When I was a child, there used to be this program (I don’t know if it still exists – oh look, it still does) called Scholastic Book Club. It was very much like those record clubs of the early 80s, where, if I remember correctly, you’d get some books for a much reduced price on joining the club, if you bought a few books at regular price within a set time period.
I think this was one of the things that kickstarted my love of reading, though not the only thing.
One book I remember very clearly was a book by Diane Duane called “So You Want to be a Wizard”, of the “Young Wizards” series. I’m not going to say it was influential on me, but it was and has remained one of my favorite books of all time. Recently, I purchased another copy on Thriftbooks (a really good site for tsundoku like me) and read it within a couple of days. And you know, I still love it. I ordered the rest of the series and will read it again. Who cares if it’s for young adults? It’s good readin’.
Another book I got from Scholatic was a Sci-fi anthology from 1941 called “Adventures in Time and Space”. I love that old sci-fi. Not because it’s accurate – pretty much everything in that book is entirely and completely dated. Rockets to get people everywhere – they never even conceived of things like faster than light travel, or if they did, it was done with steam and gears. All of the heros were square-jawed American types (I think there was one story that was Russian) but generally it was very much a product of its time. And I remember nearly all of the stories. Like the robot who was built by a drunk guy while in a stupor whose purpose was to be a bottle opener. The nuclear disaster that was averted by dumping the waste into the river. The shrinking guy who found himself in hundreds of thousands of different universes, all smaller than the rest. No accuracy, but that doesn’t matter – the stories were good.
I haven’t read much modern sci-fi, but it’s not like the golden era. My favorite book ever is Eon by Greg Bear. I don’t like and won’t read everything by Greg Bear, but what I do like, I really like. Then there’s pretty much anything by Isaac Asimov – an objectively not great, but prolific and groundbreaking author who probably shaped sci-fi, and scientific research, for decades – he’s the one who came up with the three laws of robotics. Some other books that I remember clearly were “Princes of Earth”, and “But we are not of Earth”, which I’ll still pull out and read occasionally.
When I was younger, I used to love Encyclopedia Brown and Danny Dunn. Danny Dunn, I think, was perhaps the most influential book series of my childhood, and i’m not even kidding. This was because he had this box of random hardware, springs, strings, etc., that he’d build things out of, like a boxing glove he used to smack people who walked into his room uninvited. I think this is where my habit of hoarding bits of hardware like that came from. I came to realize when I grew older that it took much more than a shoebox full of stuff to invent things like that, but by then it was too late – the damage was done.
I think, maybe, that’s where my love of writing came from, too. I’m not great at it, I’ve never taken creative writing classes, and honestly, I avoid that, because I want my voice to be my own and not what other people tell me it should be. But maybe I’m hurting myself on that one. Maybe I need to learn to write better. But do I want to? I dunno. It’s a valid question.
Anyway, I love books. I wonder if that was clear from this post…