I love reading.
I own 800+ books and have read the vast majority of them (less than 50 probably not read). As I prepared to undertake this journey into my own mind, I thought back on when I first realized I loved reading. I remember the Scholastic Book Fairs and those 4-page order forms we’d get periodically where you could order books. I remember being in elementary school and learning about how to check out books from our school library (which seemed huge at the time, but is smaller than my current apartment). I still treat my books with the same respect I learned way back then. (I wish I could remember our librarian’s name).
I remember my mom going shopping for clothes at the mall and leaving me in the bookstore (a Walden books in the mall which seemed so large, but was definitely smaller than 2400 sq. ft. – probably closer to 1200 sq. ft.), and then asking me to hurry up so we could leave. I’m sure she did appreciate not having a kid complaining while she shopped the entire time, “Are we done yet?”
I fondly recall walking with my dad and telling him about the books I just read. My delight in Junior High when I discovered Star Trek: The Next Generation had launched a series of original books (I am still reading those today).
I’m a huge lover of detective fiction (which is a sub-genre of mystery) and though I didn’t come to that realization till I was in college and discovered Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker, I should have known back when I was a kid and read Encyclopedia Brown (a less sociopathic Sherlock Holmes for kids). I was also a fan of the Two-Minute Mysteries which were written by the same author. I was fascinated by mysteries because they were an intellectual puzzle. Problems that could only be solved by “thinking outside the box”.
I loved reading so much that in High School, where we had these literature textbooks that had abridged versions of the classics, I would purchase the full version from the bookstore . In every year of school I would read my literature and science textbooks from cover to cover, regardless of where we actually ended up at the end of the school year.
Basically I’m a nerd.
Which brings me to this project and the “Books that Influenced Me”. What do I mean by this? I mean books that once I read them, I could never look at the world the same way again. When you count up all the books I’ve read in my lifetime (kids books, textbooks, literary magazines, etc), I’ve probably read close to 2000 books, maybe more. But those that influenced my thought? Those books that, once finished, opened my mind to ideas and possibilities I hadn’t considered. That shaped the person I grew up to be. Those books have been rarer.
In all honesty every book I’ve read shapes my mind and my thought, challenges me to think outside my personal worldview. See life through another’s eye, whether as an 18th century slave, 19th century woman, 21st century cyber hero, or 24th century Starship Captain. Every experience shapes me.
However, there were certain texts that, went a little further. Books that I was a completely different person for having read. The first book that I’ll be writing about changed the way I viewed television and movies to this day.
Hopefully you’ve encountered some books like that. They don’t have to be classics of literature or philosophy (though a couple on my list are). They just have to have made you stop and reconsider ideas you’ve had, or consider an idea for the first time.
I’ll be writing about these in chronological order, so the first book on the list will actually come from 1987, when I was 11 years old. So it’s not Tolstoy or Proust.
Come back Next week to find out what that first book is. Also, let me know in the comments about your earliest memories of books. Did you love them at first sight? Did you hate reading as much as taking out the garbage or cleaning your room?