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“List ten books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard.”

It took me more than 10 minutes to type this out and add all the links, but I think the exercise was worth it.

From childhood:

1. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. Neat lady from a family of naturalists. Not everyone can answer the question, “What was your first pet?” with “A turkey vulture.”

2. Stormy by Jim Kjelgaard. I was a sucker for any “outdoorsy” book that was available in the school library or those book order sheets that used to be passed out in grade school classrooms. My parents very graciously supported my book habit and I am thankful.

3. Conan the Barbarian. I read a lot of sword and sorcery stuff. Howard’s Conan is one I keep going back to. I enjoy his Solomon Kane stories, too, and have Sailor Steve Costigan, El Borak, and his horror stories on my to-read pile as well.

4. The Dungeon Master’s Guide Gary Gygax not only provided a way for me to spend many hours rolling dice, but the book had a fabulous reading list that pointed me towards a lot more great books. Mostly fantasy, but I read some Greek and Norse mythology, a little history, and some “What life in a castle was like”-type books as well.

5. The Joy of Sex. Whenever I was at my Uncle’s house, I’d sneak off to read this or gawk at whatever Playboys my Uncle had in his magazine rack.

6. The Reader’s Digest Do It Yourself Manual This is what I read at my Uncle’s when I couldn’t slink off and read the Joy of Sex.

Okay, so we have Conan, dogs, outdoor stuff, tools, and Playboy magazines…pretty normal for a growing boy thus far. That’ll change.

High School years:

7. Kurt Saxon’s Poor Man’s James Bond Honestly, I’m not sure where this particular crazy train started. I got my hands on one book, maybe the Anarchist’s Cookbook, and started working my way through the bibliography. When I spotted this at the local army surplus store, I snatched it up and didn’t look back. For some reason, Kurt Saxon’s stuff sticks with me, even when his technical info is dead wrong. I used to love reading the various “Revenge” books by George Hayduke as well.

8. How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. I was already using most of the reading tricks the book proposes, so I didn’t get much there. It was through Adler, however, that I found the Great Books program, and that’s exposed me to a lot of books I wouldn’t have known about as well as help me recognize the roots of various ideas and schools of thought. Like the Dude’s rug, it really helped tie the room together. I write notes in the margins of books, too, at Adler’s suggestion, and it really has helped with retention of knowledge.

9. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. I enjoy Lovecraft and all things of the Cthulhu mythos and this is my favorite Lovecraft story. The Dreams in the Witch House is probably second.

10. Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. If you’re a sci fi fantasy geek, preparedness/survival nut, and love books (the book nerd winds up saving the town with his engineering and chemistry skills), what’s not to like about this one? I used to read it about once a year for about a decade, and feel I’m due to read it again.

Well, that’s my 10. Ask me on a different day and I might rattle off a completely different list that could contain such gems as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Arnold: the Education of a Body Builder, Anton LaVey’s The Devil’s Notebook, and the Bible.

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