The Understory

The books I remember best from my early childhood are my grandfather’s set of encyclopaedias, kept hidden away for preservation and doled out per volume when I asked for them (promising to be very careful) when I was becoming a reader. They are now valuable sociological data on 1920s knowledge and the socialisation of that generation’s children into gender and social class roles.

My place of origin is just a few kilometres from our Esteemed Leader’s birthplace. Like her I came to Australia as a child and spent my adolescent years in Adelaide.
My mother, sister and I lived with my grandparents because our house had had a collateral encounter with a German bomb, but when my father was ‘demobbed’ we moved away. At Christmas time very year I eagerly looked forward to the Daily Mail Annual given me by an aunt in Pant-yr-Heol, so filled with adventure and, as I later discovered, reliable historical information.

Attending Cwmfredoer primary school I began working my way through the kids section of the local public library, enjoying Richmal Crompton’s ‘William’ stories which revealed a world completely different from the one I inhabited; indeed I felt more affinity with the ‘townies’ whom William’s kind despised. Yet it was pretty clear to me who had the better toys. In the grown-ups’ section I found a whole lot of Zane Grey novels and there discovered a different type of writing: more than mere stories, tales melding natural and moral landscapes.

Soon after my twelfth birthday we set sail for Australia. In the Immigration Museum in Melbourne there is a mock-up of the type of ship’s cabin provided for migrants. It’s a fraud. The vessel I was on had been a troop-ship, and still was. Males and females were separated, my father and I plus eight adult strangers shared a cabin furnished solely with racks of steel bunks; but it was an adventure, and a lot of fun.

One afternoon each week of the voyage a junior deck officer would unlock the glass fronted bookcase in the smoking saloon, the ship’s library, and we would argue over the book I chose. The kids’ books were very kiddie, and the adult books were almost entirely the genre of pulp romance featuring lady protagonists with boyish figures.

We were sent to Adelaide and spent twelve months living on the northern city limits in one end of an unheated uninsulated Nissen hut, discovering how freezing cold a Mediterranean climate can be in winter and how hot in summer. Two things stand out in my memory from those days: on grocery shopping trips my father would invariably gaze into the butcher’s window while intoning, “This is my favourite shop”; the other was the absence of a library. There was a library in the city centre, of course, but that necessitated a bus trip to the tram terminus and then by tram to the city, so there were no trips to the library. On the other hand I discovered American comics.

Comics of my childhood fell into two categories; the Rupert Bear variety, perhaps stimulating to the imagination but written in the minor key of well-behaved children, and then there were the dismal black and white affairs conveying a feeble slip-on-a-banana-skin kind of humour. Approaching adolescence I read Eagle and the Champion, magazines for boys that were matched by complementary publications for girls, all devoted to socialising children into gender based adult roles, eulogising boarding school and sport and jingoism.

In Australia I discovered Superhero comics and the aeronautical Blackhawks whose cook was a queue-pigtailed cleaver-wielding Chinaman named Chop-Chop (try getting away with that these days) and other propaganda comics depicting American soldiers defeating communists in Korea, all concerned with freeing the world from evil and promoting the American Way of Life. Then there was the Donald Duck collection, also promoting American culture but they at least stimulated the imagination. From the Archie comics I learnt about Valentine Day: a thing not big in Britain, nor actually recognised much in Australia until the mid-seventies; now a marvel of marketing, promoting maudlin sentimentality in the guise of genuine affection and commanding massive retail turnover.

In school I absorbed the regulation texts and learnt that Australian boys must never pronounce French correctly nor read English aloud fluently in case they are deemed to be girly (you might like to think about this in relation to the modern male) and at home sneaked my mother’s books into my bedroom to read, although I confess to being mainly bewildered by The Tree of Man.

At sixteen I began my first job: not an education-based choice but a matter of home economics. By then, even though not having completed secondary school I had received more education than anyone else in my family. A decade later I became a special entry mature age university student. On my first day, sitting in the library contemplating the reading list and looking at the huge array of books surrounding me, the only way I can describe my feelings then is to say that it was like rising from the dead.

