when you need to put the book down, it might be go unnoticed whether you'd have been okay with doing that.

Am I being confusing enough yet?

I bring all of this up, because I was talking to my creative writing students the other day about books you "can't put down," and, especially the sixth graders, claimed to have that happen all the time. When I asked, "Have you ever had a book you couldn't put down," they all had a list of half a dozen or so books that fit that category and, maybe, when I was their age, I would have felt the same way. I think in that way it must be sort of like love. Before you fall in love you think you fall in love all the time but, then, you do fall in love, like Romeo, and you realize that, really, you could have put all of those other books down; you just didn't have to.

As you might have guessed, back when I was in school, I read during class. A lot. All the time. Amazingly, I never got in trouble for it. Actually, it really wasn't amazing. Here's why:
During biology one day, I was reading. Completely absorbed in whatever it was, too, although I'm not sure what that was. Probably something by Piers Anthony, if I was guessing. Evidently, someone else was also reading, but she got in trouble for it and told to put her book away. I was only peripherally aware of what was going on until the girl said, "Why doesn't Andy have to put his book away?" Without pausing a beat, the teacher said, "Because he's going to make an "A" on the test."
That just to say that I was given a lot of latitude in regards to reading while class was happening. Any class. I suppose my teachers trusted me to pay attention when I needed to.

This was especially true in my geometry class my freshman year. On the occasions when my teacher didn't put bonus problems on the tests, it would bring my grade down. It would bring my grade down, because the 100% I would score was less than my grade. Nevertheless, I hated geometry. I was good at it, but I hated it. With that in mind, you might understand the shock of my teacher sometime in the 4th quarter when I scored a "C" on a test, my only non-A grade the entire year. And you might understand my shock at being held after class to discuss my grade, which I didn't yet know about. She was concerned, you see, that there was something wrong at home. Or something. In retrospect, I suppose she should be commended for calling me in. At the time, however, it was a bit embarrassing. When I told her there was nothing wrong, she handed me the test and asked me, then, to explain the grade. I had to explain how I didn't actually know what we'd been studying the week of that test. At all.
"And why not?" was her logical question.
"Because I was reading that week," I said.
"But you're always reading," she said.
"No, I was really reading," I said, "the whole time. All week."
"Oh... What were you reading?"
"The Three Musketeers!"

And that was the first book I read that I really just couldn't put down. I just needed to know what was going to happen next. And next. And next.

I don't really do that question at the end of the post thing but, this time, I want to know:
What was the first book you just couldn't put down? The one that let you know the others, all those books that had come before, had been the equivalent of grade school crushes.


  1. Sometimes I write for stories during boring meetings.

  2. I LIVE for those books. Actually, I just picked up the conclusion to a series I've totally enjoyed, and I found myself holding back and only taking a couple chapters at a time--trying to stretch it out. First. Time. Ever. Crazy, right?

  3. Pat: I suppose writing at least looks like you might be taking notes. Or something.

    Crystal: I think I may have done that once or twice when I was younger. Or purposefully read something else before going on to the last book or something.

  4. I had my answer ready from the lead in post at "Strange Pegs" and couldn't believe when I saw that your book answer was the same as mine. My parents gave me a copy of this book when I was in second grade. It was one of those versions with the glossy illustrated cover. I'm not sure if it was a condensed version or what, but I do remember that it was the first novel I ever read with pages filled with words and what was to me a lot of pages.

    I was so enthralled with the story and the experience of reading something so long that from that point I was hooked on reading books. I don't remember what I read next, but it was another edition in that same publication series--a classic novel. Three Musketeers was the book that led the way for my love of reading novels.

    In fourth grade I recall having a similar experience when reading Ivanhoe. That seemed like such a great adventure that I live as I passed through the pages. There were a lot of pages in that one.

    Great question that stirs up a lot of old reading memories.

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  5. Lee: Wow! That's so weird. I would bet that it was one of those abridged versions for kids, but, still...
    Ivanhoe is a book I've been meaning to get to for a long time. Sometime after Inferno. And, probably, Don Quixote. Man, so much to read...