The first time I read the book was in high school. I'll the the first to admit that though I was in AP English, I rarely read a book cover to cover. Most of the selections were rather dull and tedious to my teenage brain so more often than not, I would read a few chapters, decide the book sucked and then did one of the following to get through the test or report: a) picked up the Cliff Notes, b) discussed with a friend who had read the whole thing or c) took a guess on how it ended and just winged it. Sadly, these approaches served me well and I always had an A or B and even managed to get college credit using these techniques. (Sidebar: My memoirs will be titled "Acheiving Success Through Total Mediocrity") Anywho, back to the book...
So I read it in high school and for once, I read the entire book. And then I read it again. All before the damn thing was even due for class. Never before had a book had quite the impact that this book had on me. I laughed, I cried, I thought about God, I thought about death and I thought about friendship. I wanted to name my son after the main character. Throughout the years I've reread this book a dozen times. Each time I love it a little more.
When I moved back to Denver from Omaha in 1999 I lost my original copy and decided to get a hardcover. I really wanted a 1st edition and began searching for one. I found a few copies but my budget in 1999 was roughly 11 cents as I was broke so I couldn't afford any of the copies I found. For years I would look in every used book store I went into but never could find a decent 1st edition. There's a used book store in the Milwaukee airport and they have my name on file in case one came in. There are two used book stores in my neighborhood who also have my name and number. I've checked bookstores in Boston, Dallas, San Diego, New Jersey, Arizona, Tallahassee to name a few and never found what I wanted. Sure, there were a few copies around but usually they were in pretty bad shape or the bookstore wanted a stupid amount of money for a beat up copy.
So last weekend I was having brunch with my friend in Highlands. Afterwards we walked around some of the shops near the restaurant. As we walked by a used book store my friend asked if I wanted to check for my book. I agreed but had already resigned myself to the fact that they wouldn't have it because, for the love of everything that is good, no one ever had my book. So, I walked up to the lady who worked there and asked her if they had a hardcover copy. She walked back with me and we looked. No luck. She told me she would go check the books that they had just received. Nothing. Then she said she would check the section signed the author. Nada. I thanked her and was getting ready to leave when she grabbed my sleeve and said there was one more place to check. I followed her to a book shelf off in the far corner of the store. The little bronze plate on the top read "First Editions". I have no idea why but the second I saw that bronze plate, I knew it was there. Sure enough a few seconds later she pulled an immaculate 1st edition, FIRST PRINT copy of the book off the shelf. She smiled broadly as she handed me the copy and said, "It's in really good shape." And in additional to being in really good shape, it was also very reasonably priced. So I skipped up to the register and happily handed over some cash and thanked the woman a million times for helping me find it.
It's been home for a week and I can't seem to bring myself to put it on a book shelf so it's just been sitting on the dining room table. I walk by it several times a day and every single time I just grin ear to ear. Sometimes I pick it up and run my hand over the cover or smell it (What? I like the smell of books.) I just like knowing that it's all mine.