David Dawkins was my Sociology lecturer when I was at University. It was back in the day when Deakin was supposed to be Australia’s answer to the Open University. The decade of the 80s was exciting because it was a melting pot. It bubbled and fermented with the setting up new programmes. It was a time in which the lecturers themselves were playing with ideas, trying to develop special ways of thinking about education and educational administration.I studied under David for six months, but in the first few weeks I knew enough to know I was in love with a whole field of study I had not even known existed. Sociology looks at the development and structure and the functioning of society, and it certainly had an important impact on me creatively, because it made me curious about how society worked as well as how individuals worked – you can certainly see its impact on the evolution of the world building in the Obernewtyn Chronicles. But Sociology, and David’s way of teaching it, also electrified me intellectually. So much that I tried to switch to majoring in Sociology.I didn’t happen, but David and I metamorphosed over the years from Student and Lecturer, to two writers to close friends. I have always found him a creative and exciting thinker, whose ideas and stories have always acted on my mind like sparks in dry tinder.

So I wondered very much what he would have to say when I asked him to write something about book forms.

26 Responses

    1. Vauny says:

      I don’t have a lot of strong memories associated with books from my childhood and maybe that’s why I don’t have any problems with ebooks – to be honest I didn’t read very much until I was 15, literacy wasn’t a problem I just found books to be a bit dull. Heinsightedly I think it was because being a very visual person, it was hard for me to transition from picture books to plain text. I think a lot of it had to do with the books we were told to read – which while overall good books didn’t manage to capture my imagination. I have only three strong book memories, and two come from my Nana’s bookcase.

      She had a bookcase in the sunroom with dozens of wonderfully old books, I think they were from her childhood, they were all bound, embossed covered, thick paged and musty. When I was about 9 she gave me short story book from there called “tales for children” the story I remember most involved an ice demon (Snowig) kidnapping a girl and baking her into a pie, the girls father was so pissed when found out that he ground Snowig to a fine powder on a mortar and pestle. And that’s where snow comes from. Despite the absolute bizarre horror of this book I loved it. I even remember making sand sculptures of Snowig and being pissed when no-one got it. The other book Nana gave me when I asked for a second one was a non-play form of Shakespeare stories. I was 10. I really liked the Tempest and midsummer nights dream, but stopped reading when I got to taming of the shrew. (annoyingly we did not do either of those in high school!). I remember for ages no one believed me that I had read Shakespeare – yes they were in story form and I’m pretty sure the language was simplified but still!

      Anyway after that I didn’t read anything that wasn’t compulsory and even then I tended to cheat. Then in year 10 our English teacher made us go to the library and get books to read over the holidays. A friend of mine reccomended Obernewtyn and at first I was like “pff whatever” … and then I read it in a day. After that for me and books it was on like donkey kong.

      • Min Dean says:

        That’s so funny, my ‘…and then I was hooked on books’ story is so similar to yours – I wasn’t that interested in reading – not that I couldn’t – I was a very good student, but music and science were my passions; plus I had a string of bad English teachers who didn’t make anything interesting, in any way I found interesting at least.
        Then in grade 10 our English viva required us to read 4 books by Australian authors – I went straight to A-B-C of the school library bookshelf, scanning for the kangaroo on the spine that mean it was Australian, and picked the first one I saw, thinking about nothing but getting the assignment over and done with so I could do more important things.
        That book was The Farseekers…and look where it lead 😛
        I finished it that night, went back for more the next day (after realising it was book 2 in a – then – trilogy, too *facepalm* – but being too hooked to put it down and wait until I could find book 1), and the rest is history.

        But in saying that, I’ve always loved stories – whether they were in books or not wasn’t an issue – I’d just not previously found any story that engaging in book form, before then.

    2. Maureen says:

      Libraries are not just stores of information and knowledge- they are also potentially oasis’ of quiet, an escape from the world, a knowledge equaliser. Philip Pullman wrote a very good essay about the place of the lending library in society and why politicans should stop cutting funding to them. The pdf is on his website. I sent the link to Isobelle earlier this year.

