Mary Schmich wrote a column the other day that made me happy.
It began with a beguiling premise: “Name a book that shaped you as a person, as a reader. This book should be something you would call ‘a book that mattered’ or ‘a favorite piece of literature.'”
Schmich explained that she’d been one of about a dozen people asked to do this in connection with a celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Highland Park Public Library. Her “official pick,” she confessed, was a Nancy Drew novel, The Clue in the Crumbling Wall, because it was the book “that, at the age of 7, turned me into a reading girl.”
I immediately played her game. And my thoughts ranged from the Hardy Boys to the Hemingway short stories I read twice to see how he did it to One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I finished on a plane ride over the Andes during a long tour of South America that left me feeling even more indebted to Marquez than to anything I’d seen on the ground.
But soon I came to the only possible choice. Eventually we all arrange our childhood memories into a coherent narrative. I’ve arranged mine, and this book enjoys pride of place.