I love a good book. I used to read a lot when I was younger. I devoured books like some people eat Lay's potato chips. I could never eat just one. I read nearly every genre: mystery, suspense, science-fiction, comedy, history, horror, fantasy -- and the lame books we were required to read in school. And without difficulty, I wrote many objective book reviews for every one of my high school reading assignments. But when I had to give my first oral book review, in front of my freshman class, I panicked. I bluffed my way through the review, which I thought was ingenious on my part. The teacher, on the other hand, thought otherwise.
I can remember when we received the reading assignment: we could choose whatever book we wanted to read and then give an oral review. I thought this would be an easy assignment, and I would ace it without fail. The only thing our teacher asked us to do was actually read a new book and not just report on one we had previously read. Again, I felt this was not a problem for me because I loved to read. However, at this point, I wanted to try and see if I could skirt around the assignment with as little effort as possible. My plan was to only "skim" the book and deliver a confident review -- no questions asked. I figured if I could get by with this scheme then I would continue with it for the remainder of my high school years because it would save time for my other homework. My plan was only partially successful. I fooled the class, but not the one who sealed my decision that this wasn't a good idea.
I stood in front of the class and gave, in my opinion, an excellent review of a book that I had only read the back jacket cover copy, the introduction and epilogue. I prepared to return to my seat when my teacher cautioned me to stay. She picked up the book and silently read a few pages from each of the chapters. As she held the book between her hands, I began to sweat profusely. The inside of my mouth felt like a bag full of cotton balls, and my legs teetered on the verge of total collapse. She started to ask me some questions about the plot and characters -- and I started to stammer and stutter my way through a minefield of creative lying.
By the time I was done with my fictional tale, the teacher put the book down on her desk and told me to take my seat. I thought for sure she was going to berate me in front of the class, but she didn't. She knew I had been caught in a colossal lie and that her grade would reflect my deception.
I determined, from then on, to read every word of every book I was assigned to read -- no matter how boring, dumb or time-consuming I thought it was going to be. I didn't mind. This type of thinking fit well into my other life scheme: If I was going to be a great writer, I had to be a voracious reader as well.
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