      As a child, I spent every Saturday after sport in my local library borrowing at least ten out. It was my favourite day of the week because I had access to so many new books. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me a lot of books, so I had the library and the secondhand bookstore for teaching me to read widely. As a child in primary school, I spent a lot of time in the school library too. I was a library monitor and I remember seeing the first Harry Potter movie as a reward for working in the library at lunch times (irony!)

      If ebooks become the death of books, then what happens to the lending library? Will there be a way to lend ebooks? Because if there isn’t what happens to those less fortunate and less well off in society- what happens to people who can’t afford to buy an ereader and each new ebook?

      As for memories being attached the hard copy books, I wholeheartedly agree. My copy of Obernewtyn has an enormous story behind it. I first read it in yr 3 for the Premier’s Reading Challenge. Then I was given the 3 in 1 Penguin book that had a massive printing error in it. I kept that edition for years out of sentimentality. Then I got a new copy of Obernewtyn (still old enough to be the old cover) and got it signed. I wrote a story in the HSC (I think it was then?) for creative writing about books having lives and memories attached to them, and the importance of that. Of course, that element is nostalgia on our part.

      Ebooks can still have memories attached too of course. When I read certain lines of Ashling, I still remember what I thought reading it the first time round in yr 4. (something along the lines of OMG I WANT TO BE A GYPSY, SWALLOW IS MY KIND OF GUY, NOOOOO NOT MATTHEW etc) and that memory won’t change as long as the words stay the same. The medium doesn’t matter there. Of course, ebooks can’t yellow and age in the same way as hard copy books. And like I keep saying, it’s things like that that give a book personality for me.

      • Libraries are already endangered by funding cuts. not just here but all over the world and maybe that is one of the hardest things to imagine- a world where e books and enhanced books are wondrous but there are no more libraries to hide and dream and take refuge in…

      • Maureen says:

        I guess the point I was making is will the growth in ebooks and the collapse of physical print books make the demise of the library even quicker? I’m interested to know if there will be a way to borrow ebooks because honestly, I would not be as literate as I am without my local library.

      • Deb says:

        We are getting a brand new library. They are building it where the old library used to be. It’s bigger and has a lot more glass. Very modern and I presume it will hold a lot more computers than the old one did. I just hope that it holds a lot more books as well.

      • Min Dean says:

        I don’t think we’ll ever totally lose libraries – they are just having a rough time right now. That funding is being cut is more a sign of short-sighted politicians trying to appeal to the masses. Look at how Campbell Newman’s first order of business was to cut the QLD Premiere’s Literary Award – in the name of ‘budget cuts’? Really? Cut any funding to those multi-million dollar sports (/entertainment) programs lately, Newman *shakes fist*?

        (Yeah, just don’t even get me started…)

        My point here is, I just think the mentality of mainstream society isn’t there, right now, and politicians are doing dumb things to try appeal to that (making us feel very powerless in the scheme of things, too).
        Will they learn, when literacy skills in the general populace plummet? Hopefully. Who knows.
        *sullen*

        For the library as a refuge – I certainly used the Edinburgh library as one when I was backpacking. I’d go every day after work and study or draw up plans for travelling or even write – they were some of the most creative times of my life. I loved the building and I loved the bookshelves – wall to wall, and high. It was just a comfortable place to be…

      • Catherine Bateson says:

        Just a quick note – libraries are already lending out ebooks. The disadvantage I’ve found is that it’s quite laborious to search through the catalogue if you don’t really know what you’re looking for – I’m a great shelf-browser. But the advantage is that you don’t get overdue fines. As someone who has possibly financed a whole library through her overdue fines, I find this aspect economically comforting. – particularly in this time of financial instability for writers. Mind you, the alacrity with which books simply disappear from one’s ereader is disconcerting!

