Sunday, February 8, 2009

Book Dads



When I was a kid it was mainly my dad who taught me to read, with my older siblings and mother acting as reinforcements. My dad was relentless and that was okay because I loved the attention, and he was really very sweet about it. We were very much alike in personality, looks, and in our general attitude towards life. His hard work paid off as I skipped a grade in elementary school and was always placed in the top reading group (once I was alone in my own reading group, which was both isolating and a relief.)

After my dad passed away I still spent a few summer vacations with my grandfather, who had always enjoyed having me read aloud to him from my stash of books, and explain what I was doing in school. (When I was very young I thought maybe grandpa couldn't read, since he wanted me to read to him, but I soon discovered he was a readaholic himself.) I'd worked and volunteered at a couple of retirement homes during my high school years, and seriously considered a career in Gerontology. I began reading a lot of books on aging. I really enjoyed the company of older people.

These older people always told me what to read. During my first year of college I worked in restaurant coffee shop and these old guys would come in and sit for hours at the counter. After awhile, these dad-like customers started showing up with worn paperbacks for me, books they wanted me to read. One regular brought me Christy by Catherine Marshall. She was one of his favorite authors. And that's how it went, they knew they could give me a book and quiz me about it later on. I read whatever they gave me. I remember when two old dudes got in a heated argument with each other over authors, and what books I should and should not be reading. The guy who had brought in Christy didn't want me to read anything that wasn't inspirational.

My dad's personal bookshelf was filled with books on theology, nature, history, philosophy, socialism, poetry, and some top-notch novels. One of his favorite books was The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I also recall seeing books written by Luther Burbank and Audubon's Birds of America.

Portrait of Luther Burbank by Frida Kahlo

13 comments:

Megan said...

I can't remember not knowing how to read...but someone must have taught me!

I have a lot of my parents' books. At one point my mother decided they weren't going to move around all those paperbacks any longer. I still haven't made it through them all.

alicesg said...

My parents are not educated cause they were born during bad times and gone through the WWII and life is so poor but we are lucky siblings and I were send to school to learn to write and read. I dont read as much as I used to. Thanks for dropping by my blog and have a nice day.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

What a wonderful way to grow up, surrounded by books and a passion for books - you've been well blessed with such richness!

tut-tut said...

Being raised by readers is a wonderful thing, Avid. And I was once in my own reading group, too. Very lonely. I got reprieved.

subtorp77 said...

I'm with Megan on this one. My Dad taught me how to read, colour(inside the lines) and more.I think I was the only kid in kindergarten, that had homework. Not from school but from Dad. Sure, I hated it as a kid. But looking back now, I'll never regret it.

R.L. Bourges said...

Neat. My mother was the avid reader. Dad, not so much; he was more a Reader's Digest kind of person.
I fell into reading around the age of five; never looked back.

Love the story of those gentlemen bringing you books, and arguing over what was suitable or not for the betterment of your mind.

I didn't know about Luther Burbank. Had to check good old wiki to find out th man created hundreds of cultivars of fruit, including the Santa Rosa plum! Did you know that? (He also wrote a childrearing book called The Training of the Human Plant. Hm... with tutors, maybe?)

Squirrel said...

RL--with TUBERS maybe! (his ideas on child rearing were lots of love , nurturing and letting kids do for themselves in a Montessori fashion. )

I thought it cool that Frido Kahlo was friends with Burbank and did paintings of him. She felt a bond with him. But then everyone who met him said he was very lovable.

Deborah Godin said...

Loved your accounting of your family history of reading. Both my parents read, but it was my did who really fostered it in me. I attribute that to my reading at 2 grade levels above throughout elementary, and to it being a lifelong habit to read. My favorite books I recall on our shelf were Omar Khayyham and Bullfinch's Mythology.

R.L. Bourges said...

Squirrel - RIght! The Burbank Russet. Thanks for the extra info. The bit about training the human plant had me a bit ...perplexed. (Sorry for the boarding house reach in your blog comments, A R. But since you provided the tubers in the first place...)

JGH said...

