Books That Shaped the Way I Read

Copying my fellow blogger and new friend Jo Bryant, I want to write a list of books that really shaped me as a child. I was a voracious reader, as most intelligent children are. Here’s my list:

Open Library

  • World Book Encyclopedia (1970 edition)
  • A book on Greek and Roman mythology for children
  • A French language anatomy textbook
  • Stuart Little
  • Complete Works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • The Hobbit
  • David Copperfield
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • History of the English Monarchy beginning with William the Conquerer. (Each page was devoted to one monarch in a 2 column format.
  • Kim
  • Old Yeller
  • Lassie
  • Peter Pan
  • Watership Down
  • Breakfast of Champions
  • Charlotte’s Web (Added on February 7, how could I have forgotten it?)

I tell you, I poured over that Encyclopedia. I traced the maps. I memorized all the summary facts that were contained in a box. I’d grab a letter like ‘I’ and memorize the populations of  India, Indonesia, Israel and Italy. I read up on people like Charles Darwin, or all the Philips that ruled over France, or the Georges in the U.K. When I was ten, the edition was only two years old, but as I aged into teenagerdom, it became less and less relevant. But it was interesting how much information remained stable. The Viet Nam war wasn’t over and it was very Cold War-oriented. It showed people begging for food along the border between Hong Kong and mainland China. A lot of it was propaganda, but even so, what they said was factual, none of it was fictional.

I became obsessed with Stuart Little. How could a human have a mouse for a child? The question haunted me and I figured if I read the book enough times, the answer would pop out at me like some encrypted message.

Sherlock Holmes was incredibly cool. He knew everything and wasn’t afraid of fisty-cuffs.

I must admit that I wasted a lot of my reading time on D.C. and Marvel comics. The draw was too strong. One of my favorite comic books was Weird War. It combined my love for scary stories with war stories. I loved it. C’mon. Almost every issue had ghost pirates. They were made for each other- as Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean proves all too clearly. Superman, Batman and Spiderman were my favorite heroes.


About Russell Smith

I was born at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. I find inspiration in the lives of so many people from Joan of Arc to Oscar Wilde. While my primary avocation is photography, I also enjoy philosophy, theology and most of all, history. My beloved wife, Robin Anne Smith, who passed away in 2013 is also an inspiration to me. My beloved partner, Dana is also a great support and inspiration to me. I'd be remiss if I did not mention my cats: Natasha, Maxwell, Tigger and Nigel.
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4 Responses to Books That Shaped the Way I Read

  1. cricketmuse says:

    When I saw the World Book cover I had to stop in. My mother still has this set. I pointed out that we had not landed on the moon yet when the edition came out. She countered that some things don’t change. I can’t remember what she brought up as an example but she is adamant about keeping the World Book set. Anyway, sounds like you are a Book Booster. Stop by and add yourself to the list. You’ll be in good company.
    Blue Skies,

  2. Jo Bryant says:

    Oh WOW love this list and your obsession with the encyclopedia – that is so cool !!
    And you have:
    Old Yeller
    Peter Pan
    Winnie The Pooh
    Sherlock Holmes
    on the list as well…yeah !!
    I love the movie Watership Down but have never read the book so that and Stuart Little are now on my to read list.

  3. Mimi says:

    I loved the old World Book Encyclopedia set too. I loved all the graphics. You forgot Howe much you loved dictionaries. I remember you carrying one around for weeks! What about all those ancient history sets we had? I loved them. I don’t remember all names. But we used to get a new book for each set every month. I couldn’t wait!

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