|My mother was always reading to us as young children. She not only read to us regularly, but read in a spirited, animated way,
using distinctively different voices for each character, and giving the story every essence of a great drama. She was skilled at
drawing us in with her technique. She was a very effective teacher. Like so many things our mothers do for us when we are
young, I didn't come to fully appreciate this fact until I was much older. I now realize that the time she spent reading with me
was the genesis of a future appreciation for books.
Once I was about 10 or 11 years old my interest in books was waning. Until that age I had spent quite a bit of time at our local
library (East Mill Creek, Salt Lake County Library) and was quite passionate about Nancy Drew mysteries, Encyclopedia
Brown, and ghost stories. Although I remember enjoying several books assigned to us in junior high school (Shane, Summer
of the Monkeys, The Outsiders), reading was no longer something I made a priority. My high school years were much the
same. I occasionally enjoyed books assigned in English class (A Separate Peace, Lord of the Flies, etc.), but again, never
thought to spend much of my time doing "free reading."
My interest in reading was once again sparked by my friend Bill Burton when we were missionary companions in Japan
(1984). Bill was an English major and had a passion for a lot of different literature. He was quite passionate in introducing me
to some of his favorite writers, including Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Braughtigan, and Shakespeare. Upon my return to the U.S. I
began again to read for fun. I loved many of the books Bill had recommended, and sought out other similar titles at the library.
Some of my favorites from this time include "Breakfast of Champions" and "Slaughterhouse 5" by Kurt Vonnegut, "Sombrero
Fallout" and "The Hawkline Monster" by Richard Braughtigan, "Demian" by Herman Hesse, "The Stranger" by Albert Camus,
and "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" by Milan Kundera. There is no doubt that there are some weighty issues
underlying much of the hilarity of these works, but I was particularly drawn to much of the humorous escapism that these books
also contained. I immediately understood the fun of fictional novels and the incredibly vast worlds, both realistic and
fantastical, that could be created through fiction.
Another experience which served as a catalyst to much of the reading I would do throughout the 1990's occurred when a
friend at Kansai Gaidai University in Japan, Dan Projanski, gave me a stack of about 10 or 12 novels upon his return to New
York in the spring of 1990. I gave away half, keeping the 5 or 6 which appeared most interesting. Little did I know, but the first
of those books that I read, "The Deptford Trilogy" by Robertson Davies, would catapult me into a regular habit of reading
fiction which continues to this day. I had never heard of Robertson Davies, but was drawn into this particular book in a way I
had never quite experienced before. It was a fascinating story which played out as an academically astute mystery that
included deep historical reference, magic, and a cast of wonderfully well developed characters. It was truly the most incredible
display of erudite storytelling I had ever experienced. Through this novel (actually three separate novels published in trilogy) I
was able to glimpse potential of fiction. It was a book that superseded even those I had enjoyed from many great writers
previously. I will always be grateful to Robertson Davies for his unparalleled talents, and to my friend Dan for loaning me those
Since that time I have made the reading of books, particularly fiction, a priority. I have enjoyed reading a variety of books, but
I've found that I'm most drawn to books which would be categorized as Contemporary Fiction. I try and read works that are
both American and foreign, either in translation or from various English speaking countries. Up until the past few years I was
reading mostly fictional novels. I would occasionally read non-fiction works, but at that time non-fiction represented only about
1/10th of what I read. However, in the past few years I've placed a great deal more non-fiction onto my reading slate. The
reason is mainly due to the fact that since having children and taking on a life as a full-time stay-at-home father, my daily
schedule isn't as conducive to the long periods of uninterrupted reading which is ultimately suited for the reading of fictional
works. I've found that it is much easier to read non-fiction when one is required to read in a more erratic fashion.
There are many books I've read that I could recommend, but it's difficult for me to do here at the moment. Instead, I've linked to
the "listmania" page I created on Amazon.com in about 2001. It will give you an idea of what I have most enjoyed reading over
that past 15 years or so. I suppose the list would be modified somewhat if I were to create it today, but it hopefully represents
the type of published works that best define what I have come to appreciate about books and the realm of the written word.
Additionally, I'm looking to use this page in order to keep current with the occasional reviews and commentary I write. These
reviews will generally be kept quite short, but may serve to give you an idea of what the book is about as well as my take on it.
If any of you have particular books you would like to recommend to me, please do. I'm always up for getting a good reading tip.