For my generation, it started with Harry Potter. A book that not only sold millions of copies and made billions of dollars, but was also translated into hundreds of languages and even improve literacy rates in teens!!! (And 8 beautiful movies! Who just saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1? I did!)
A few years later, my generation and the next were hit with a little thing called The Twilight Saga. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re not living on this planet. Twilight went from the mind of a housewife, was shot down by 14 agents, was finally picked up by Little Brown, and went on to follow closely in the tracks of Harry Potter with a crazed fandom and a movie contract.
What’s next? Before I knew it, people who had never read a day in their lives were reading more than I do. (And that’s saying SOMETHING!) In a world where teens were once the least likely to pick up a book, things have started to happen. The young adult section at Borders has quadrupled, my cousins and friends are asking for books for Christmas, and they’re reading for pleasure. That’s all it took; one book that just happened to grab them by the imagination and the heartstrings and sent them on the biggest trip of their lives.
(NOTE: I KNOW there are people out there who are going to call one or both of these books crap, but I am asking you now to understand what these books have done for the kids that I know. Imagine a 14 and 17 year-old girl who have never finished a book in their lives, never found pleasure in the escape and adventure a book could give them. Now, flash forward, and see that they are reading almost every day and loving it. It wasn’t because aliens invaded their minds or someone slapped them in the face. It was because of Harry Potter and Twilight; two books that allowed them to simply enjoy reading for once. No preaching, no confusing subtexts, just pure indulgent fantasy. They were gateways to reading. Now, that they enjoy reading, they feel confident in challenging themselves (while still enjoying a guilty pleasure on the side.))
These gateway books are the kinds of books that you need to warn everyone that you are going to read. Tell your mother and your boss. (Heck! Take off a few days of work just so you can read all day!) Tell your friends because they won’t be seeing you around for a while and they’ll need some sort of an explanation as to why you’ve dropped off of the face of the planet and secluded yourself from all of society. Do this or else they’ll just assume that you have died and stop sending you things like birthday cards and Christmas presents (but your landlord won’t stop sending you bills).
Gateways books are also the kinds of books you push on your friends so they can get addicted too. It’s like peer pressure, but the kind that is good for you. Plus, who will you talk to about the book if your friends haven’t also read it? Soon, the book will spread like wildfire. (Someone might even make a movie based off of it! If someone doesn’t then you’ll have to protest or make it yourself.)
Finally, always look for more. When you have finished your gateway book, scour the bookstores for your next hit.
So, what was your gateway book (which book first got you addicted to reading)? Mine was Harry Potter.