    3. The first time I read David’s piece, I was struck by the thought that I could not remember having books read to me as a kid, or indeed of them being in the house. My mother indignantly claims that she and my father brought golden books- probably all they could afford and with 8 children there was not a lot of time for reading. But golden books seem to me the dullest things and utterly forgettable. But I do remember one book- a version of Adam and Eve, that was illustrated. I don’t recall the story- no doubt it was a simplified and condensed version leaving out all the best bits, but I do vividly remember the illustrations which were hyper real of these two people living in this idyllic place where they co-habited happily and safely with animals. In those days extreme realism in drawings was miraculous and I always loved that book. We were also given comics regularly and we loved them. Again I remember one really vividly. It was a comic where Donald duck and his nephews went to some incredibly volcanic place where all the locals used little volcanoes domestically, for cooking and heating water and so on. I donlt remember what Donald and the kids did, but what I loved about that comic was the cleverness of the locals using nature in this amazing intricate way. And I loved Phantom comics. I know they were racist now, but I didn’t then. For me they were about this guy who was amazingly not a super hero with super powers, lived this romantic secret dual life where he did good deeds and fought bad guys and loved a powerful incredible (lucky) woman and most of all, where he created an Eden where lions really did live peacefully with their prey. Funny to think of that- these two stories striking me so much because of similar elements- though in fact I have never thought of it until now. I wondered, thinking about David’s piece and my own memories, where Ebooks would fit in that scenario. Then I thought of my own daughter, who had utterly rejected the idea of a kindle, even though I had downloaded a book for her into mine, and here she is right now, in this snow surrounded mountain lodge, sitting by a heater reading my kindle avidly – and isn’t it possible, even likely, that when she thinks back on this wonderful week in the snow, that this will be one of her cherished memories of this time?

      • deb says:

        Isobelle, how could you not love Little Golden Books. Saggy Baggy Elephant, Pokey Little Puppy and others. I started reading with these and my teachers in primary school wondered why I detested the Dick and Jane books.

      • He ha I don’t know why I don’t remember them- maybe I would if I saw them. Maybe my mum still has them- I might ask her and see what she says- stay tuned to this thread and I will get back to it after next weekend!

      • Min Dean says:

        I remember the Pokey Little Puppy!

        Well – I remember the picture of the puppy on the cover. I can’t recall what happens in the story.

        (and a part of my brain goes, ‘Doesn’t matter, there was a puppy’).

      • Maureen says:

        Your last sentence got me rethinking the ebook Isobelle. Much as I wish hardcopy books could be forever, I think you are right about fond memories still attaching to the ebook in the same way. The medium might change, but the magic in the words doesn’t.

    4. deb says:

      I started reading at a young age, just before I went to school, and I’ve never stopped. I have so many memories attached to books from my childhood. Lord of the Rings, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Magic Faraway Tree.

      I practically lived in the library at school. An introvert with a love of words who couldn’t use those words to communicate with real people. Reading and writing allowed me to live in my own little world, and saved me from the horrors of real life.

      The books I had to read for school were boring and very gender centred. I could never understand why girls couldn’t do all the things that the boys could and vice-versa. The girls I went to school with were mostly very girly and the boys, very ‘manly’. I wanted to be both.

      When my son started to walk I bought him a doll and a pram, much to my husbands disgust. David loved them, just as his sister loved the cars and trucks I bought her. Both of my children learned to cook, both had chores, that in my childhood were determined by gender, that rotated so they got to do it all. Same with books. No gender specifics in my household, thank you very much.

      It really surprises me that the emphasis on gender is still alive and well in today’s society. And I’m guessing that it isn’t about to change any time soon.

      I have however kept all my favourite books, and the ones I bought for my kids, to share with my grandchildren some day. Hopefully they will appreciate them even if they are superseded by electronic books and media.

