It was New Year’s Eve 1999, I had recently started middle school in a new town, and I needed to read a book…quick. I never really liked reading—cartoons were always my obsession—but I only had until the end of Christmas Break (two days!) to finish my first book report, and as usual, I’d left the reading part to the last possible minute.
When our teacher assigned the book report, she told us we could read whatever we wanted as long as it met her guidelines: the book had to be more that a hundred pages, it had to have chapters, and finally no pictures! This was big kid business.
I spent the morning searching my dad’s house for a book because I remembered that my grandpa had gotten me one that may have met my teacher’s requirements. But for the life of me I could not find it among the mess of Legos and Pokémon cards and lumps of clay that littered my bedroom. I searched the whole apartment, but I couldn’t find anything.
New Year’s Eve also happens to be my birthday (a day shared with a certain dark wizard who shall not be named) and while I spent the day with my dad secretly searching in vain for a book, I would still have another chance at my mom’s house later…though this ultimately led to nothing. Unfortunately, neither of my parents are book people.
Later, as my mom and I were leaving for my birthday party at the skating rink, we asked my new friends next door whether they wanted to drive with us (I’d invited them a few weeks ago). They told me they wouldn’t be able to make it to my party because they were having their own New Year’s festivities at their house, but they were kind enough to hand me a birthday present before returning to their party. It was about the size of a book. It was also rectangular like a book, and when I knocked on it, it was hard like a book too. To be honest, I was pretty sure it was a book.
None of my new friends from school showed up to my birthday party, but that was OK because the new Willennium was looking good. Y2K turned out to be nothing, Panama was finally getting their canal back, and I got Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for my 11th birthday.
I didn’t end up finding the book my grandpa had gotten me until a few weeks later. It turned out to be Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (book 2 in the series). Apparently fate had this all planned out.
Sorcerer’s Stone was probably the first book I’d ever finished on my own, and I was done with it by the end of New Year’s Day. Not because I was so interested in getting my homework done (I still passed the book report in late), but because I actually liked the book I was reading. I was immersed in a way that I did realize was possible. I developed an actual relationship with the book in my hands, a bond created over time and physical intimacy which you don’t get with a half-hour episode of a cartoon.
That first day of the year 2000 I was sowing the seeds of a twofold obsession that will probably last the rest of my life: an obsession with Harry Potter…and an even more treacherous obsession with books.