User Input

User Input: I’ll Bet You Enjoy Dick

Atomic Toasters is running a series of features on recommended reading for all, but this list is by no means exhaustive. As mentioned in yesterday’s question, literacy is a key component of civilization. It’s also a nearly universal prerequisite of geekery. Without getting into a Venn diagram, it is probably safe to say that all sci-fi and fantasy readers are geeks of some sort, but not all geeks are fans of sci-fi and fantasy. For most, though, there is usually a tipping point in some genre that takes the geek past “I read it because they made me in school” to “I read it because I wanted to.” Granted I always had a book or two out from the library as a kid, but after I was too old to get the kind with pictures in them, a book was mostly the thing you had to get through to see what happens at the end. It wasn’t until I found the right book that I realized that what happens in the middle is what makes it interesting. For me, that book was Madeline L’Englé’s “A Swiftly Tilting Planet”; the first in a trilogy about a woman who psychically connects with her younger self to embark on a 5th dimensional adventure in order to change the past and save the future. Or something like that. My synopsis doesn’t sound quite as interesting as I remember the book reading, but if I could write like Mme. L’Englé, I wouldn’t be doing this schtick.

What was the book that changed your reading experience from destination to journey?

[“User Input” is the AtomicToasters Question of the Day™ asking you, the teeming millions, to answer our pressing questions.]

  • skitter

    My Father's Dragon was my first "chapter book", back when I was 5 and that was still a big distinction. I've been accused of not liking fiction, but I suffer by comparison to my middle sister's strong taste for fantasy. There was a lot of hoontastic non-fiction, but even at that young age it was always balanced by the Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, and The Boxcar Children. That's hard-boiled when you're in the third grade.

    Edit: I thank car magazines for a great deal of my vocabulary and reading ability. I think I would have done far better in French if I'd read to replicate the process.
    Voici Dick.
    Voici Jane.
    Voici Spot.
    Elan Spot! Elan!

  • My favorite book in second grade was "Meet John F. Kennedy"
    <img src="; height="360">
    I little later on, in addition to Hardy Boys books, I loved Charles Lindbergh's "We."
    <img src="; height="360">

  • I am only marginally ashamed to say that it was Goosebumps. They really got me into reading fiction, then got me into King and the like. Now, I am a veracious reader, and I have R.L. Stine to thank.

    • Alff

      You only read the truth?

      I'm too old to have enjoyed Goosebumps as a kid but my children are not. My son refused to sleep alone in his bedroom for several months after reading about something called "The Saber".

      • I started reading Goosebumps right before it really took off in the early 90's. If I would have been born latter, I probably would have been a Harry Potter child. Thank god I was born in the 80's.

  • Deartháir

    ::reads title::


    I. Blame. Charles.

    • Alff

      The author clearly believes the penis mightier than the sword.

    • I am shocked that there are just the usual skeevy pervs here, and not anyone fresh-meat that came here via googles.

      • DRIFT TRUCK!!! WHOOO!!!!!!!! DRIFT TRUCK!!!

        That should bring 'em running. No need to thank me.

        • Drift truck fans are pretty skeevy. Nicely done!

    • TechieInHell

      Deartháir: You're welcome.
      Alff: Don't get cocky.
      muthalovin: I tried.

    • Charles_Barrett

      I enjoy Tom, Dick, or Harry. In any combination.

  • tonyola

    Dr. Seuss. This was one of my favorites, where the good Doctor invents letters beyond Z.

    <img src="; width=300>

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    Whoa… I read Jurassic Park in almost one day as well. I was on a long camping trip when the movie came-out. I borrowed the book from another boy and started reading it on the drive home. I almost finished reading when we got back to the parking lot. Then I had to give it back. I requested the book from the library, but it took months for me to get the book and read those last dozen or so pages since everyone had put it on hold when the movie came out.

    It was in eigth grade when I first read the Hobbit. I don't know why really, just happened that way. I read it in three days I believe. After I did the book report I wanted to read all the LOTR, but the English teacher told me, "You've had quite enough fantasy for now." Where did they find this lady? She encouraged us to play more softball than read. Anyway I read the rest that summer.