    5. Natalie says:

      I grew up in a house with 5 other siblings and not much money, so reading wasn’t on the list of important things to do around the house. I don’t remember having many books, but one of the books I do remember is one of those beautifully illustrated Disney story books. It had about 6 or 7 of the main Disney stories and I would read them all of the time. I have no idea where it is now (it was rather sorry looking the last time I saw it) but it will always be a book I remember vividly. Throughout school I would forever be stalking the libraries for new reading material (where I came across Deltora, Hogwarts and other worlds) and when I got my first job, my first paycheck bought me my favourite books. I now have several bookcases filled with books.

      For me, a bookcase full of books tells it’s own story. You look at bookshelves and you can see bits and pieces of the owner mixed with wonderful stories. Which I guess is why some people are so hesitant to move onto ebooks. While they are convenient, there seems to be a distance placed between the reader and the book. Some books you can open up and see stains where you might have accidentally spilled something. If you spill something on ebooks, the kindle would probably break. I just don’t think the same level of value is placed on ebooks that are placed on the physical book.

      Then again, in a few years, we’ll probably see more people succumb to the e-universe and it will be a thing of the norm to have your own collection of ebooks.

      • Maureen says:

        My first edition Australian copy of Chamber of Secrets has creaming soda spilt all through it in butterfly patterns. Every time I reread it, I remember how angry I was at my autistic brother for doing it (he got so caught up in the story he titled his drink as he read without noticing) and how I stole a packet of smarties off him in retribution. I would have been about 11 or 12.

    6. Jo Turner says:

      I would like to think that regardless of my childhood I would have always been a reader, however I know that my mother’s role in my life of books is a large and un-ignorable factor in my reading and whole life.
      I do not remember a time in my life when I could not read and I never really thought about it until I found out that my mother, keen on bringing up her children properly, had bought reading cards that she stuck about the house for my older brother to learn to read before he started school. Sadly my brother never had the aptitude for my mother’s passion, but apparently I more than made up for it by doing what she intended for my brother instead. So I have no memories of being read to as a child, because of that reason I suspect. Only a few years ago my father told me I was a problem child because I had a reading age many years my senior and they apparently didn’t know what to do with me. Well he didn’t but my mother did.
      My mother shaped my reading life more than she must have ever realised. While we did not have money to buy all the books I wanted, she did have the most enormous collection of her own childhood, which I gobbled up when I eventually found them. As I became older (and hopefully wiser) she revealed to me that she was glad I read these books because they described her life as a child and it made her happy to know I knew about it. Now, without her in my life, I cling to the knowledge that not only did I know her as my mother, but as a child as well, and by re-reading those books, she is there with me, or at least I hope she is.
      In the eVolution of the electronic age, we worry about the lack of encouragement for reading with the loss of paper books, because the physical object is often related with the emotional memory. I find I worry less about this, because I know it was not just the books, but the people surrounding the books, the ones who suggested the books, the mother that watched me read the books as she read her own are the ones keeping the books alive. And that is where this sort of website helps us keep the wonder of the book and the story alive, where we think about the books, look for ways for the stories to be shared with the next generation, and encourage reading to all people. I know this because I live with an example of it. My partner, who rarely read during the first ten years I have been with him, is now reading because I gave him a kindle. He has read more in the last year than he has in the first ten years I knew him. Why? Because he can find things he wants to read more easily, more quickly and he doesn’t worry about damaging his books, because they are electronic and cannot be damaged that way. He has books, but as a collector, has a terrible time bringing himself to pick up the book he doesn’t want to damage.
      The only thing that concerns me is what the future of libraries will bring – a safe haven of childhood and the gateway that leads to books you might never have otherwise thought to read.

      • Chris Neilsen says:

        It’s so interesting the emotional and physical memory we give books. My memory of first reading the first four Harry Potter novels is of sitting up in bed with my cat for half the day. I’ve read lots of books in bed, of course, and some days I’m sure my cats play ‘Stacks on Chris’, but the feeling of my doona and everything about that is still tied to my memory of those books. I’ve read them many times since too, but it hasn’t changed.

