Posted by: Steven Harris | November 20, 2010

The Genealogy of My Reading

Stories about what boys read have me thinking about the chronology, the genealogy of my own reading history. I don’t remember the very first pure picture books, although I know there were several. It’s hard to remember details even after that. Impressions of books that made the biggest impression. There were kids picture/word books. Curious George, Go Dog Go, Green Eggs and Ham, Never Tease a Weasel, the Berenstain bears. Then chapter books. Dog books. Various Big Red books. The Incredible Journey. Where the Red Fern Grows. The Yearling. Horse books. Black Beauty. Worldbook Encyclopedia and Childcraft, anything that struck the fancy, wandering from topic to topic. Then sports books. No titles remembered. Johnny Unitus. Red Grange. Lew Alcindor. Jim Thorpe. Jim Brown. The morning newspaper, especially Sundays. Then airplane books. Then war books. The Black Sheep, Flying Tigers and whatnot. Pearl Harbor! Then western history especially mountain men. Crow Killer. Pemican. Adult books really. Charles Dickens. David Copperfield. Then sea books. Joseph Conrad. Going back and forth between adult books and adolescent books. A short time of mysteries. Agatha Christie. Sherlock Holmes. Then Jack London. Lord of the Rings (twice). Then: a big huge Ernest Hemingway time. The Sun Also Rises. Everything Hemingway. Permanently in adult books now (about 13 years old). Short stories around the house. John Cheever. Isaac Singer. John Updike. Then I decided I would be a writer. Then. It was all serious fiction. It gets very mixed up. High school, loved my English teachers. English major in college. James Baldwin. William Faulkner. Absolom Absolom. Absurdity! Thomas Pynchon. The Crying of Lot 49. John Barth. Joseph Heller. Then a masters program in English. Foreign authors! Milan Kundera. Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Gunter Grass. Heinrich Böll. Took a course from Mark Strand. Poetry! Elizabeth Bishop. William Carlos Williams. Wallace Stevens. Shakespeare (there since high school–but better now). John Donne. Not sure what to do with my life. Reading more literary theory than I ever did in two English degrees. Feeling inadequate to a Ph.D. in English. Philosophy. Pragmatism. William James. More serious fiction. More foreign authors. Umberto Eco. Hiking. Outdoors. Taking biology classes for fun. Natural history. John McPhee, Barry Lopez, Edward Abbey. Stephen J. Gould. Then it’s all just a mix of the books on my favorite books list. ( Coming back and back to postmodern novels. Salman Rushdie. Satanic Verses. Don Delillo. BOOM! Infinite Jest. David Foster Wallace. Ian McEwan. Then back to adolescent books. Harry Potter. Ursula Leguin. Robert Cormier. Back to Charles Dickens. More Jane Austen than I ever read before. And I still want to read big books. Odd books. Hard books. But I spend more and more time on the web. Facebook. Twitter. Need to read more! Need to make time for books and not get distracted.  



  1. this is so good. so true. thanks for a great post!

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