Ten years ago, at about this time of year, I walked into a local coffeeshop and decided to join a book club there. They had four different groups; I chose a group based on which book they were reading that month. I didn’t know any of the titles offered, so I picked the one that sounded most interesting that was not a mystery, chickbook, or heavy drama. That left one book: Take Me With You: A Round-the-World Journey to Invite a Stranger Home by Brad Newsham.
I went to the store and bought it. I took it home and started reading it. It was so enjoyable, that when the day of the book club meeting came around and I hadn’t finished the book, I decided to skip the meeting so that they wouldn’t ruin the ending for me. And what’s more, I didn’t want the book to end. I wanted it to go on forever. I wanted to keep following the author’s journey around the world. I wanted him to keep traveling, and writing about it.
But, I eventually came to the end. That night I sat down and wrote a review on amazon.com. I just had to let everyone know what a great book it was. In the review (you can read it yourself at the link, above), one of the things I wrote was that I wished I could ask the author what was the best thing that ever happened to him, as that was the question he had asked the people he met on his travels.
The next morning I woke up and found an email from the author in my inbox. (!!!) He wrote that the best thing that ever happened to him was reading the wonderful review I’d written. Okay, I admit he was probably exaggerating, but his email was kind and wonderful and, best of all, personal. He told me that, even though the events in the book had been written ten years prior, that he hadn’t been able to bring his “chosen subject” (you’ll have to read the book to find out who it is) to America until THAT SUMMER! And he invited me to join him and his publisher and a few friends on the beach in San Francisco to celebrate his arrival.
I couldn’t pass the opportunity up. To me, it it was as meaningful as inserting myself into a monumental piece of history. To read a book you enjoy is wonderful, but to then actually join the world of that book is incredible! I jumped on the computer and looked at flights, and found a round trip for $100. I arranged to stay with the friend of a friend who had a loft in San Francisco. The trip was cheap and I was available. 9/11 hadn’t happened just yet, so my greatest fears about traveling alone centered around what kinds of characters I might encounter on the beach after sunset. The risks seemed tiny compared to the benefits.
When I arrived on the beach, I hung out around the edges a bit and took stock of who was there. It was less than fifty people, much, much smaller of a group than I’d expected. I identified the guest of honor, and then picked out the man who seemed to be playing the role of host, and approached him.
He was very happy to see that I had taken him up on his invitation. He’d assumed I lived in the area, so when I told him I was from Wisconsin he was surprised, and asked what business brought me to SF. I told him I’d flown out especially for the occasion. He was blown away.
He took me around and introduced me to his friends, his family, his publisher, and a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor. He treated me as if I were the guest of honor. I had a grand time that night. I mingled, I sat around the fire listening to someone playing guitar, and I had a long chat with the reporter about the publishing industry. The whole trip was worth it for me. It was one of the highlights of my life.
Imagine my surprise when, a year or two later, I found out that I was mentioned in the epilogue added to the soft-cover addition! I am the “reader from Wisconsin.” I had actually managed to enter the world of a book and stay there.
As you can see, this book means a lot to me. Not just because I am mentioned in it (although that’s HUGE for me, personally), but when I recommend it to others it’s not for that reason. I just think it’s a really good book and I want others to enjoy it like I did.
I recently realized that I haven’t looked at the book for several years, so this morning I pulled it off the shelf and randomly re-read a couple of chapters. And then suddenly it hit me.
The author’s writing style is just like my own. (okay, not like this particular blog post which I’m writing “off the cuff,” but like when I’m really trying hard to write well. Like when I went to Europe last summer.)
I wonder if I like the book so much because of that, or if the book influenced me so greatly that I’ve subconsciously picked up his style?
Either way, it’s yet another encouragement for me to keep writing.