Thursday, June 30, 2016

My Life in Books

Throughout my life I have maintained a love affair with books.

Before I get into the whole history of my relationship with books I better make it clear I gave this post its title before I discovered that the BBC had a program of the same name.  I wonder why I've not run across it until now?

I found another blog with a name I would have liked for this post "Everything to Do With Books" (  This post is particularly interesting  ( ).  I might just comment on this one sometime soon.

As I have aged I have attempted to preserve my eyes by listening to audio books. I started with books on tape and moved on to books on CD. I have found the narrator to often be the first criteria in deciding which book I next bring home from the library.  George Guidall is a favorite. Now it is so simple to download a ebook from the library to my phone.

Many children for the last few decades have been learning to read in preschool or kindergarten.  I learned to read in first grade. (Thank you Mrs. S.)  I grin when I think about going back to that same teacher and her first grade class about 10 years later as a tutor, helping her teach yet another class to read.

My first memories of reading on my own are waking up early to flip on the light and struggle through a Scholastic book about dinosaurs.  I also remember trying to decipher DC Superman comic books.  It was easy to pick out the word "Kryptonite."  I remember running around my grandfather's house showing everyone I found the word "Krypotonite."

In second and third grade I focused on comic books and nature books because they were full of pictures. I had read the Dr. Suess books, or maybe I just memorized them when they were read to me.

I grew up living out in the country, at least ten miles to the nearest, small-town or school libraries.  Through sixth grade I thought the best selection of books came in the catalogs of Scholastic books.  I hadn't settled into a narrow enough set of interests to know how to find books I'd enjoy.

We also didn't have much money so when I was allowed to order Scholastic books I wanted to make sure I got the absolute best ones.  I remember some animal stories and stories about Homer Price and Danny Dunn among those Scholastic books.  My mom and dad let me order Misty of ChincoteagueYellow EyesGrey WolfChampion Dog Prince Tom.

I know I read those books but I read some of them again later on because my retention was lousy. I only got better at understanding and remembering the stories as I got older.

I'm sure my grade school library had some great books, but I didn't realize the treasures there. I do remember reading the "Alice" books by Lewis Carroll.

I began to keep track of the titles and authors of almost all the books I read when I started seventh grade.  I don't remember if our class had more than one English teacher that year but I was in Mrs. A's class.  Mrs. A required everyone in the class to give one oral book report to the rest of the class every six weeks.  I was in Mrs. A's class for three years, seventh grade, eighth grade and ninth grade.  I gave many oral book reports and heard what seems like hundreds.

I've always wondered how many book reports were just regurgitated from hearing the same book report from others in the class.  I  listened to quite a few oral book reports of In Cold Blood and Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones.  I wonder if each of those book reports were given by someone who actually read the book?

I hope I gave unique book reports.  Mrs. A gave me a bit of a hard time because, in her perception, all I read was science fiction.  I read about 50% science fiction and just felt science fiction was the only kind of book interesting enough to stand in front of the class and talk about.  Mrs. A required us to give some percentage of our oral book reports on nonfiction books, so I had to read something other than science fiction.

I remember that Mark K. and I split up a book report on Dune by Frank Herbert. I read it again years later when the movie came out.  I suspect we thought ourselves more ambitious than average to take on such a thick book.

Since I lived far away from towns larger than a few thousand, I did not have access to used-book stores.  I discovered that thrift shops often have a table or a set of shelves dedicated to books.  I started to snag some paperbacks for pocket change.

About this same time my high-school algebra teacher told me about John le Carré, Donald Hamilton and his Mat Helm series, John D. MacDonald and his Travis McGee series, Richard S. Prather's Shell Scott series, and the Nick Carter series (several authors all writing with the pen name of Nick Carter).

About this time I also started reading the Doc Savage series (another one with several authors writing with the pen name of Kenneth Robeson).

I also read a few of other series, like Mickey Spillain and Carter Brown.

During seventh, eighth and ninth grade I did read a lot of science fiction but I read other books too.  I read Where Tomorrow by Jan and Joyce Young, Mystery of the Haunted Pool by Phillis A. Whitney, Why Not Join the Giraffs by Hope Campbell, Bambi by Felix Salten, Silver Chief, Dog of the North by Jack O'Brien, The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key, Greek Myths by Olivia E. Coolidge, Halic, the Story of a Grey Seal by Ewan Clarkson, and I had to read a book for a history book report so I read George Washington, Frontier Colonel by Sterling North.

Speaking of Sterling North, I had two pet raccoons across the years so I had to read Rascal and Raccoons Are the Brightest People.

I read both Yellow Eyes and Grey Wolf by Rutherford G. Montgomery, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Trouble After School by Jerold Beim, A Chip Off the Old Benchley and The Benchley Roundup by Robert Benchley, Jaws by Robert's son, Peter Benchley (or was that his grandson?),  Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, Smuggler's Road by Hal E. Edwards, That Was Then, This is Now by S.E. Hinton, and The Deadly Silence by Renee Buse,  Mythology by Edith Hamilton, Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill, A Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter, Turned On by Dick Schaap and Tuned Out by Waia Wajcienchowsha, Inside Creedence by John Hallowell, Sex and the Adolescent by Maxine Davis, Kent State, What Happened and Why by James A. Michener, Murder in Mississippi by Dan Whitehead, May You Die in Ireland by Michael Kenyon, and A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman.  I didn't get back to Mrs. Pollifax until earlier this year. I also read Sadie Sapiro's Knitting Book by Richard Kimmel Smith, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three by John Godney, All Quiet on the Western Front Erich Maria Ramarque, Love Story by Erich Segle, The Godfather by Mario Puzo, Murder Amoung Children by Tucker Coe, Serpico, The Story of an Honest Cop by Peter Maas, When the Legends Die by Hal Borland, High On Campus by Gordon R. McLean and Haskel Bowan, Ben Hur by Lew Wallace, Tarzan of the Apes and The Return of Tarzan both by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Terror Squad by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir, Lost Civilizations by Robert Silverberg, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Lee Brown, Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi, Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins and Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.

For a while I thought I wanted to be in the Air Force and learn how to fly a jet so I read Across the High Frontier by William R. Lundgren and Bruce Larkin, Air Force Cadet by Jack Pearl.  On the lighter side I read Coffee, Tea or Me and `Round the World Diary by Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones, and The Girls on the Jet Planes by Sheri Perin.

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