        But I also remember the associations of people giving you books or discussing books with them, like you said. A girl I wasn’t close friends with in high school recommended the Obernewtyn books to me. We weren’t not friends, we just didn’t hang out together and weren’t in the same circles. But we were in the same year 9 class and somehow we got talking about books, and she told me to read these. I vividly remember discussing the books while doing gymnastics in PE, and her talking about the theories on obernet that Dameon loved Elspeth in English class (I mean- we were totally doing our work…)

        And I don’t have the same recollections of the other books I read at the same time. We read Looking For Alibrandi in year 9 English, and I loved the book. But whilst I’m sure we discussed it to death in class, I don’t have the recollections of sharing moments with someone about the book. Even though I read the books at the same time and I liked both, Obernewtyn and the Legendsong books are tied in my mind with these memories of getting excited with this girl about certain scenes, and I don’t have the same association for Looking for Alibrandi.

        So I completely agree, I don’t think ebooks are going to change the emotional memories around reading, especially about reading books that have a human aspect to them.

    7. Chris Neilsen says:

      I have vague recollections of reading with my Dad before I was old enough for school, my favourite book at the time of the memory had a mauve cover and came with stickers but that’s all I remember!

      One of my most vivid memories of the school library is crying in about Prep or Grade 1 because I had lost a book, it was from the non-fiction section and was about tomatoes I think. The next time I lost a school book I did so at Brisbane airport, on my way home from visiting my grandparents up there, and I didn’t even realise until the librarian told me it had been posted to the school! No tears that time, at least.

      I remember being read to by the librarian in Library Classes, and failing to understand verbs in other library classes, but I only really remember two books I borrowed from it. One was called something like ‘Tomorrow is another day’ and was about a girl being stuck in her crushed house after an earthquake (it was rather surreal years later reading Stuart Diver’s account of the Thredbo landslide), and the other was ‘Z for Zachariah’ that I was given in the grade 6 advanced reading class. The image in my head of the father’s twisted leg has stayed with me ever since.

      Of course, I read a lot of books from home too. The Harry Potter books didn’t become famous in Aus until the 4th one came out, and I was given the first four for my 11th birthday. I read them over and over and over again. My birthday was always in the September holidays, and I think within about 2 days I had finished all 4, but I just reread them. (And then my Dad read them too, such that when the later ones came out we would steal the book off each other. If you put it down, say to go to the bathroom or to sleep, the book was open to be stolen and you couldn’t get it back until the other person put it down!) In grade 5 my friend I cast all our friends as characters from John Marsden’s Tomorrow series too, I was Ellie.

      These days, having finished high school, I get most of my books from the local community library or my friends. They’ve remodelled my primary school library since I left, but I can still vividly remember what it used to look like. I think I remember it almost better than a lot of other parts of my primary school!

      And now, I should get back to do the readings for the intensive uni subject I’m doing next week! They’re not as interesting as my current novel though 🙁

    8. Min Dean says:

      Now that you mention it David, I remember a set of encyclopedias at my grandparents from early childhood…I wonder what happened to them? If I strain my brain, the only thing I remember reading about in them is bears…
      I think if I knew where they were, I’d love to have them because it’d remind me of my grandparents – just like my grandmother’s paintings, or my grandfather’s old atlas.

      I love everyone’s earliest memories of books stories and I want to ask – do you think it is the content you love, or the physical object – or further still, the memories? Memories that the physical object invokes – or the memories of the excitement that came with reading the content?

      I’m sure everyone thinks I’ll be all ‘it’s content that matters!’ – but I don’t know – I have to remind myself of this event, prompted by Maureen’s mention above of having creaming soda spilled all over a book by her brother:

