Have you ever broken the law to read a book? Here’s my story…

This book changed my life. It led me down a path of crime… but redemption was there… somewhere.

I saw it on the top shelf in the back aisle at the Northgate Mall Waldenbooks in Terra Linda, Ca, sometime in the fall of 1989. It was beautiful. Shiny and new. All three Dragonlance Chronicles books in one volume. Over 1000 pages of pure fantasy joy. Sure, I could have saved up my allowance, or done an odd job or two, but I wanted it now! My buddy, who was running interference in the front of the store, only had the first book, but I was going to have all three.

Like any mastermind 13-year-old thief, I had a foolproof plan. Y’know, the old knock it off the shelf-pretend to tie your shoe-stuff it down the front of your pants plan. Yep, a 1000 page book down the front of my pants…

Oops! Slam! 2 1/2 pounds of book falling from 6ft makes a very loud noise. Lucky my buddy was still asking the clerk the price of every comic book on the front rack. I leaned over, and caught my breath while ‘tying my shoe.’ Quickly stood up, sucked in my gut, wedged the whole book down my pants and pulled the front of my hoodie over it.

‘Act natural, just act natural…’ Counting the steps to the front door. A quick nod to my friend who had just gotten to asking about the price of the Spiderman bookmarks. ‘Nothing for me today, thanks!’

Quick steps past the Hallmark store, and then the Sbarro, and into the bathroom and the first stall. I waited…

‘You get it?!?!’


Subsequent trips to the mall had me pilfering the Advanced D&D Handbook and Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation CD. But as with any amateur who tries his luck one too many times, I got caught. Cigarettes at Safeway.

I was sent to Catholic high school. Thankfully, I was able to matriculate to college and finally became an English teacher. All because of a book. And yes, I may have assisted in the future bankruptcy of Waldenbooks with my $17.99 heist, but I think I’ve given back to the book community a little bit. At least that’s how I justify it.

Btw. Three Hail Marys and an Act of Contrition later, I still love the book.

What have you done to get your hands on a book you loved? Have you broken the law? Did you get caught? Comment below.

39 thoughts on “Have you ever broken the law to read a book? Here’s my story…

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  1. Ah the feats we go to in our love of books! Whipper-snappers these days, they have to pirate books online, not go to the effort of shoplifting in stores!
    I confess that I have never stolen a book, unless ‘borrowing and never returning’ counts, but I have a much-loved few books that were purchased with unseemly eagerness whenever my local library was selling off superfluous books in the summer for a few pennies. My Mam would despair as I’d come home beaming all over my face and she realised that these library books were never coming off her shelves again!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh no, Paul, hahahaha. I think the only thing I stole from a store were some candies when I was 8 or 9 and got read the riot act so never again lol.

    I LOVE this book though! I have the collector’s edition as well, and I also credit it with contributing to my early love of SFF genre. I also have a story about this one. I don’t remember where I got it, I think someone gave it to me, but once I had my hands on it–game over. I read it entirely in one weekend staying up VERY late on Sunday night into Monday morning finishing it back when I was around 14 or 15. I remember basically being a zombie in school the next day lol. The things we do for books! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is an awesome story! I remember a couple books that got me like that. The first book I read all the way through was Congo when I was about 13. I don’t know why, but it was just a page turner for me at that moment in time.

      Jason from Off the TBR is doing a read along of it soon!!! I haven’t read it since I had that copy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hahahahahaha, this is hilarious! 😀 I have a library book at home which I forgot to bring back… I really did! But by the time I remembered, my card was out of date and I never got a letter from the library, so decided it was mine then. If they didn’t miss it, then I won’t make them remember…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahahahaha… I didn’t go much to that library, and my card was expired and lost it too, so I don’t think anyone ever noticed I had that book, lol. Somehow it never appeared on my list or something. I don’t know, I cheated the system! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Far too honest to steal. If I can’t get something I just don’t have it. But that’s life. Until you get older but I never want anything too expensive. I enjoyed reading your post. The only thing I ever stole was a peach coloured pencil from school. Umm I hid it between my palms when we had to pray at the end of the school day. Regular public school used to prayer though. I kept it for years no idea where it is now. I was very young.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Uff-da…Paul! What a story to begin a love of lifetime reading. A 1000 page book at 13 is quite impressive! Do you ever tell your students this story?

    Liked by 1 person

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