Sunday, October 1, 2017

The First Book I Ever Loved

I still have it, a tattered paperback copy of the first book I really loved, Alistair MacLean's Fear is the Key. I was ten or eleven at the time, traveling with my parents, bored out of my mind, looking for something to eat. It was in my mother's handbag; I grabbed it along with an apple, and leaned back against the headboard of the bed in the economy hotel we were staying in. 

Next thing you know it's early the next morning, and I haven't moved. I remember my mom getting up to use the bathroom and yelling at me to go to bed. I ignored her.  It wasn't really a conscious decision, I was just absorbed in that book. Really absorbed: by MacLean's stylistic writing, by the smart dialogue which still sticks in my head forty years later, and by the twisting story which unfolded one little piece at a time, just enough to make you even more curious about what was happening and why. When I went to sleep a few hours later, I had received my first lesson in how a good book can transform your life. It's a lesson that's stayed with me, and one that I have re-learned time and time again.

A good book can be transformative; it can change the way you look at the world, inspire you to do new and better things, bring you to a new place, make you forget. In this case, Fear is the Key did all of those things. It made me forget about where I was (Motel 6 somewhere on the Mass Pike), and brought me to the sweltering environs of the Florida Gulf Coast. More than that, it inspired me to read prodigiously and dream about writing my own books. 

October is National Book Month, and rather than just hope some ten or eleven year-old kid somewhere is going to put down a video game and pick up a book, I thought I would share my experience. Who knows where I would be without Fear is the Key on a drizzly spring night in Palmer, Massachusetts. Reading did so much for me: opened new worlds, entertained me, educated me, and built my imagination. 

There are so many good books out there; they just need to be opened. I truly believe that the answer to so many of the problems facing our society today could be eliminated or mitigated to a significant extent by a return to books. If people flocked to libraries and book stores as often as stadiums and ball fields, think about the effect on every facet of our lives.

I wish I had some great idea to bring this about. I don't; in lieu of that, here are a couple of links to articles that do: 7 Ways to Encourage Young People to Read More and 10 Reasons Non-readers Don't Read--And How to Change their Minds.

Cheers, peter

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at

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