Enjoyed this post. I love that you took your reading cues from the elders. I don't remember my grandfather having many books except birdwatching and railroads. But my dad was a scholar and once told me that his alltime favorite book was Call of the Wild. You can bet I put it at the top of my list.

e said...

Great posting, Avid. Thanks for sharing about your father and grandad, and your going toward the elders. They have much to teach. Also, thanks for your kind words on my Blog.

Anonymous said...

Do you think people born before TV took hold grew into heavy readers more than those after ?

mouse (aka kimy) said...

it's nice to reminisce about my parents reading habits....both my parents were avid readers when I was growing up....my mom, like popular fiction while my father liked to read history and philosophy.... as they aged however, their reading habits changed dramatically and neither read books any more...they still read but now all they read are newspapers and magazines.... I find that change sad....and can't imagine not wanting to escape inside a big book..... i wonder how many people as they age abandon book reading....

My Classic Fiction Book List -Partial List

  • Austen, Jane: (Complete Works)
  • Balzac: Cousin Bette/ Eugenie Grandet / Cousin Pons
  • Best Russian Short Stories
  • Boyle, TC: Short Works
  • Brennan, Maeve : Short Works, 1 Novella
  • Bronte, Emily, Ann, Jane (Complete Works)
  • Brookner, Anita ( Complete Works)
  • Cather, Willa (Complete Works)
  • Chekov: Short Works
  • David Copperfield (Dickens)
  • Dickens:A Tale of Two Cities
  • Dickens:Great Expectations
  • Dickens:Nicholas Nickelby
  • Dickens:Our Mutual Friend
  • Dickens:The Old Curiosity Shop
  • Doyle, Roddy (some novels, memoir)
  • Drabble, Margaret (4 Novels)
  • Drieser, Theodore (Complete Works)
  • Fitzgerald, F.Scott (Most Novels & short works)
  • Hardy, Thomas (Complete Works)
  • Hemingway, Short stories
  • Hemingway: The Old Man in the Sea
  • Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises
  • Hugo: Les Miserables/Hunchback Of ND
  • James, Henry: Daisy Miller
  • James, Henry: In The Cage
  • James, Henry: Portrait of a Lady
  • James, Henry: The Golden Bowl
  • James, Henry: What Maisy Knew
  • James, Henry: Wings of a Dove
  • James, Henry:The Ambassadors
  • James, Henry; The Bostonians
  • Kerouac: Dharma Bums
  • Kerouac: On The Road
  • Kerouac: The Subterraneans
  • Kerouac: Tristessa
  • Lardner,Ring:Short Works
  • Larsen: Quicksand
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Arrowsmith
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Free Air
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Main Street
  • Lewis, Sinclair: The Job
  • MacGill, Patrick (Complete works)
  • Mackin, Walter (novels)
  • Maupassant: Short Works, novels
  • McGahern, John (novels of)
  • McNulty, John (Short Works)
  • Norris, Frank: McTeague
  • O'Brien, Edna (3 Novels)
  • O'Donnell, Paeder : Novels of
  • O. Henry
  • Potok, Chaim (4 novels/1 non fiction)
  • Salinger, JD : Nine Stories
  • Salinger: Franny & Zooey
  • Salinger: Raise High the Roofbeams
  • Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye
  • Sinclair, Lewis: Dodsworth
  • Sinclair, Lewis: Elmer Gantry
  • Sinclair, Upton: King Coal
  • Sinclair, Upton: The Jungle
  • Steinbeck, John: Sweet Thursday
  • Steinbeck: Winter of our Discontent
  • Steinbeck: Cannery Row
  • Steinbeck: East of Eden
  • Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
  • Theroux, Paul (3 Novels )
  • Toibin, Colm: (Novels of)
  • Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
  • Tolstoy: Short Works
  • Turgenev (2 novels)
  • Twain: T Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi
  • Vonnegut: Early Works (1950s-60s)
  • Wharton, Edith: Novels of/Short Stories
  • Women & Fiction (Edit. Cahill)
  • Zola, Emile ( 10 novels)