Here’s a list of first lines from books, only ones that I have read, that are by far my top ten favorite. (So far.)
I haven’t always been an avid reader. I have always had great reading skills but reading books for leisure was something I resisted up until I went to college.
I was often bullied, made fun of and nicknamed from elementary school until the end of junior high school. Nerd & Geek culture wasn’t like it is now. If you were different, you were bullied and you couldn’t be more different if you did anything that fell into that kind of nerdy category like reading for fun. That was something losers did, losers who tried to be smart and being smart meant you were an outsider. It wasn’t cool and it wasn’t what being a man meant. This is, of course, the opinion of the 6 to 12-year-olds who bullied me and even amongst some of my peers. I honestly don’t remember people who were good at math getting the same chagin and those who read books for fun. It was either sports, video games, professional wrestling or cool action movies. Never books.
It’s not as if my parents didn’t try. They read to me as a smaller child and every time they went to the library they would ask me if I wanted anything. “No,” I would say and play through Super Mario World for the 50th time. When a Border opened up for the first time near our house, I believe around when I was 12ish, is when my parents got me to read some books. It wasn’t many though. In fact, it was a series by Bruce Coville that started with Aliens Ate My Homework.
I can think of so many times I was bored in the library, walking up and down the aisles. I wonder how many times I passed J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, or Douglas Adams walking those aisles. Instead of reading it I would wait for the library to get the latest copy of Nintendo Power. That’s how I discovered the Nintendo 64, through the library’s copies of that magazine.
The dilemma I faced though was that I wanted to be a writer. It’s hard to be a writer if you’re so resistant to liking books. If you look at my 6th grade yearbook, when they ask what you wanted to do when you grow up I wrote movie script writer instead of writer or novelist because writing wasn’t cool but movies were.
Then when I met who would become my best friend from 8th grade to 12th and he introduced me to hip-hop I suddenly had a new world to explore that I never had before. In my mind, writing other genres of music was about playing instruments first and lyrics second. With hip-hop, it was mostly about the words and the rhythm of words. When he would ask me to join his rap group, I suddenly had an outlet for my writing. I wasn’t very good at the performing part but I love writing lyrics. So many marble notebooks just filled with lyrics and song ideas.
I was always good at reading though. When Shakespeare was taught in class I had no struggle with the language. Spelling and vocabulary tests were what I lived for. When my 10th grade English teacher showed us Finding Forrester I immediately connected with it.
Then we had a major falling out and I was left without my main group of friends. Suddenly I hated writing, very resistant of it. I associated writing with that friendship and I had no desire to do it anymore. Without music or writing I had to think of what I was like before I met my highschool group of friends. Besides video games I would read comic books. My dad would bring home bundles of Spider-Man, Green Lantern and The Simpsons comic books for me to read. I remember this shop my mom used to hate bringing me to because the parking lot was so bad and immediately looked it up. There, I saw Green Lantern Rebirth #3 and asked the clerk about it. He found me copies of the first and second issue and that’s where my comic book habit started and my love for reading began to grow strong again.
It was when I went to a Barnes & Noble for the first time that I started transitioning from comic books to books. It all began with this beautiful leather bound copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy then at Christmas I got an equally beautiful copy of The Lord of the Rings. It’s been all about books since then.
I’ve written previously how I listen to a lot of podcasts. Well, one of the advertisements often given on a podcast these days is an offer for a free audiobook from audible.com when you sign up with a special site or promo code. The problem is I just cannot get into audiobooks. I don’t want to say it’s the readers fault but the reader definitely has something to do with it.
Take the A Song of Ice and Fire audiobooks by George R.R. Martin, read by Roy Dotrice. He does a unique voice for every character and I do not enjoy a single one of them. When I mentioned this to my brother-in-law he said it was the influence of the show. I gave this some thought and I realized when I read an Eddard Stark chapter I don’t hear Sean Bean as his voice or Peter Dinklage when I read a Tyrion Lannister chapter. Still, Roy Dotrice’s narration for the characters doesn’t match either. I am not criticising his performance at all. From what I can tell it’s superb, but not for me.
You would think it might just for that series because of the varying voices Dotrice uses and the characters being younger than they are on the show. Nope.
Same thing happened to me for many of my favorite series. I’ve tried listening to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Dark Tower by Stephen King and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. All of them read really well by different actors and voice actors but I end up just turning it off.
There are some that have fallen into the yeah, that’s okay but still doesn’t retain my interest which include the fully casted versions of American Gods and World War Z along with The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ll probably keep trying to give them a chance.
There are two that I have enjoyed and they are both read by the author. Maybe that’s the key? I really don’t know. While I’ve heard nothing but praise for the version read by Stephen Fry, the audiobook version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams read by the author is the only one I’ve read all the way through. His comedic delivery, his cadence and that charming British accent matched the reader in my mind with the reader of the audio.
Another one I’ve enjoyed is American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson, also read by the author. What is different about Ferguson’s book, which I highly recommend, is that I only listened to it and never actually read it. Perhaps that’s the key? Maybe I should search out audiobooks of books that I’m slightly interested in or heard great praise about but have no intention of reading (coughTheHungerGamescough). It is definitely something about.
I constantly hear about how great audiobooks are. For those who commute in their car audiobooks are so great. For professional authors who travel a lot audiobooks are a lifesaver. For people living in L.A. who are stuck in traffic for ridiculous amount of time, audiobooks are the only ways left to read. It’s one of those forms of media I keep giving a chance but always going back to reading rather than listening to them. I’ll just have to keep trying.