As I mentioned, I recently cleaned the bookshelves in my office that contain the mass market paperbacks that I’ve read. As I did, I remembered some things about them and about the times in which I read them. Lacking anything better to post about so far today, I’ve decided to comment on them and to present their covers (Gimlet once asked me if I had a Tumblr containing the covers of the books I’ve read, since I’ve been scanning them a number of years for the book reports–I do not).
|The Random Factor
This paperback stems from my high school years; I don’t recollect whether it came from my Aunt Dale or not, but it’s the sort of book she would have had on her shelves and would have offered to me at the time. I remember its twist at the end about the random factor connecting the seemingly random murders because it was so “Here’s a twist for a novel!” The book is out of print and remembered fondly by reviewers at Amazon and GoodReads.
|Greyhawk Adventures: Master Wolf
I bought this book and the three next ones in the series at a pharmacy near my father’s house in Milwaukee. They were marked down to a quarter each. I didn’t have much knowledge of the D&D game world, but I remembered Rose Estes from the Choose Your Own Adventure titles. These books were not particularly good; there’s an incident early in this book that affects the main character, an attack by D&D monsters that shapes his destiny. The books, however, switch between kobolds and orcs (I think) in flashback. Still, I’ve owned these books since, what, middle school? Early high school?
|The Andromeda Strain
I bought this at the flea market up the hill from our trailer park in the middle 1980s. I remember the book disturbed me when I read it; I might have had to try a couple of times to get through it. As I have two hardback copies of it, clearly I got over it. I’m due to reread the book for the first time in 30 years.
|On a Pale Horse
My friend Mike loaned me this book at the end of college. It’s the first book of the Incarnations of Immortality series which would have been very fresh at the time. The inclusion of this book on the list is foreshadowing of a sort.
|Space Winners by Gordon R. Dickson
My friend Jon gave me this book in 8th grade as part of the secret Santa exchange or something. It’s about a group of beings who win a contest and then have to go into space to do something. Note the presence of a small otter-like companion. It foreshadows the new Guardians of the Galaxy, ainna?
I’ve read a bunch of Dickson since, but apparently only Ancient, My Enemy in the last thirteen or so years.
|The Dreamer’s Dictionary Back in college, I hit the mall’s Waldenbooks up for a lot of new age sorts of books. Some of the least embarrassing to mention twenty years later are the books about dreams and lucid dreaming, of which I think only this one remains (although I might have a title by Gackenbach around here on my to-read shelves). It’s supposed to provide a set of symbols to interpret your dreams, but of course it’s a set of archetypal symbols where everyone should know the symbols you create and use in dreams are personal and only partly archetypal. So I didn’t actually read this book, and I’m not sure how often I would have referred to it back in the day, but I still have it.|
|Kill Flash by T.J. MacGregor
Like The Random Factor, I’m not sure if this book was originally my Aunt Dale’s or not, but I read it in the same era–late high school, probably, as it brings to mind our house down the gravel Route 5 (well, it had a name, but since it was gravel, let’s just call it Route 5) instead of the trailer park. I remember where the book shelf was in those days: Against the west wall of the “computer room,” the fourth bedroom of the house where we had our Commodore 64. And a small book shelf with paperbacks. The book is from the series, but this is all I’ve read of it, and all I remember is what the “kill flash” is: It’s the moment when the detective sees the murder as it was committed after detection and ratiocination. I’ve never heard it called that anywhere else.
|Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Daniken
This book comes from the publishing craze of the 1970s about UFOs and supernatural phenomena. I know they’ve been constantly in print since, but this volume was a best seller back in the day. I’m sure I flirted with reading it in high school and whatnot, but I found it drier than other titles. I finally read it about 1995; I remember distinctly that I carried the book with me one day when my car was in the shop and my girlfriend dropped me off two hours early at work, so I walked a couple miles down Watson Road to check the postal box of the magazine I published at the time and back to Sappington Farmer’s Market, where I worked. I had a little time to work on this book after the hike. Other than that, I don’t anything about the book except its subject matter.
|Books of Blood Volume One by Clive Barker
I got this book from a woman I knew in college. We went on a week long trip through the south, including Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi, immediately after college. In addition to a mix tape, she gave me this book for some reason and a book on women writers. I don’t remember anything about this book except its origin, and I might not be correct on that.
|Precinct: Siberia by Tom Philbin
The summer before college, I hit a couple of the paperback trader style of book stores in Milwaukee and picked up this, the first in what would be called the Precinct Siberia series for obvious reasons, along with other later books. I enjoyed them amongst other trash I read from time-to-time until my great shaming at the hands of a Swedish mechanic. I haven’t seen any of these in the wild these days, so either they’re all cat litter by now or people are holding onto them.
|Faulkner and Third Street
Back in the day when I published my magazine (as alluded to earlier), I got a sum total of one free book to review: This one. You would think people would have sent me chapbooks and whatnot, but they did not. As it happened, I didn’t like this book–too modern (circa 1996) for my tastes, so I did not review it in the magazine. I did keep it, though. Because I read it, it is now a trophy.
|Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan
I originally read the copy of the book that I borrowed from the M. Gene Henderson Middle School library in my brief stint in a well-to-do suburb of St. Louis. It was my first James Hogan book, and I liked it. I was pleased to learn he wrote more in this series, so I got a copy of my own to read as I read all the series in order. I’m pretty sure I still have some of his books on my to-read shelves. I should get to them as I don’t seem to have read anything of his since 2010.
|Candide by Voltaire
My beautiful then-girlfriend and now beautiful wife read took turns reading this to each other when we were dating. Somehow, I managed to pay attention to the book enough that I remember some of the characters and the plot. Which makes me feel clever when I can insert an allusion to the book into conversation, even though nobody but my wife will get it. As long as it’s not referring to my wife as Cunégonde which in now way is appropriate, as my wife is beautiful and although she’s an excellent cook, she does not make pastries.
|A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helperin
My beautiful then-girlfriend gave me this book, her favorite, and inscribed it for me. I read it, and then Helperin’s Refiner’s Fire and Memoir from Ant-Proof Case. I remember the last of these the least and can tell you the high-level plot of the second, but I remember this one the best. Which is probably not as well as my wife does, as she’s read it numerous times.
|Dinosaur Planet Survivors by Anne McCaffery
When we moved from the housing project in Milwaukee to the well-to-do suburb of St. Charles, Missouri, I immediately joined the Summer Reading Program sponsored by the local library. I’d done it a couple years in Milwaukee. But when I finished it up, I discovered there were no other middle schoolers participating in it; it was all little kids. But when I completed it, I got to pick out a book, so I got this one. I’d read Dinosaur Planet another time and hadn’t realized it had a sequel. McCaffery is more known for her Dragon Riders of Pern books, but I hadn’t read any of them. I don’t think I have yet. This might be the last McCaffrey book I’ve read.
|The Moment of the Magician by Alan Dean Foster
Another middle school pick up, I spent some Christmas money on this book. It’s the first I’d read by Alan Dean Foster. Again, not the small, foul-mouthed weasel sidekick. Another forerunner of the raccoon from Guardians of the Galaxy, or as I call them, the new Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m still a partisan of the old ones.
None of these books Changed My Life in the macro sense, but each of them added a little color and flavor to who I am. Strangely, I remember the context more than the content of most of them. I suppose that’s why I pulled them out to share as I was cleaning them. The ones whose plots I remember are far less interesting to me.