I grew up in a family of readers. Usually it was every person for themselves. When we arrived in a bookstore it was like an explosion, each of us flying off towards the section we like best. Once and a while though, my dad would hand me a book he thought I should read. Maybe I’d enjoy this, he’d say. I began reading Bradbury in 6th grade.
I had soon worked my way through his books, reading some of them a few times over, when we took our yearly outing to the LA Festival of Books. Bradbury often came to sign books and say hello to his fans. His line was long and slow, but worth it. He would talk to people as he signed, take pictures with them, make jokes, ask them how their day was. He wasn’t an author who would just sign a book and move you along. He was friendly, he was a real person.
Ray Bradbury was the first author whose books I had read and then sought out to meet in person. I remember being terrified. To this day, I still have no idea what I said or what he said. I just remember him being incredibly nice, talking with me and laughing. He signed all the books we had with us and waved us on our way. As we walked away I looked back at the table and smiled, seeing a group of people surround him for a photo, where he jokingly posed looking surprised by the sudden mass of fans around him.
As we stuffed our signed books into our bags, my dad cheerfully said that Bradbury’s signed books would never be worth much because he did so many signings every year for his readers. And I’ve always thought that’s how it should be.
A book’s worth isn’t measured by the money you can sell it for. A book’s worth is measured by how it changed you. The memories you made while reading it. The parts of you that grew because of it. The friends you bonded with over your shared love of that quote from your favorite passage. Those few fleeting moments you had with the author when you stood in line for hours just to say hello.
I think Bradbury knew that, or maybe he just loved signing books, but either way, I’ll never stop being thankful. Thankful for his books and for his friendliness to a speechless 13-year-old girl, meeting an author she loves for the very first time.