Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for: Books

For as long as I remember, I have been immersed in books.

When I was in elementary school, our teacher had a competition for who could read the most books in a month. I decided to start by reading all of the Happy Hollister books.

There were 33 of them.

I got through them before the month was out.

The other kids never had a chance.

My house was the perfect setting for a serial reader. My dad got a hold of a bunch of gun ammo cases, took off the lids, flipped them on their side and made book shelves for the front hall.

Floor to ceiling of books, many with covers blackened, a reminder that they survived the fire that claimed our earlier house. But the pages inside were clean.

But that wasn’t nearly enough space, so when the back porch was walled in to create an extra room, it became the de facto library. (Some joke that our bathroom was a library - it wasn't. It was a reading room. There's a difference.)

Three of the four walls were bookshelves; again, floor to ceiling, every nook and cranny crammed with reading material.

When I would encounter my various bouts of insomnia, I would sneak downstairs, grab my coat (the room was not insulated) and spend hours in the back room.

I’d climb on the furniture, pick an upper shelf, and run my thumb along the book spines until I found a title that held my interest.

Maybe one of the dozens of RD condensed book collections, or a biography, or a mystery, or a science book decked out with illustrations or a legal textbook (I was enthralled with the law). If the title grabbed me, I would pull out the volume and start reading, perched precariously on the back of the sofa or the arm of a chair.

If it didn’t hold my interest, it would go back on the shelf. (I tried reading Peyton Place like this; the cover promised it would be shockingly fascinating. It wasn’t.)

If the book grabbed my attention, I would slowly sink down into the furniture and read until my eyes drooped. Then off to bed.

I have been thinking about my childhood reading habits because of Disney and Don.

Disney is making a movie of the John Carter of Mars books; I saw the trailer and realized that I hadn’t read any of those adventures.

Even though I promised Don that I would.

Don was one of my best friends, and also a voracious reader. While my reading was wide, his was deep.

Sci-fi was his game, and the Dune trilogy or Foundation series were light reading for him.

We would constantly recommend books to each other – usually I was pushing murder mysteries of the Nero Wolf / Ellery Queen vein; he was trying to get me to follow him through Herbert and Asimov.

He was the one who pushed me to get past the movies and read TARZAN, for which I am very grateful. (One of the best looks at sociology out there.)

And as Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs also wrote another favorite series of his – the stories of John Carter’s adventures on Mars -- it didn’t take much to get me to agree to read some of those books as well.

Except, I never did get around to it.

Until now – just finished A PRINCESS OF MARS; a ripping good tale. (Burroughs tackles another foreign society – but of another planet rather than just a jungle on earth.)

So, Don – thank you for the recommendation.

And thank you for not holding me to a time limit on my promise…

Just my thoughts,


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