Reading has always been a big part of my life. I simply don’t remember not reading.
In fact, I remember an incident where I was confronted by my parents about what was under my mattress. I think they thought Playboys, but it was actually ‘Salems Lot by Stephen King. I was reading it under the covers by flashlight when I was maybe 10.
In the early years, I don’t remember my father being a heavy reader.
Today, he is a voracious reader. He reads constantly. I remember the first books I saw him reading.
He’d joined the fire department and become a professional firefighter, working those 24-hour shifts. That meant plenty of down time and this was in the 70s – well before the availability of cable TV.
So, what did a man who didn’t care to watch sports do when he’s confined to a fire station for 24 hours do? He started reading.
My dad started reading books that were laying around the fire station. Specifically, these were Conan by Robert E. Howard. It was the series of 12 books, written by Howard, L. Sprague DeCamp and Lin Carter.
Those were raw, intense stories. Classic fantasy sword and sorcery literature that has influenced countless creators sense.
I’m not sure dad cared about that as I think he just enjoyed the stories, but I know this. After Conan, he read more, probably looking for the next Conan. At first, there were similar books – Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane, and the like. Then he started reading epic fantasy, high fantasy, some horror.
Today, he’s added quite a bit of mystery to his reading, as well as Bible study and Christian writings, and some non-fiction.
Conan, I think, turned him into a reader.
Goosebumps is a machine and countless kids consume those books.
In the 1990s, I had an argument with an English teacher (this will become a theme) as she was trashing the books left and right.
“That’s not reading,” she said. “It isn’t the same as reading Little Women.”
This was her response when I asked what was wrong with Goosebumps. I read Little Women and no, Goosebumps does not hold up to the classic novel. I’ll grant that, but …
You take a boy who isn’t reading, and let’s be honest the statistics don’t hold much hope for a boy becoming a reader, and hand him Little Women and also hand him It Came from the Internet or Scream School, which do you think will get his attention? Which is he more likely to read.
The key here is to get him reading. Turn him into a reader and allow him to organically expand his reading repertoire and discover new works.
The beauty of the written word
It is about the individual. I love mysteries but not cozies. I enjoy fantasy and military science fiction but not hard science fiction. I like horror but shy away from gore. It is a matter of taste.
The other day, I wrote about how I do not like HP Lovecraft. While you can make some personal complaints against him, that’s not what it is about. I don’t like his writing. It is not an attack on his influence at all. Just a personal preference.
All creative endeavors are that way – music, movies, books, paintings, etc. It is opinion. It is in the eye of the beholder.
And it works the other way. I’ve shown quite a few people what I think is the best ghost story movie made – George C. Scott’s The Changeling. Most like it, but many don’t see what I see. That’s OK. It is opinion.
But reading is reading. And we need to do more of it. It should be encouraged, regardless of the path to becoming a reader.
Speaking of reading – BSP
My latest, The Shack and Other Short Stories, is available from your favorite bookseller. I describe this as a mini collection of fairly short short stories, all crime or mystery related, focusing on the gray areas of morality.