The Phantom Tollbooth & Why I Read Past the First Chapter

The Phantom Tollbooth & Why I Read Past the First Chapter

In which I talk about a book that I can’t actually remember very well, but that I know I loved as a kid. I also blame it for why I have guilt over DNF (did not finish) books.

Well, not really. I actually thank it for teaching me to always give a book a reasonable chance, but the other way sounds more interesting.



Do you put books down unfinished? Why or why not? And what’s something that a book’s taught you? Let me know in the comments!


8 Replies to “The Phantom Tollbooth & Why I Read Past the First Chapter”

  1. I LOVE The Phantom Tollbooth! I remember reading it as a kid and more recently rediscovered it and the story held up over time. To answer your question, a book I learned something from is The Cat in the Hat. When I was five or six I loved bedtime stories, but hadn’t yet discovered reading for pleasure. Around Christmas I came in from an exciting day of sledding with my friends. My grandparents were visiting and I wanted to tell them about my day, but they were reading and only gave vaguely encouraging grunts in response to my winter sports tales. My dad and sister were also reading and in a fit of frustration I announced I would just read, too, since no one wanted to talk to me. I stomped to my room, grabbed the first book I saw and stomped back into the living room. I stared angrily at the book, pretending to read, and waiting for someone to talk to me. Soon enough I started reading and got caught up with The Cat’s highjinx and realized reading was a wonderful escape. I’ve been an avid reader ever since. ~Lostdotter

    1. I LOVE that story! Angry protest reader converted to happy bookworm via the magic of Dr Seuss! I can just see it, too 🙂

      And I’m going to re-read Phantom Tollbooth next now – I hadn’t actually realised until you said it held up to modern reading that I was nervous about it! It’s such a horrible thing to re-read a book you loved as a kid, only to find it’s lost its shine and turned all moralistic or outdated on you. I’ve had a couple of those! (I’m also still too scared to read Book of Dust by Philip Pullman because I loved the His Dark Materials trilogy so much!)

  2. I’ve DNFed a lot of history bios lately, because the subject turned out to be an asshole. Karl Marx and Marco Polo, I’m looking at you. Also several other histories where the initial, quite interesting, premise gets lost in a welter of irrelevant detail. And I didn’t get very far with The Shipping News (Annie Proulx) because the overly mannered writing style grated on me. I don’t want to be impressed with how clever the author is, I want to be entertained.

    As for being taught, I shall always be grateful to the late Gerald Durrell for teaching me to observe and appreciate the beauty of nature.

    1. My latest non-fiction DNF was one on the basic canon of science – SUCH a good idea, but the basics were so well buried under heapings of prose that I was having trouble finding them. I may still go back to it, but similar to the problem of an author being too clever, I also don’t like it when they’re too in love with their own voice 😉

      And yes to Gerald Durrell – between him and James Herriot I spent most of my childhood convinced I’d become either an animal collector or a vet.

  3. THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH!!!!! I had never read it (or even heard of it) as a kid, but it was part of the curriculum we chose for when we homeschooled our kiddos. We got the audiobook of it from the library because we were going out of town on a trip, and I can still hear the narrator saying, “We’re in the dolllllllllldrrrrrummmmmmmssssss,” so droopy and sluggish. It’s a book I am glad we didn’t ignore, and the kids said they were glad we listened to it. We ended up reading it later, too, and they remembered all their favorite parts.

    I could never allow myself to put down a book, unfinished, until I got a Kindle years ago. Then I discovered how many truly awful books were available (free for a reason, folks) and simultaneously discovered that my time was worth enough that I didn’t want to waste it on terrible writing. Every once in a while, I’ll skim to see if anything improves, but it rarely does, and I’ve long since gotten over any guilt of the DNF label.

    1. Oh, now I want to get the audiobook! I’ve never really tried them out, but that sounds like it was a great version. Now I need to plan a road trip to justify buying it… 😉

      And that’s so true on the Kindle! I got very overexcited when I found I could get SO MANY BOOKS for 99p or FREE, FREE BOOKS, people!!! Then I started reading them, and realised I’d much rather pay the £5… Having said that, I have DNF’d a fair few traditionally published books too – often books I’ve picked up because there’s been a lot of hype about them, or they’re classics that one ‘must’ read. Not every book suits everyone, and spending time struggling through a book you just flat out don’t like seems a bit pointless to me.

  4. I fondly recall my dad reading _The Phantom Tollbooth_ to my sister and me. Each of us perched on the wide arms of “The Daddy Chair.” (I suspect my mother selected the books, as my father didn’t visibly do much fiction reading.)

    I’ve seen TPT as a stage play, but it’s still not the same as Dad reading it aloud.

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