This, I believe, is the 50th blog in this series, so I thought I would review, to the best of my memory, some of books I have read over my lifetime. I have always had books at home. Being I was a history major in undergraduate and graduate school (not counting MSLS degree) and history is a reading intensive subject, my education brought me in contact with even more books.
Like me, Emily Dickinson loved books and even wrote a poem about them:
There is no Frigate like a Book
There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –
I do not recall what my parents read to me before I could read. Babar is the first character in book I can remember. Enid Blyton, who was a famous author of children’s adventure stories in Great Britain, had published six of the “Famous Five” series by the time I left Scotland in 1948. I think I had read them all.
When we moved to Memphis in 1949, one the first things my mother did was to visit the old Cossitt Library downtown to get us both a library card. There I discovered Joseph Altsheler, who wrote a number of series of historical novels for what we now call middle school boys. (I was delighted to discover Altsheler’s books are still available in either paperback or Kindle editions from Amazon.) As a sixth grader and on into junior high I read his books and a series of biographies of famous baseball players and managers and other sports figures. In fiction my choice was also sports including John Tunis, who wrote about all sports, not just basketball, baseball, and football.
In high school and college I had little time for pleasure reading, but when I did, I read Leon Uris, James Jones, and James Michener each of whom wrote historical novels, some based on their experiences in World War II. Meantime, in classes, I was introduced to a number books I still have in my personal library: The Tennessee: the Old River by Donald Davidson, which I had to read for class in Tennessee History; and Mont Saint Michel and Chartres by Henry Adams, which was required reading for Medieval History. A graduate reading course in Southern history made me familiar with William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, and Eugene Genovese’s powerful study of the world slaves lived in Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made. For other classes I read Nixon Agonistes by Gary Wills and The Quiet American by Graham Greene.
In the mid-1970s a colleague introduced me to a genre of fiction that has given me pleasure ever since: the mystery. In this vein, I just learned that one of favourite mystery writers, Ruth Rendell, died last May. She was equally at home with psychological mysteries or police procedural novels. In fact, her Inspector Wexford series was adapted for television. Anne Perry, Tess Gerritsen, Rhys Bowen, Jacqueline Winspear, and, of course Agatha Christie, are a just a few of my favourite mystery authors.
Mysteries are my habitual fiction reading tastes. In non-fiction I tend to read military (mainly Civil War, WWI and WWII) history and biography. Such interests have seeped through onto this blog. See, for example, previous blogs on Shelby Foote, Winston Churchill, and John Keegan. During the last few years, when I’ve evidently have had more time, I have read and am reading multi-volume works such as Foote’s The Civil War, Douglas Southall Freeman’s Lee’s Lieutenants: a Study in Command, Rick Atkinson’s The Liberation Trilogy, about the American army in North Africa and Europe, Volumes 1 and 2 of Ian W, Toll’s in progress Pacific War Trilogy, and Carl Sandburg’s massive biography of Abraham Lincoln, The Prairie Years and The War Years.
About fifteen years ago, I decided to keep a log showing what I had read and the date I finished the book. Beginning in 2002, I have, on my computer, a complete list of books I have read each year. I also keep a record of the number of pages in each volume so I can see how many pages I have read. (BWT: I don’t tell my wife because she thinks I read too much already!) That came in handy a few years ago when a friend accused me of reading nothing but boring history books, I could tell that person that over the past few years I had read fiction and non-fiction equally. And I plan on doing that as long I can read!