Bookish Rants and Raves: Your Book Lovin’ Beginnings…

Filed in Bookish Rant or Raves , The Needy Lover Posted on July 18, 2012 @ 7:00 am 14 comments

You may have heard about the recent passing of author Donald J. Sobol, author of the classic children’s mystery series, Encyclopedia Brown. Though Sobol reached the ripe old age of 87 before he died (of natural causes), his passing brings a wave of wistfulness and sentimentality, particularly when one realizes that there will be no more new work released (his last Encyclopedia Brown book will be released this October by Penguin). It’s the end of an era, for many.

For my part, Encyclopedia Brown books were some of my absolute favorites, providing endless entertainment and numerous challenges. What hooked me (and countless children since the 1960s) was the high level of engagement asked of readers, as well as the relatable childhood interactions depicted in each tale. Also, the mysteries presented in the books were challenging yet not impossible, and they always encouraged readers to employ lateral thinking when problem solving. It’s no surprise that John Sobol, Donald’s son, recounts how his father heard testimonials from “countless librarians and parents about children who hated to read until they picked up an Encyclopedia Brown book.”

These ruminations about Sobol and his impact on the bookish lives of so many has also got me thinking about the early influences that contributed to our love of books. Though we’re taught to read in youth, we’re not all necessarily book lovers from the get-go. Some of us discover a passion for reading in adulthood, brought upon by the introduction of some or other popular book (the Harry Potter series is a great example). Some of us may have even detested having to read, or felt that reading purely for pleasure was a disdainful notion. But for those that now love love love to read, there’s always *something* that initiates the compulsion.

For me, that love for reading came very early, yet I’m not sure what sparked it. I wasn’t raised as part of a family of readers, but I did have a parent that indulged the voracious love–as much inexplicable as it was strong–that I had for reading. I’d be taken to the local library once a week to stock up on new books and spend a sizable amount of time just soaking in the book-filled atmosphere–even then, I’d felt libraries were magical, mystical places. And when presents were given for whatever occasion, I could always count on receiving a few books.

Fortunately, my younger brother was also a book worm. I loved to collect science fiction books, while by brother racked up the epic fantasy novels. He collected dozens of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, and I’d amassed a wealth of Fear Street books. I was big on Nancy Drew, and he was all about the Hardy Boys. And we’d trade, and we’d read and recommend stories to each other. More than many things, I think it was that shared passion for reading that helped me feel it was OK to love books; it’s a tie my brother and I maintain to this day–we can always count on a pleasant chat about books, any old time.

So I’m curious about what sparked your own love of books. It’s quite fascinating how we all come to our current book lover status via different paths, laced with so many elements: the encouragement of a loved one; the memorable writing of a given author; the dreaded reading assignment that unexpectedly became an enjoyable task.

Are you familiar with Sobol and/or the Encyclopedia Brown series? If so, do you have a favorite mystery?

From where (and when) did you develop a love of reading? Was it recent or long-standing? Was it encouraged by others (parents, friends, colleagues, etc.), or was it something you fostered on your own?

About Alisha

Alisha, the bespectacled and ever nerdy California girl, simply won't leave home without a book in hand. She loves language learnin' and is working toward becoming a bonafide grammar ninja. On any given day you'll find her haunting local libraries or baking scores of cupcakes and sweet treats.

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  • AH July 18, 2012 at 7:11 am

    I was saddened to hear about the death of Donald Sobol. Encyclopedia Brown was one of my favorite series as a kid. I can’t remember many of them, I just remember devouring each book. I recently found one book at a garage sale and gave it to my 12 year old and he loved it too.

    • Alisha July 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm

      That’s awesome, AH, that you’re making sure the legacy will continue with future generations. There was something so magical about those books that it would be a great great loss if they didn’t live on as classics.

  • Barbara July 18, 2012 at 8:05 am

    I loved the Encyclopedia Brown books – they were right up there with Ramona and Beezus, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and even Boxcar Kids as some of my favorite reading when I was a kid. After that, it was Judy Blume and Danielle Steel (The Promise was a big one) and Gone With the Wind – I was the only real reader in my family but my parents always encouraged me, gave me unlimited access to books and allowed me to be a geek. 🙂

    • Alisha July 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      Rock on! that’s so cool that your parents fostered your love of reading. Especially given that they themselves weren’t big readers. They recognized a passion of yours and let you have that. Can you imagine a childhood without EB and Nancy and the Hardy Boys and Ramona, et al?

