I grew up in a bad part of Queens, NYC, and was not really allowed to leave my backyard. My world was very small. One day, when I was around 6 years old, one of my mother's friends from work called and asked if I would like to have a big box of books that she had found while cleaning out her attic. My mom told her to bring them by and she'd pick out a few books for me. Later that day the woman arrived with a huge box of books. My mom told me I could pick out a few that I wanted. Of course, I whined until she let me keep the entire box.

Those books made me who I am today, as cliché as that sounds. Most of the books were for young-adults, but I devoured them nonetheless. I read silly stories about magic-fudge that gave you the ability to turn into animals, magical tours through chocolate factories, the adventures of a set of do-gooder twins, a giant peach that wisked you away from your hum-drum life, and countless others. I think I made my way through that box in 6 months, going through 1 or 2 books a week.

It awakened a voracious hunger in me; I'd read anything I could get my grubby little hands on. I even chose my breakfast cereal, which is something very important to a 7 year-old, by what was written on the back of the box. Going to the library was just as exciting as Disneyland! I was an addict, for life.

When I was 8, I started to read my mother's books. I remember Sister Claire, the ice-nun, taking away my copy of Stephen King's Misery and scolding me for bringing an "ungodly" book to school. She smacked me with a ruler for trying to look smart by "pretending" to read such a big book. The book was taken away from me and my mother was called, which was a big deal in the 3rd grade. My mother told Sister Claire that she had given me the book, and that it was to be returned to me immediately. The rest of the year was filled with parent-teacher conferences concerning my mother's "irresponsible parenting" because she refused to keep me from reading anything I wanted. She refused to keep me away from my books. Eventually my mom got sick of it all and pulled me out of Catholic school.

After life, reading was the best gift my mother ever gave me. Books let me live a thousand lives, reach the far ends of the world, and see beyond the chain-link fence of my yard. I don't know where I'd be without my books.

I hope one day I can pass this king of addictions on to kids of my own.