    For me the book that awakened reading was Johnny Tremain. i never enjoyed reading much before then, just did it because I had too in school. But in 2nd grade I got the chicken pox and I decided to read the book for my book report. I don't know what happened, but I simply got hooked by that story.

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    I wonder if anyone has any good book recommendations. I read two books when I was younger that I really liked:

    "Hrolf Kraki's Saga" Poul Anderson
    "Eaters of the Dead" Michael Crichton

    Yeah they are fantasy about vikings. After those I read some dreck that was not memorable. Does anyone have any good suggestions for viking fantasy to read?

    • Mr_Biggles

      You might try The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell. They follow the wars between the British and the Danes during the Viking age. I've read the first two and was fascinated. They're historic novels, not fantasy, so it depends on the type of reading you do. I'm pretty much an escapist reader who doesn't like to have to tax my brain too heavily while reading, although I'm OK with taxing my imagination. I expected that they would drag but I found once I got into them I couldn't put them down.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        Thanks, I also read for escapism, but I did read and enjoyed "Poland" and "Hawaii" by James A. Michener so The Saxon Stories might work as well.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        I'm loving the book, thanks!

        • Mr_Biggles

          That's great! Glad to hear it. I should get back to the rest of the series.

          I've been trying to find a copy of Hrolf Kraki's Saga. The whole of the Toronto public library system has one copy that they won't lend out. Go figure. I can order it used through Amazon or Chapters, but I'm too cheap to pay $3+$6 for a used paperback and shipping. There are a couple of used bookstores in the area that I'll try.

          • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

            I have a copy. I'll send it to you if you like. It's pretty neat because somebody must have used it for a book report or paper since there are a few pages with seemingly random phrases and words highlighted. I stumbled on it in a used book store many years ago.

          • Mr_Biggles

            I would totally take you up on that. Thanks. Any suggestion as to how we would trade email addresses without posting them here?

          • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

            I had that same problem. My real name is Michael Sliczniak. I am on facebook, so that's one option if you search for my name. The other is I have emailed some people here, so for example Tim might still have my email address if you have his. I've emailed the tips here and at hooniverse, so I think if you can contact Alex, Dearthair, or Mr. T (tanashanomi, very hard to spell) they might still have my email address. Maybe just email the tips here and at hooniverse and some one will reply with my email address? Oh and I did the Secret Ninja Santa so Jo Schmo knows how to get a hold of me as well.

  • Mr_Biggles

    The big one for me was Catch 22. I'd read all the Hardy Boys years before, and many others, but I never really got much out of them. I read quickly and voraciously but it seemed more like something to occupy my time. Then in grade 7 I had to do a book report and chose Catch 22 from the list. I was confused and it made my brain hurt, but I was stuck with having to do the report. I finally went to see the English teacher for some help, and I have to give him much of the credit. He wore wooden clogs and I always thought he was a doofus until years later when I realized what he'd done. The questions he asked and the things he said to lead me in the right direction kind of made a light bulb go on, not just about this book but about most books I read from then on. I still have the same dog eared copy of Catch 22 and I read it again every 3 or 4 years.

  • Number_Six

    I read dozens of Tom Swift books from around five or six years of age. We had no TV until I was twelve or so, and we moved around a lot, so books were incredibly important.

    <img src="; />

  • Aw man I learned to read on Dick and Jane books. But yeah, I have to admit Harry Potter was my first real series of books. I got up to book #5. Currently I'm re-reading the series and at book #3 in hopes of completing them all before the final movie comes out.

  • MrHowser

    My first reading memory, although I suspect it may be influenced by all the re-tellings by my folks, is the Washington State Driver's Manual. I was 4.

    When I had to recite my Bible verses as a 4-5 year old, my parents had to tell the teachers not to let me see the book, because I would just read them right off the page. Shorter ones, I could read upside down. No one believed it until they saw me do it.

    The problem I had was that I'd run through all my Hardy Boys books by the age of 7 or 8, and was really tired of them by the time I was ten. I then hit a wall – for several years, my reading level far outpaced the maturity level of books I was allowed to read, and therefore just quit reading for a while. Nowadays, I don't really bother reading anything that doesn't interest me, just because I "should." I quite enjoy Bill Bryson, Robert Crais, Lee Child, Michael Crichton, and Douglas Adams.

