Sunday, September 9, 2012


I was talking to one of our clients the other day and she had a children's book on her coffee table. It was a book I was familiar with so I asked her about it. She said she had loved the book since she was a child and always kept a copy. I told her about my Mother's love for literature and reading. On the drive home I started thinking about my own love of reading and how my tastes had changed over the years.

My Mother encouraged us to read from an early age. One of my earliest memories is reading in my bed. I was reading Dick and Jane books my Mother had brought home from the elementary school she taught at. I would mouth the words about Dick, Jane, Spot and Puff. RUN DICK RUN. I would read through the book and then read it again by the light of my bedside lamp while I was listening to radio programs on my AM transistor radio. I think I was about 4 or 5.

By the third grade I was devouring anything in print I could lay my hands on. I remember our teacher had a reading contest where we had to turn in the number of pages we read each month and we would get a little prize if we won. My type A personality started to assert it self here. I was determined no one else would win the entire year. I was reading 1500-2000 pages a month. The second place student wasn't even close. I was really into biographies during this time and one of my favorites was the one about the life of George Washington Carver. The story of what he did with the peanut was extremely fascinating to me.

By the time I was in junior high school my tastes had changed to science fiction. I was reading Phillip K Dick, Spider Robinson, Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. It was in junior high that I discovered one of the major influences of my life. Reading Starship Troopers, the book not the crappy movie made much later, was one of the aha moments of my life. The way Robert Heinlein described his version of military life and the fact that only veteran's could become citizens in the society he created really grabbed my imagination. This book combined with the movie "The Green Berets" with John Wayne eventually would launch me on a 22 year career in the Army and 14 years in Special Forces. I still have my original paperback copy.

When I was in high school I was reading a much more eclectic collection of literature. I still enjoyed science fiction but I particularly read everything I could get my hands on by Isaac Asimov. I branched out and started reading his serious science articles about sub atomic particles and chenistry. Although I was way in over my head it fascinated me. I was also starting to become more and more interested in my athletic prowess. I was reading books about running. working out, and sports. One of my favorites was the biography of Arnold Schwarzenegger, written during his time as a body builder and this was also when Dan Gable was solidifying his legacy as a wrestling legend. Being a high school wrestler and from Iowa Dan Gable entered my personal pantheon of heroes.

During my time in the military, I read thousands of books of all kinds. Mostly paperbacks that I could carry in a rucksack. One in particular that stands out not necessarily for its context but for the location I read it in. In 1984 i was stationed for 45 days on a remote island in the middle of the Straits of Tiran in the Red Sea. I was on an observation post on top of a mountain. We lived and worked in two little mobile trailers and the only way on and off the island for us was by helicopter. Reading material was limited but I read every magazine or book I could find. In a locker buried under some other books was a biography of Johnny Cash. I layed out in the middle eastern sun on a sandbag wall and read all about the Man in Black.

It was also during my time in the military where I started one of my nerdy little habits. Barry Sadler was a Vietnam War Special Forces veteran who was most famous for writing and singing the "Ballad of the Green Berets" back in the 1960's. This song became the unofficial theme song for Special Forces. However Sadler also was also a fiction writer. He wrote several books about "Phu Nahm" the lone sniper in Vietnam, but he also wrote the series about Casca the Eternal Mercenary. Casca was the soldier that pierced the side of Christ on the cross and because of this was doomed to never die and wander the earth as a soldier until Christ returned. This was pulp fiction at its best but I collected and read everyone of the stories written by Sadler himself before his death in 1989. I have 22 Casca books, many of them that are out of print.Other authors continued the series since Sadler's death, I believe there are 39 total books at this time. I only collect the original Sadler stories however. A nerd has to have standards.

Since my retirement from the military 8 years ago I have continued to read. My tastes these days run to mostly non fiction. I enjoy reading about religion,politics,history,shooting,self defense and adventure sports. In the last few years I migrated to the Kindle app on my iphone and tablet. The convenience of these electronic devices has allowed me to read in places I never could before. Bored at the bank? Whip out the phone and start reading. Waiting for your car to be serviced, turn on the tablet and read away. Very convenient and cheaper than buying physical books.

Books and reading have always been a huge influence on my life and will continue to be so.

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