Continuing to look at my handwritten list of the books (and magazines) in my library at age twelve. This page continues the Hardy Boys series discussed yesterday. Then an oddity, “Swiss Family Robinson” with the author listed as Becker instead of Johann Wyss, as it should be. Not sure if I mistook the illustrator for the author, or it was an abridgment by someone, but I enjoyed the story.
“The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle” by Hugh Lofting was the first one I owned, but I’m sure I had already read all the books in this fine series that were in our school library. “Voyages” remains my favorite, but they’re all excellent, and it took me a surprisingly long time to locate copies of the entire series. I found the final one, “Gub-Gub’s Book” (not exactly part of the series, but clearly related) in the late 1990s. If all you know of the good Doctor who talks to animals is one of the awful movie versions, you’ve missed out on a classic animal fantasy series with lots of exciting travel and adventure in it as well.
“On the Trail of the Space Pirates” was part of a series by Rockwell Carey in the space cadet tradition begun by Robert Heinlein, and widely imitated (but never as well done).
I’m sure I enjoyed reading “Huckleberry Finn” at age twelve, as an adventure story. Years later I reread it and got a lot more out of it. The Louisa May Alcott books were presents from my Mom, a favorite author of hers. I liked them pretty well, but thought them rather girly, which they were.
“The Incredible Journey” by Sheila Burnford was something of a rarity in our house, a recent best-selling hardcover book that my parents gave me for Christmas. We all enjoyed reading this story of three animals from the same family that make a dangerous cross-country trek together after being accidentally left behind by their owner family at a vacation spot. Again, if you only know the Disney movie with it’s banal talking-animal dialogue, the book is far superior.
You can see my interest in space travel in many of the non-fiction works on this page. The ones by Willy Ley were particularly good and beautifully illustrated.
I was probably given “Around the World in 80 Days” after seeing the 1958 film version. As I recall, the film was pretty good, but the book was too, and led me to more by Verne.
“Children’s Digest” was another magazine subscription. From the name, I suspect it was from the publishers of Reader’s Digest, but that’s only a guess. Unlike F&SF, I have no memory of the contents at all, so it must not have been very good.
Finishing up the list of 146 items are several important ones.
“The Invisible Man” by H. G. Wells was the first of his books I owned, but certainly not the last. One of my favorite films at the time was the George Pal version of Wells’ “The Time Machine,” and I’m sure I’d read that one and others from the library. I reread the Wells SF novels a few years ago, and they held up quite well overall, though my favorite now is “The War of the Worlds.”
I like animal stories, and “Hobby Horse Hill” by Lavinia R. Davis is, I think, my favorite horse story. All her books about kids and horses are excellent, and sadly very hard to find now, most being long out of print. They are somewhat dated, being products of pre-WW2 upper middle class America, but well worth reading, if you can find them.
“How to Know the Birds” by Roger Tory Peterson was my first beginner’s bird book by the master, excerpted from his classic field guides. I’m not sure if I’d heard Peterson lecture by this time, but probably so, and I think we had gotten our first bird feeder by then, too, and a cheapo pair of binoculars, so I had begun my birdwatching hobby.
From 146 items, my library has continued to grow, now filling many walls of our home. You might wonder about the lack of picture books for young readers on the list, and we certainly had them in the house: Little Golden Books, Dr, Seuss, and others, but I’d passed them down to my two younger brothers, and they stayed in their bedroom, where I probably reread them occasionally.
We also had two multi-volume story collections. This one, the Childcraft series was the size of an encyclopedia, though with much thinner volumes, and probably sold to my mom by a door-to-door salesman on an installment plan. They were a good value, though. Well made, with lots of new full-color illustrations by the top talents in the field at the time, and a good collection of poems and stories, both classic and contemporary authors, from nursery rhymes at the start up to late middle-grade stories at the end. We all enjoyed reading them, and I have the eleven volumes that have survived.
The other set, much smaller and thicker books of stories, was this ten volume set published in 1912, and given to us by my father’s parents, though I don’t think they were in the family a long time, as my Dad didn’t have them when he was young. My favorite volume was “Tales from Greece and Rome,” which had some excellent versions of the classic myths by authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charles Kingsley. The story of Pegasus by Hawthorne was one I reread often.
That’s it, I enjoyed this trip down a literary memory lane. Feel free to tell me about your favorite childhood books (owned or not) if you like.