  • aurian July 18, 2012 at 10:26 am

    What a wonderful post Alisha. I have never heard of these books, guess they were not translated into Dutch. Because I have been a voracious reader since I learned how, and went to the library multiple times a week. My fondest children books were Enid Blyton, the famous five, and all the other series she wrote. I still have a big box full in the attic.
    I hated reading books in high school from the booklist, if there was a nice story in between them, I should have read to find the deeper meaning. Well, I never did. And I really truly doubt the author wrote for that purpose.

    • Alisha July 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks aurian! Indeed, the compulsory reading of books in high school was a bit of a drag. There were some books that I didn’t enjoy, only to reread years later and absolutely love.

  • Draconismoi July 18, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I have heard of Encyclopedia Brown – but never read them. I was always very resistant to reading books adults told me to read. I liked reading, but when my kindergarten and 1st grade teachers kept telling me to pick up the Little House series, Caddie Woodlawn, or some other classic entry-level chapter book, I refused. On principle.

    When I was in 1st grade, my stepdad started reading chapters to me from books every night. First, the Hobbit. Then, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I loved the stories, but dear GOD I hated the rationing of the stories. A chapter a night? Inconceivable!

    So I stole his set of the Narnia books, read through all of them. Sadly, The Last Battle was terrible and I lost interest in reading for another several months until the house rules regarding TV viewing were dramatically altered.

    • Alisha July 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      Heheh how very Princess Bride (I always wondered how the grandfather rationed the reading sessions)!

      Have you since read any of those children’s classics? Open to it? If so, I’d recommend the Brown books. Always fun to see if our adult brains can solve those riddles (some of those mofos were real puzzlers!)

      • draconismoi July 19, 2012 at 11:09 pm

        Oh yeah, once no one was telling me to read them, I gave the classics a shot.

        The whole Anne of Green Gables series was a plus. You know, except for that stupid book where she was just married and roaming around in her house all pregnant. Also, Emily of New Moon (which was just like Anne, except less cheery. I appreciated that).

        Little House books + spinoffs (my mother was shocked to discover there was published version of Little House fanfic to be had. Seriously! An entire series of them, in which Laura has another kid, and is some kind of feminist journalist. Hilarious).

        Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys (I really loved the crossovers).

        Jane Eyre (ugh, SO boring).

        And, as I said with Narnia, the last book killed it for me. Terrible moral. Which only got worse when I got older and realized Susan wasn’t allowed into Narnia’s heaven because she was so slutty (i.e. dating and wearing makeup).

  • LSUReader July 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    RIP, Donald Sobol.

    I loved the Encyclopedia Brown books. I moved from there to both Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. (I was an “equal employment” reader!) Those led me to Agatha Christie. I still love mysteries.

    Thanks, Alisha, for a lovely column.

    • Alisha July 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm

      Such a wonderful progression of book reading! ^_^ For that alone, Sobol should be lauded… his books kick started so many investigative imaginations.

  • Susan July 18, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Thank you for this lovely, insightful post! I had somehow missed the news that Mr. Sobol had passed away.

    I read Encyclopedia Brown as a child–they weren’t my favorite books, but I enjoyed them. My mother had bought several for my older brother to entice him to read. He actually did read them–and then shared them with me. Sadly, my brother never truly became a reader, but his EB books probably fueled my love of mysteries.

    My mom didn’t have to entice me to read. Growing up, I was the only reader in the family. I don’t even recall my earliest books, but I haunted the libraries and read every biography I could get my hands on. We didn’t have much money, and moved every couple of months to boot, but my parents tried to be as generous as they could in letting me buy–and then ship–books. And literally nothing was off limits as far as subject matter. (Which was amazing given my extremely conservative parents.)

    As an adult, I had a greater appreciation for how generous and understanding my parents were in facilitating my love of books and reading, and thanked them for it several times.

    • Alisha July 19, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      My pleasure. Indeed, it was not very widely publicized (I guess film and television figures get the most headlines in such situations), but it’s certainly a solemn moment.

      Sobol lived a long, full life, and the fact that he was putting out new EB material even now… wow. Thank you, sir!

      You’re so right, Susan…your parents gifted you with something special and priceless. That’s so cool that they were open to letting you read whatever you wished to. Given the occasional news about school libraries banning seemingly innocuous books (for being subversive, somehow? o.O), it’s a breath of fresh air to hear that being conservative with children’s rearing doesn’t equate to censoring their reading. Bravo to your ‘rents!

  • Sheree July 20, 2012 at 2:02 am

    I loved Encyclopedia Brown, if only for the fact that his “muscle” was a girl! I don’t recall specific books that got me to read, but I did start learning to read when I was about 3 or 4. I also learned that if I were reading, the adults wouldn’t get on my case to take care of the younger children. So, books = freedom from little kids! Yay, for books!

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