When I was young I used to read religiously! Then again, I still read more than any of my friends…
The first books I really got into were things like the Goosebumps series and other kids thriller novels. After I devoured young adult thrillers, I fell deeply into the Harry Potter craze and everything that came with it. Inkheart, followed by the Bartimaeus Sequence series, books like the Warriors and eventually Narnia (a classic 90’s literary upbringing)
But my early taste in books was also heavily influenced by my parents.
Growing up my parents worked as Scientists, so I was constantly exposed to a ton of books related to science. I would read everything from encyclopedias, fun-fact books, books on history, astronomy, biology and everything in between!
Books are magical. They allow us to step out of this world and into another. Through books, we can experience a universe that is completely different from our day-to-day reality.
When I was younger I wanted to learn everything about the world. I think I’ve done a decent job at reading and learning so far. But its interesting to consider how different my thoughts would be today if my younger self had read some of my favorite books as an adult.
With that in mind, here are some gems that I wish I’d read when I was younger because they inform so much of who I am today
1. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
I’m currently making my way through this epic corpus of literature and my God does Sir Arthur Conan Doyle know how to hell a damn good story! I’m reading a very old copy of the Unabridged version of the stories and the illustrations accompanying the mysteries are phenomenal as well. The art of great story telling, the thrill of suspense and mystery, the intellect of the worlds most observant hero, all working together to give the reader a reference for what great literature should be.
2. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
I first read this book in 2013 and since then I have re-read it every year since! Jules Vern is a terrific french writer and as a testament to this, even his translated English works are among the best books of all time. If you are just getting into Vern and are not sure where to start then I would highly highly highly recommend this book but others are great too such as the classic, Around the world in 80 days.
3. Stranger In a Strange Land
This is a masterpiece of science fiction – anyone who says differently can shut the fuck up right now. This book is not only well written, with excellent characters and all the Sci-Fi bells and whistles (flying cars, alien civilizations, government, etc.), but it also holds some complex philosophical ideas that have been invaluable to me since reading the book. The most fundamental of these concepts is the idea of Grok. You may have herd this word before and not understood what it means. I’ll be writing an article (or five) about Grok in the future (probably next week), but for now you can understand it as simply learning or absorbing. Heinlein actually coined this word Grok when he published the book in the early 60’s and since then Stranger In A Strange Land has been a reference for philosophical types the world over.
4. A Sting In The Tale, My Adventures With Bumble Bees
This book is relatively new (published 2013) so there’s no way I could have read it as a child growing up in the 90’s, but trust me when I say that I wish I had. The book is non-fiction and slightly bibliographical in the way the author approaches story telling. Reading it gave me a sense of curiosity and inner peace – the kind of curiosity that can only be found in the heart of a scientist. Dr. Dave Goulson is a biologist and reading his book offers a fascinating glimpse into the complex world of Bumble Bee biology and conservation. The story begins with adventures from childhood and moves naturally into a career surrounded by Bees. A good read for anyone sitting in a garden among flowers, listening to the buzz of insects and the soft gurgle of a nearby stream.
5. Fool by Christopher Moore… actually, anything by Christopher Moore!
He is without a doubt one of the most hilarious and well written novelists in the world today. He publishes about a book a year but you will finish them all in no time and then go on hating the man for not writing faster! Fool is a comedic take on Shakespeare’s King Lear as told by the perspective of the Fool, and it could not be better. Note: you don’t need to be a Shakespearean literary critic to enjoy this novel. I give Christoper Moore my 100% fan card and let us pray that he keeps publishing for decades to come.
6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
After I first read this book, I set it down for about 5 minuets, got up to make some tea and then sat down to read it all again for a second time! When Hunter S. Thompson was learning how to write novels, legend has it that he copied The Great Gatsby word for word just so he could understand how Fitzgerald did it – how a masterpiece worked. This remains one of the best pieces of writing I have ever read and I will no doubt read it again soon! At the time it helped me understand concepts such as obsession and ambition from a totally engaging perspective that I had not yet encountered in our success obsessed society. Great writing. You should probably read this one.
7. Brain Building, In Just 12 Weeks! by Marilyn vos Savant
I read this book in the year 2013 and I thought it was incredibly engaging and effective. Am I smarter after reading it? Probably, hard to tell with these types of things but probably. What if I had read it at age 14? Definitely. The coolest thing about Brain Building is that it teaches patience by asking the reader to take their time and only complete a few assignments each week. There are 155 unique assignments, each organized into 15 chapters, all aimed at helping the reader develop a well-rounded intellect. Marilyn vos Savant is credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the highest IQ ever recorded. It’s clear, after reading this book, that she puts routine effort into maintaining and expanding her intellectual and problem solving abilities