One of the few indie bookstores left in Los Angeles is Skylight Books, which is a thriving little store that's recently expanded to serve the larger art community. While reading about the expansion, I came across Corpus Libris, a little blog by an employee that makes us think about books in the ambiguities that we love best: what does it mean? does the cover give a hint of the content? and is it really art or just nonsense?

As soon as I saw the blog, I admit that I rushed over to my bookshelf to see if I could pull a bit of photo-literary madness myself, but alas! Not one cover did I have to serve any purpose. If only I had my copy of Memoirs of a Geisha here!



Anyway, all this--the idea of becoming part of a book, being pulled into a book, stitching your flesh into the cover of a book--made me recall something else. A recent post in (what else but?) Papercuts asked readers this question: What was the book that got you hooked on literature? Or as the editors of the NY Times Book Review put it: How does one turn from a reader of “Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue” into a reader of, for instance, Eudora Welty?

It surprised me how little I had to think about my answer. Even though I've always loved reading, I believe that my gateway book into true literature -- the kind that makes you sit up, think, question and wonder beyond the pages -- was Lois Lowry's The Giver. I distinctly remember finishing the book and anxiously wondering if my copy were missing a few pages. For the first time in my life, a book ended ambiguously. The author didn't tell you what happened. I was left in an unsettled state of "what if" and "how so." I even remember going back to the book a few times to check and make sure I didn't miss a page. Why didn't the author tell me the protagonist would be ok? How else was I supposed to know?

I know that now, Lowry's written several sequels to The Giver, which enlighten readers on the fate of poor Jonah, but I've never read any. I think I don't want to taint that first feeling of ambguity, when I learned that books could be tricky and yet stick you with a feeling for a long time.

Anyway, what about you? What book gave you that first taste of, well, literary taste?