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Who Saved Reading for Me?

February 23, 2009

We’ve all heard it: Harry Potter saved reading (from Voldemort, apparently).  I got to wondering how I grew up a reader, let alone turned into a writer.  I got to thinking about what books were popular when I was young.

Hardy Boys were still around and grownups pushed them on me (a little younger than the Potter readers, but not by much), but I don’t recall ever finishing one.  I read a lot of Encyclopedia Brown.  My wife read Judy Blume, but she’s not really a reader anymore.

Then it occurred to me: Choose Your Own Adventure!

How many of those books did I own?  How many did I check out of the elementary school library?  There were hundreds of them out there.  One of my favorites (something about dragons) had a page number typo and I never reached a good ending.

They turned out about the length of a short story by the time you finished, never reading a good percentage of the pages.  They were quick, easy reading, and literally got the reader involved in the story.  I suspect they were the Harry Potter of their time, though they clearly never carried into the adult demographic.  They made readers out of many in my generation.  

It made me wonder who wrote those stories and whether I could do it.  I probably could with a model or two to pull from.  I wonder if they’re still making new ones.  Hmm.


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