When I was in fourth grade, I read “Elsie and the Arkansaw Bear” by Albert Bigelow Paine. It had such a profound impact on me at the time that I cried because I didn’t want it to end. Paine had written other books, but neither our library at school, nor the local library in Arlington carried them, as they were out of print, having been written between 1898 and 1909. Their original copies were lost to time. I was sad for several weeks. I felt a deep personal loss. It was much later when I realized that it’s the great characters that make stories great – more than catchy plots and action. They too are important, but character based stories draw us in. The characters often become our friends and we care about them deeply.
In fifth grade my favorite book was Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. Again, the rich characters and thought of going on such an adventure stirred large in my mind. I constructed a raft from wood scraps in my backyard. I was very disappointed that my parents wouldn’t transport my “raft” and me to the closest river so I could give it a try.
When I was thirteen, a friend of mine recommended “Relativity for the Million”, written by Martin Gardner. This was my first real exposure to the General Theory of Relativity. I still own my original copy and re-read it recently. I was surprised how well it explained the subject matter. Though it is written for a sixth grade level student, it does a wonderful job of explaining some relatively complex concepts and in a way that is easily understood. It was still fun to read.
Shortly after, I read “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carol, mostly because it was mentioned in the previous work on relativity, and I wanted to experience firsthand the experience of being in such a strange place. The overall experience was enhanced by having read “Relativity for the Million” first.
I then developed an interested in medieval European history and read Dumas “The Three Musketeers” followed by “The Count of Monte Cristo” What amazing literature.
“The Asians” by Thomas Welty was my first introduction to far eastern cultures. It is really a summary of multiple related topics on culture, religion and philosophy, but for me, it was the catalyst for growth, and exposure to a world with which I was completely unfamiliar.
I bought a rare 1895 first edition of HG Wells “The Time Machine” from a London book collector which started me on my lifelong hobby of collecting rare first edition books. This was a story that took me away to a time in our world that was yet to exist. I am fascinated by the immensity of space-time. We will someday be able to go far, far into the future, but we may never be able to return to our own time. I could never go and leave my family.
I love historical fiction and selecting between the many works I have read would only frustrate me deeply. I love Irving Stones “The Agony and the Ecstasy”; deeply respect James Michener and Edward Rutherford’s “Sarum” and thoroughly enjoy Ken Follett. I have to say that one of finest authors I have ever read in terms of his pure writing ability is Herman Wouk’s “The Winds of War” – but that would be eleven books, so I mention the book but cut off my list with number ten: “Sarum”.
Those ten books are only a very small fraction of my favorite books, and I have chosen them mainly because I feel each one changed me in some positive way. I have no idea, of course, if anyone else would feel as I do about them, but for me they helped me become who I am.
I feel sad that so many people now read books on Kindles, or Nooks. I enjoy the heft and feel and simplicity of reading my books on paper. I do understand and appreciate the simplicity of a download, and the pleasure of having so many books instantly loaded on my Kindle. But, a real book will always be my favorite way of reading a story.
How about you? What are your ten top favorite books?
Originally posted 2015-09-03 06:35:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter