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This was the only title he knew for sure would be includedMy son, Kid Zoom, turned 17 yesterday. I’d had no idea what to get him for his birthday, so last weekend I asked him what he’d like. His answer kind of blew me away, because what 17-year-old would ever say, “How about you give me a stack of books that you think it’s absolutely essential for me to read”?

I swear I am not making that up. Kid has two English teachers for parents, so he was maybe doomed to be a hyperliterate nerd. OK, and his first thought was “how about a video game?” which I don’t think was serious anyway. It may have helped that, the day before, I’d handed him a paperback copy of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried that I’d picked up at a yard sale, and he’d stayed up late reading it, so “Dad’s recommended books” was already on his mind. Even so, I was touched — not quite touched enough to overcome my usual habit of last-minute shopping, but I did at least put a little thought into the list of books I ended up getting him.

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