Eighth grade. I loved to read, but I hadn't yet found that book that really moved me, that really spoke to me. The yearly book fair came through school, and while I had some cash, none of the titles floated my boat. Back then, YA books were either very preachy, or sugar-coated fluff. I wasn't into historical fiction, and science fiction seemed like nothing but ponderous theories or techie porn. With the tardy bell about to ring, I grabbed a book I knew a friend of mine enjoyed: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
I finished that book in one day. I read it in every class, including band and PE. For the first time, I'd read a great novel that I could relate to.
Arthur Dent, the main character, was a nerd. Just like me. He travels through space, he saves the galaxy, and yet he's awkward, uncomfortable, and doesn't get the girl (at least not until book four).
And in my later years, when I began a life of travel, I could relate to Ford Prefect. I suddenly knew why accurate guide books were so important.
Arthur, Ford, Zaphod, Trillian, Marvin...you were my first literary friends. The bad movie and terrible fifth installment aside, I'll never forget you.
Eat junk food.
Know where your towel is.