    • skitter

      "Any book is a children's book… if the kid can read." – wisdom from Mitch Hedberg

  • cmdrfire

    I think that book may have been Lloyd Alexander's The Book of Three, but it may equally have been A Swiftly Tilting Planet; I read them both at roughly the same time, and don't remember which I read first.
    Oddly, I fell heavily into scifi after that, and the first "click" moment there that I recall was Heinlein's Starship Troopers (which I still rate as one of the best things I've ever read).

    • Number_Six

      I found Heinlein to be a tough read when I was young, but I re-read Starship Troopers a couple of years ago and still thought it was amazing.

    • ɹǝʌoɹ ǝБuɐɹʇs

      Starship Troopers was fantastic. I'm actually one of the few people who enjoyed the movie as well, since I went into it not expecting it to be at all like the book. My favorite Heinlein, though, would have to be The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Have you read that one? It's a damn masterpiece, especially if you feel the same way I do about the government.

      • Deartháir

        I also enjoyed the movie. The curly-haired babe had really nice boobs.

        I think some other stuff happened in the movie, but I was about 18 when it came out, and couldn't be bothered to notice anything else.

        • ɹǝʌoɹ ǝБuɐɹʇs

          You speak the truth, sir.

      • Number_Six

        I enjoyed the movie too. My friends and I were the only ones laughing out loud in the theatre, which I believe is what the director intended. I haven't read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but now I am intrigued.

  • Charles_Barrett

    I couldn't possibly remember when I first started reading for pleasure or what titles set me down that path, but I do remember an incident from my school days. My seventh-grade history teacher had us seated in alphabetical order, and the school mate behind me was Mary Bender. The big TV events that season were the first TV airing of "Gone With the Wind" and Sally Field in the movie "Sybil". So Mary and I read each in turn, swapping the thick paperback books between us. Puppy love for a young bookish lad (who already had an inkling by then that he liked girls as "friends", but not "girlfriends").

    • "ThePeopleThePeopleThePeopleThePeople…" is still an oft-used punchline in our house.

  • SSurfer321

    Chronicles of Narnia series is the first big read I remember.

  • I've been a voracious reader since I was a kid. Heinlein was one my first serious authors, and I plowed through the science fiction section of every school library I had access to. I read everything Tolkein had written by the time I was out of Junior High, multiple times. When the movies started coming out, I read the trilogy yet again, and found that I had never really understood the underlying political themes that are woven throughout the story, and enjoyed discovering all that. Rereading Mark Twain as an adult was interesting, as well, for the same reason. Lately, over the past few years, I've been seriously into Western History, especially mining history, which comes as no surprise when you consider the fact that I'm the senior tour guide at a historic silver mine in Tombstone, AZ. Yeah, I make a living from what I've read, which I feel is pretty damn cool.

  • texlenin

    Grandma sorta taught me before kinder-garden, so that's so many
    books back, I can't list one that was the "tipping point." But it didn't
    take long. I do remember reading the Cosmos companion book in
    4th grade and having that open up a lot of avenues.
    About the only thing I won't read are romances & westerns.

  • ptschett

    I was reading before my earliest memories, so I can't say what book it was. I do remember a time in 1st grade when I was reading a book about a group of friends fixing up an old car, mostly because I was pronouncing their word for the car as "JAH-lo-pee".

    The Little House series was probably the first series I read. It didn't hurt that I grew up only 40 miles northwest of De Smet, SD where most of the stories were set.

    My mom was a big SF fan so I was also reading adult SF at a fairly young age, probably by 5th grade. I think I started with Niven's Man-Kzin Wars compilations and moved on to Niven/Pournelle collaborations, Heinlein, and Poul Anderson shortly afterwards. I also do remember reading some Verne (Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in 80 Days, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) by 6th grade.

    Somehow it wasn't till 6th grade that I read The Hobbit, and didn't read LOTR till after seeing the 1st movie; also I've still never read the whole of Narnia, though I have read Lewis' whole "Space Trilogy" and many of his books of Christian philosophy.