About me and books (for Book Tag)

by Tom Ender

Wally Conger tagged me for "book tag."

I love books, but I wasnít always as big a lover of books as I am now.

When I was young, age 10-11, I didnít read nearly as much as later. Much of what I read then was sports-oriented, mainly involving baseball: a biography of Lou Gehrig (I donít remember now which one, but it came from the elementary school library), ďThe Kid Who Batted a ThousandĒ (I canít even find any record of that book now, but it was also from the school library), Chip Hilton books (from my motherís brothersí bookcase at my grandparentís house). I was quite a good baseball player and had dreams of becoming a major league professional. It might have happened that way if I hadnít gotten rheumatic fever when I was eleven.

I was in the hospital for three weeks and in bed at home for nine months. That, and the stricture to not play any sports for two years, made quite a negative impact on my dreams of major league baseball. According to my pediatrician at the time, and other doctors later, I didnít suffer any permanent heart damage from the episode, but Iím fairly sure it changed my life. Not only did it end the hopes for pro sports, additionally it took me out of the standard school experience for a while (I figure this was a big plus, although at the time I didnít think so). The experience altered my direction from sports toward more intellectual pursuits.

My mother brought me books to read while I was confined to bed. I especially liked Edgar Allen Poe. She also gave me a collection of Robert Louis Stevenson that included many stories other than the usual Treasure Island and Kidnapped. I still have most of those books. Although I had read some of Jules Verneís work and was very interested in the space program, I hadnít yet become an avid Science Fiction reader.

When I was about 13 or 14, my family visited my motherís youngest brotherís new household in the twin cities. They lived outside St. Paul. My uncleís wife had children from a previous marriage. One of them was about my age. His name was Mark and he was a reader of Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB). I donít know if Mark was ever later interested in Tarzan or the Barsoom stories, but when we were visiting St. Paul he was reading the Pellucidar books. I read At the Earth's Core . That book and the subsequent Pellucidar books, which I read and reread many times, made me into an avid SF reader. ERB provided my gateway to other worlds and helped to really activate my imagination causing me to develop a ďsense of wonder

Iíll choose At the Earthís Core to be the first book of the five that ďmean a lot to me.Ē After reading all the Pellucidar books I could find, I was given several boxes of paperback books from my motherís sisterís husband. He liked horror stories, as well as Fantasy and SF. The boxes were filled mainly with collections of short stories. Through those books I discovered Robert Bloch and Theodore Sturgeon, as well as many others. Eventually, I went to the Public Library looking for more and found Robert Heinlein; I particularly remember one of his juveniles (Orphans of the Sky) which got me interested in reading more of his books.

Eventually, I worked my way through Heinlein to The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (TMIAHM). Many libertarians would list that book as being very important to them, and it was to me as well. However, if I must limit myself to five, Iíll choose others. In reading TMIAHM I particularly liked the character of Bernardo de la Paz and took note of his reference to a ďRandian.Ē This didnít mean anything to me at the time, but I was curious.

I indulged my curiosity by asking some ďbook store peopleĒ what a Randian was. I was shown a section of shelves that had Ayn Randís books. I donít remember anymore which I read first, but I read all that were available. They made a big impression on me, so make Anthem my second book. It is still my favorite by Rand.

I was caught up in Ayn Randís philosophy. It made a huge impact on my thinking and put me on a path very different from most of my friends. As a teenager I subscribed to the Objectivist newsletter and had copies of all her non-fiction then available as well. I even bought a copy of Misesí Human Action through that connection.

Then came "Judgment Day.I was quite disillusioned by the excommunications and the purges (not by any of the sexual stuff, how could that matter?). I gradually stopped reading Rand for a very long time. It was the late 60ís and I was in my late teens. I had plenty of other interests to pursue and I did.

Somewhere in the late 60ís or early 70ís, Iím not really sure when anymore, I discovered Ursula K Le Guinís writing. As with Rand, Iím no longer sure which book I read first, but I read all that I could find. I loved The Lathe of Heaven, even the made for TV movie based on it was excellent. The Earthsea books were important to me also and much later very important to my son as well. However, my favorite Le Guin is still The Dispossessed. Odo was such a contrast to Rand, but Shevek seemed to find a true path. Make that book number three, even though I havenít reread it in a while.

In the early-mid 70ís I met my first wife. Through some strange events that are too long and weird to recount here, I came into possession of two boxed sets of fantasy books: The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. They have both been important to me. I read the Narnia Chronicles to my oldest daughter when she was very little. That experience changed us both (she now has that very old Puffin Narnia boxed set, the pages are brittle). However, Tolkienís masterwork is a set of books that Iíve read and reread many, many times. The Ring Trilogy (plus The Hobbit) is my ďbookĒ number four.

I only have one selection left. Up to now Iíve chosen all fiction. Only having one choice left, I will make number five a non-fiction selection. There are so many good books from Rothbard, Hayek, Mises, Rand, Lane, Mencken and others, but if I must pick one, make book number five Albert J. Nockís Our Enemy, The State. I have the Fox & Wilkes edition which also includes ďOn Doing The Right Thing.Ē

Iíve named my five books and a few others as well.

What is the total number of books I own? I have no idea and Iím not going to attempt counting them. In the room which has my computer there are four bookcases filled with books and book stacks piled on top of the cases, with boxes of books on the floor. In the family room there are two more bookcases filled with books (as well as one with videos and books and two cabinets filled with VHS tapes and DVDs). I have three more bookcases overfilled in my bedroom. There are probably easily more than a thousand. Of those there are some that I've not yet read (I have a reading backlog), but I have read the vast majority of them.

The last book I bought was Sin City by Frank Miller. I bought it this morning. I enjoyed the movie so much I wanted to read the book, but havenít yet (when it arrives it will be in the backlog).

The last book I read was Anarquia, by J. Kent Hastings and Brad Linaweaver, not counting some computer books on Perl and CSS which Iíve been reading also. The computer books are good for what they are, but they donít fit in the same category as the other books already mentioned or Anarquia.

Lastly, to not ďbreak the chain,Ē the rule is to tag five people and have them do this or something like it, answering the same questions, on their blogs. My five tags are: Tom Novak, Skeptical Man, Ben Masel, Charley Hardman and Russell Madden.

 published at Endervidualism on May 31, 2005

Tom Ender edits and publishes this web site — Endervidualism.com. He hopes you enjoy it and return to visit often.