      When I was 21 I used to take The Keeping Place with me everywhere, like a security blanket (*hides*), because I could turn to any page whenever I had a moment and engage my brain in that world (the characters in the OC feel like old friends, and I know I’m not the only person who thinks that, hence why I have no worry about saying that 😛 ).
      I traveled to NZ to see a guy I was dating at the time (this was in the time before Paul, I need to make clear!) and TKP was the only book I took with me, because it was important to me – and I didn’t have much room to spare with all the warm clothes I had to pack.
      He spilled a drink on it one night, and didn’t care.
      I was distraught at his casual dismissal of his ‘accident’ – and he just didn’t get my reaction. ‘It’s just a book – can’t you replace it?’
      (…and, yeah, clearly, I broke up with him not long after).
      Physical-object wise, I have several other versions of TKP place now. But, um, NO. I cannot replace that first edition I used to carry around everywhere. I hold that falling-apart, dried out copy even more over protectively now (though thankfully I’m not carrying it around everywhere any more) – just let anyone try to hurt it again.
      So I think it’s because in the case of the four questions I was asking above – why do I love it? That book answers ‘yes’ to all four questions for me. Before that old ex-boyfriend spilled his drink on it, it fulfilled three of them.

      I guess…in remembering that story, I don’t know how to explain myself on this one any more. I think the majority of the time I love the content and emotional response generated through reading the content over all else (though the holding of the whole package could be argued as being part of the emotional response? Maybe).

      I love that I can hold it in book form – but if I had no choice in the matter and had to choose story over object, I’d prefer the story in it’s glory, to a physical book with blank pages.

      Just…don’t even think about touching my first copy of The Keeping Place

      • David Dawkins says:

        I think it’s the content more than the book, though there is a comfortable familiarity in handling an old friend. To ingratiate herself with someone my mother gave away all the favourites that I’d been keeping and I still miss them, struggling to remember the contents more than the covers. It’s the ideas that are important, for we easily forget and do not miss those books that are mere stories and say nothing to us.

      • Deb says:

        Years ago as we were just starting out, being extremely broke with kids to feed, I made the decision to sell my book collections. It totally broke my heart but paid the bills and saved us from having the electricity cut.

        I did keep a number of favourites but lost so many memories that I think were kept clear by holding the actual book.

        A few years later, same situation, I did it again. I cried both times, while hubby just looked at me and shook his head.

    9. Oh you have reminded me of this old set of encyclopedia my parents were guilted into buying by a door to door salesman (probably the once upon a time equivalent of a telemarketer)I LOVED them because they had myths and legends in them, so I was familiar with the relationship between Sparta and Athens from the age of 12. But I also remember this incredible part where there was this series of clear plates showing the layers of a frog from outside to inside to bones- I was completely fascinated by it and I used to go to it often and turn those leaves, marveling at the way a book could show me the insides of a frog! I guess that was the precursor of an app and I was entranced…

    10. Heather Giles says:

      Wow, all these posts and comments bring forth a flood of wonderful memories of books and reading. I can’t remember being read to as a child either, but I was an avid reader by grade 4 and some of my most cherished memories are those fortnightly visits to the local library, eagerly looking for the next book in the current series I was reading or anything by the author I had just discovered. To be surrounded by thousands of books and the endless possibilities of choice. This passion continued into adulthood but moving from the city and a large well stocked library with new releases and books on all subjects to a small country town where the library bus stopped only for a few hours fortnightly with a selection that never changed and that catered for the children and the seniors in the community, required a huge adjustment, it is something I have missed and just took for granted, the access to a well stocked library.

    11. I loved libraries as a kid and would spend hours reading encyclopaedias and those great pictorial history books where castles, boats or factories would be cut open and you could see inside and learn about what everyone did.
      But then the Internet happened and it blew my mind. Now I trawl the Internet, often getting stuck on page after page on Wikipedia…
      I can’t quite decide if concern about these changes is just nostalgia or not – on the one hand it’s worrying that kids spend less time in libraries reading books and on the other hand they have access to so much information on the Internet. But how much of that computer time is spent away from games, facebook, youtube and top 10 lists?

    12. David E. Cowen says:

      My early favorites were a collection of TOR and ACE paperbacks scattered throughout my school library in the late 1960s. ACE had a series of double books — you read one and then flipped the book over for the other. I had no idea that these little novels on pulp would become classics of the genre. They set my imagination and love for science fiction and fantasy for life.