Friday, October 09, 2015

Ten books from when I was ten years old

A few weeks ago, I bought some new bookshelves for the office and I began to reorganize my library accordingly. As I was thinking about the books that I own, I realized that there were a number of books that I have owned for over two decades since I was (roughly) ten years old. Moreover, I realized that, when taken together, these books tell an interesting story not only of who I was at that age, but also who I have been in the twenty plus years since and my hobbies and interests over those intervening decades. So I'm going to use these books to tell a bit of a story about who I am, who I have been, and some of the things I have liked along the way.

But before I start, a bit of a bonus: pictures of my current collections of books from five series I collected as a kid, got rid of during my teenage years, and that I have since re-acquired through some cagey thrifting. (If you ever happen to find any other books from these series or from the Nintendo Adventures CYOA-style books in your travels, pick them up for me!) Each of these series show some of my interests and hobbies as well: Star Trek (Star Trek: The Next Generation - Starfleet Academy); sci-fi (Choose Your Own Adventure / Time Machine), board games (Clue); and history and the Bible (Cooper Kids Adventures).

And now for the main list: the ten (well, technically eleven) books I have owned since I was ten (or maybe eleven - I'm not exactly sure).

Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation and The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible. I was honestly hoping that I had gotten rid of these books because I did not want to have to include them here, but I have decided to swallow my pride and include them in my list, embarrassing as they might be. They do, after all, show an important part of my story - my early years of growing up in the church. I acquired these books at a Creationism presentation at my church, and I remember reading them repeatedly. For many years, I was firmly in the "Young Earth" camp, and books like these only served to bolster my fundamentalist Evangelical beliefs. I started to question those foundations in my late teens, but I cannot deny how much they influenced my early years; maybe that's why I kept these books - to remember those roots.

The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes. I have owned this collection, along with the Indispensable and the Essential Calvin and Hobbes collections, since I was young, and I have reread each of them countless times. Whether it was the sarcasm, the anti-authoritarian streak, or the outright absurdism, there has always been something that has drawn me back to Calvin, his stuffed tiger, and his overactive imagination; maybe he just reminded me of a certain somewhat obliviously awkward anti-social too-intelligent-for-his-own-good kid I knew...

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I think my parents gave me this special illustrated edition for my eighth birthday, and I have read it many times since. It took me another decade before I read The Lord of the Rings - I tried once when I was thirteen or fourteen, but I did not make it past the early boring section - but The Hobbit will always have a special place in my heart, which is why that travesty of a movie was so infuriating.

The Superior Person's Book of Words by Peter Bowler. As evidenced by the fact that my favourite song when I was ten was Supertramp's "The Logical Song", I have always loved long and overly complicated words, and this book is full of them. Of course, I probably mainly loved them because I liked using them to sound smarter than other people, but I eventually got over that smarmy superiority and stopped being a jerk to everyone around me (it took until Grade 8, by which point I had very few friends at school, which thankfully changed as a result of this action). I learned a lot of loquacious linguistics through this selective dictionary, and I still use many of those words today. I remember memorizing the abecedarian insult - one with an adjective for every letter of the alphabet - and learning words for things that a ten-year-old probably should not have known through some of the more risqué terms included in the book.

Math Contests! For Grades 4, 5, and 6. I won our class's Math Contest in Grade 4 and I remember enjoying many of the brain puzzles for years thereafter. I still enjoy brain puzzles - both logico-mathematical and verbal-linguistic - today in addition to my love of board games that use many of these techniques as part of strategic play.

Cold Midnight in Vieux Québec by Eric Wilson (signed by the author!). I read all of the Tom and Liz Austen mysteries as a kid, and although they were formulaic, I really enjoyed the mysteries they presented. I enjoyed learning about Canadian history through the stories - essentially Canada's answer to Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys - and I can trace my still-lingering affection for CanLit and young adult lit to Wilson's books (as well as the Bruno & Boots series by Gordon Korman).

The Best of How to Win at Nintendo Games by Jeff Rovin. This was a collection of the best selections from the various How to Win At... books Rovin wrote in the days before internet walkthroughs. I still own many of those same video games I owned in my youth - or at least I did until I started selling them recently because many of them are available as downloads. Still, this book is demonstrative of my long love of video games as well as my general nerdiness, as shown by the fact that I often read through these books as stories, whether I had played (or intended to play) the games being described. Also, one of my favourite parts of this book is the checklist at the back that includes columns for "played" and "completed", which I (of course) did my best to keep up-to-date.

The Untold Legend of the Batman. Batman has always been one of my favourite superheroes, and my early childhood coincided with the rise of the Caped Crusader in pop culture thanks to Tim Burton's movies. This graphic novel from the Scholastic Book Club is a story of the beginnings of Batman, and it demonstrates my lifelong love of comics and superheroes.

The Unauthorized TMNT Quiz Book by Jeff Rovin. I cannot understate how important those four mutated reptiles were to my childhood, whether through cartoon, book, board game, or toy form. I fondly remember my dad, who was doing rehab for a back injury in a city over two hours away and was away during the week, bringing home a new action figure for each of us each week (they were, of course, only six or seven dollars at the time), and I loved making up my own stories and scenarios with those figures (especially Ace Duck). I just wish I hadn't gotten rid of them in my mid-teens; rather, I wish my parents had not let me sell them and they had put them into storage for a few years for when I wanted them again - not that I'm still bitter about that. Anyway, this book also shows my love of all things trivial to do with pop culture.

The Habs by Dick Irvin. This oral collection of the history of the Montréal Canadiens was one of the first hockey books I read - and I learned a lot about French cursing as well as the history of the NHL. In my early days of watching hockey, I was a fan of the team, inspired by watching them win the Cup in 1993 (the last team with no Europeans on the roster to do so, by the way), and I think that fandom lasted for most of the 1993-1994 season. I'm not sure exactly when I made the final transfer (maybe I gave up when my 1993 Stanley Cup Champions hat was stolen from a school floor hockey night?), but my switch to Toronto was solidified by the '94 playoffs when the Leafs made it back to the Conference Finals with Mats Sundin, and it hasn't budged since. It's really funny how kids just decide which team to watch and how fickle they can be, but once I had cemented my Leafs fandom within the other boys in my class, I couldn't go back - and I still can't. At least it's somewhat heartening to know that I would not have fared much better as a Canadiens fan over this same time period.

There you have it - the books I have owned and kept owning through many moves since I was ten years old. What books have you owned since your childhood, and what do they show about you, your interests, and your values?

1 comment:

  1. Sounds about right, son. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Arianne. Sorry we couldn't make it to Regina for the weekend.



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