I’ve been a book lover, but not necessarily a serious reader, my entire life. My mom put me to bed with a story every night when I was a child (usually one of the Uncle Wiggily stories, which I couldn’t get enough of.) And our house was full of books, again, thanks to my mom: Book-of-the-Month Club books; World Book encyclopedias; those great 26-volume Time-Life Books series. Somehow, before Amazon, she had figured out how to get all her books by mail.
But I had attention issues that made reading on my own challenging as a kid. I couldn’t focus for long. I would score well on standardized tests, but struggle with the reading comprehension passages. I once thought of this period of my life, from around 8-to-16 or so, as a period when I fell out of love with books. But looking back I realize I had my nose in a book all the time — it just might have been the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook or Monster Manual. Or Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the Book of Lists, or the Bill James Baseball Abstracts (which should count as math, too).
I would even count baseball cards, because I devoured statistics so I could play this fantasy board game called APBA baseball, which used real stats and charts to let you pretend to manage your favorite team. I may not have been reading many novels, but I like to think I would have earned my Nerdy Book Club card several times over. I mean, in high school, when my classmates were going to Florida for Spring Break, my friends and I were going to Florida for Spring Training, with player guides, stat sheets, and rotisserie baseball books in hand.
I feel like I was lucky to go through this period when I did, before there were hundreds of cable television channels and stunningly lifelike video games to compete for my attention. (I had an Atari 5200 and all of five games: Asteroids; Frogger; Centipede; Donkey Kong; and Ms. Pac-Man.) Dungeons & Dragons and APBA Baseball were actually very effective outlets for my imagination, given how primitive those games were visually compared to the computer-based versions today.
I guess my mom agreed. She made my junior high teacher give me back my D&D manuals when they were banned and confiscated at my religious school because they were allegedly wicked. She took it as a personal affront that my teacher didn’t seem to think I was smart enough or well-brought-up enough to distinguish fantasy from genuine devil worship.
It all finally came together in college. I went to a liberal arts school intending to be an accountant, and had a freshman lit professor who not only sparked a love for books, but took away the fear factor of engaging with longer, more difficult texts. And it was actually my faculty advisor — an economics professor who was a book nerd himself — who encouraged me to write when he decided he was having a hard time picturing me balancing columns of assets and liabilities all day.
So I suppose I’m here to say you can be a book nerd, or an honorary Nerdy Book Club member, I hope, even if your love of story or escape takes different shapes along the way.
Barry Wolverton is the first human ever granted access to the walrus library at Ocean’s End, where he conducted extensive research forNEVERSINK, his first book. In addition to Walrus he speaks Chicken, although actual chickens don’t appear to understand him. He lives with a moderately overweight cat named Charlie (who understands him but doesn’t listen) in Memphis, Tenn. Visit him at www.barrywolverton.com.
Check out the rest of Barry’s blog tour:
Wednesday, 3/28 – Guest Post & Giveaway at Cari’s Book Blog
Thursday, 3/29 – Interview & Giveaway with Teach Mentor Texts
Friday, 3/30 – Review & Giveaway at Buried in Books
Saturday, 3/31 – Guest Post at Buried in Books
Saturday, 3/31 – Review & Giveaway at Icey Books
Sunday, 4/1 – Review & Giveaway at The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Monday, 4/2 – Review & Giveaway at The Write Path
Tuesday, 4/3 – Guest Post with The Other Side of the Story
Wednesday, 4/4 – Interview with There’s a Book
Thursday, 4/5 – Interview & Giveaway with National Children’s Book Examiner
Friday 4/6 – Author/Editor Interview at Another Gray Day