The Best Stories are Always in Books!
I didn’t learn to read until much later than my classmates. I struggled to write complete sentences or read a paragraph with any kind of retention. The summer between 7th and 8th grade, I went to a special reading program while my friends went to camp. Five hours a day, five days a week, for five weeks. By mid-August my brain was spent. Adelphi’s program helped me, but I wouldn’t see it for many months.
I come from a family of readers and I was always embarrassed about my illiteracy. My Aunt had given me a birthday gift - a book! I picked it up and started to read it. It was an easy book to read “The Adventures of Doctor Doolittle.” I read it cover to cover in less than 2 hours. I read a book? I sat for two hours?? Maybe this reading thing wasn’t so bad. I reached for another book that I kept in my room.
“Hosea Globe and the Fantastical Peg-legged Chu” by Graydon Beaks. Another young adult book, at an easy reading level, and I read it cover to cover. I loved it! Somehow I became a reader at that moment. Retaining the story became easy and I was reading near the grade level. The books we read in school got better just from the fact that I could read at a good pace to keep the story moving along. I still was looking for my next book to read.
I had been collecting comics for a few years and I started going back and reading them, not just quickly reading as I looked at the pictures. I was amazed how good the Hulk comics were. Each issue was better than the last. I was excited that I had all these comics to read. I remember an issue where the Hulk traveled around with a hobo, Cracker Jack Jackson. I smiled when the Hulk ate baked beans and liked them, and I cried when the hobo was killed by his jail-breaking son. I had never been moved like that by a comic before.
“The Sword of Shannara”, a 726 page sword and sorcery adventure, became a life changing book. I was intimidated by the length of the book, but the pictures by the Brothers Hildebrand were so magical, I had to try! Over the course of a weekend, I read the book. I dreamed about it when I closed my eyes, I was immersed in the world where the story took place. I had recall the events in the book and this burden from school became my favorite hobby.
Starting at the age of 15, I dedicated myself to reading 50 books a year. I find it harder now to read as much because I write a great deal and it hijacks my thinking. That doesn’t stop me from feeding my desire to read. I recently reread one of my favorite books, “Neuromancer” by William Gibson, the father of Cyberspace fiction. The jargon in this book is still being used to describe the internet and virtual reality. Add Malcolm, the space Rastafarian and you have a memorable and definitely one of the ten best science fiction books ever written.
The best science fiction book I ever read was “Man in a High Castle” by Philip K Dick. The first PKD book I read was “Blade Runner” and I read it because I loved the movie. The book was much darker, but made more sense. I was fascinated and wanted to read more from this author. 30 years later, I believe I have read every book, short story, and non-fiction novel by Philip K Dick. “Second Variety” is my favorite short story by PKD and could be my favorite piece of fiction.
I started reading the translation of “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu and was amazed at the practical nature of this book. Each statement had far reaching implications in one’s life and the use of the General Sun Tzu logic is incredibly effective. The book is full of statements of wisdom for leading an army and winning battles. This book has been read by generals and leaders of state throughout known history, and it’s principles were used effectively in the first Gulf War by General Schwarzkopf. “The Art of War” is no beginner’s book, and patience and reflection are needed to read this book.
“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie was a book my son had to read for his High School English class. I was aware of the book and had always thought it was written by the Dale Carnegie, the industrialist. Boy was I wrong! Written in the 1930’s, this book gave instructions to those who were interested in becoming an executive, a new type of job in the industrialized world. When my son was finished, I read the book. I wrote down many of the sayings and started practicing many of its ideas. I truly believe this is a book every student should read and use.
My wife loves to read, too. Her favorite author is Stephen King. I had read a few of King’s books, but was never a big fan. That changed when my wife and I read “The Gunslinger” novels. The journey of Roland to the Dark Tower took eight really long books, and I loved everything into the very end. These books were a perfect mix of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. The characters were real and I enjoyed reading about their journey. It was cool to enjoy new Stephen King books with my wife, we shared our thoughts and questions about the story.
I’m a big fan of “How To…” books and have a favorite one. “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way” by Stan Lee and John Buscema. I’ve used this book hundreds of times over the years and still go to it when I’m having difficulty drawing hands or action poses. The step by step instructions are easy to follow and allow any artist to achieve a level of proficiency when drawing comic art. Recently, I found a video on YouTube by Stan and John covering the book, I was extremely excited to watch!
Finally, the book I use as much to this day as when I received it over 30 years ago. Sunset, a cooking magazine, put together recipes from China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. “Oriental Cook Book” is an amazingly solid book of recipes. Great pictures, easy explanation of techniques, and tasty recipes makes this book a needed addition to any cookbook collection. The Hot and Sour Soup recipe is the best I’ve come across and rivals the soup made at the best Chinese restaurants. The step by step guide on how to make sushi is the best I’ve seen, and I still use many of the book’s techniques and recipes. Truly a great cookbook.