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Law Humor: Arkansawyer
Ten Books, you say?
Okay, I’ll bite. The ten(nish) books that most influenced me are these, which I read well before I turned twenty-one:
- Billy Bass, by R. W. Eschmeyer From this book I gained two things in particular: The “fact” that fish don’t feel pain and a visceral revulsion toward pollution.
- The Golden Treasury of Natural History, by Bertha Morris Parker, and The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments, by Robert Brent and Harry Lazarus Our friend and veterinarian Doc Sturdivant gave me the Treasury when I turned six, and I discovered the Experiments in the St. Paul’s library in second grade. I still have my original Treasury. My parents gave me (over time) two copies of the Experiments; I know where one page of one copy is.
- The Freddie the Pig series, by Walter R. Brooks These books fueled my imagination, with the Federal Animal Republic, the clockwork boy, the overt anti-communism, the whole enchilada.
- Marie Curie, by an author I can’t place I also discovered this at St. Paul’s Lutheran in second grade and it’s stuck with me over time. One dreadful detail of fact haunted me for years: jura Znevr erprvirf Cvreer’f rssrpgf, vapyhqvat gur pybgurf ur jnf jrnevat jura ur qvrq, fur pbzrf npebff n fpnes ba juvpu cneg bs Cvreer’f oenva unf pehfgrq. (to translate)
- Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein These books bent my mind, in both good and bad ways, and the traces remain to this day.
- The Year’s Best Science Fiction, 7th Edition, edited by Judith Merril There are about a dozen pieces in this anthology who helped shape my thinking: Fritz Leiber, Shari Tepper, Fredrick Pohl, Cyril Kornbluth, Mack Reynolds, James Blish, Leo Szilard, Cordwainer Smith, Maxine Kumin, Edward Gorey, Kit Reed, Anne McCaffery, Lawrence Durrell, Alice Glazer, Merril herself. All Merril’s anthologies were good, but this one was great, at least for me.
- The Wanderer, by Fritz Leiber, and Dhalgren, by Samuel R. Delaney These two books, as different from each other as War and Peace from Ulysses, were the earthier side of my Heinlein obsessions.
- Sometimes A Great Notion, by Ken Kesey It’s the best novel written in English in the twentieth century, in my opinion.
- First Course in the Theory of Equations, by L. E. Dickson, and Calculus, third edition, by George B. Thomas These books opened my mind to higher mathematics. The Dickson book was a way of thought that I’d never before encountered; Thomas developed basic calculus in a way that eventually made real analysis much easier and much more meaningful.
- Another Roadside Attraction, by Tom Robbins Robbins’ unashamed sensuality and iconoclastic sensibility fit me perfectly at the time, and I hope does to this day.
- Illuminatus! by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson and Masks of the Illuminati by Robert Anton Wilson Books full of lies, truths about lies, lies about lies, lies upon lies. Truly a case of the abyss staring back.
There are other, possibly more disreputable books I could put on, but this is my list. I’m not sure where I’d cut it. It seems Mad Magazine and The National Lampoon should be on there, too. There are also books I read much later which are, in their way, influential on me. What we read when we’re young, though, that’s what grooves into our brains. ”What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a chlid?”
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