August 17, 2012

via Crommunist.

Formative Reading

August 17, 2012

On the Twitts yesterday, Rebecca Skloot asked a few of her Tweeps about which formative fiction books they best remember reading when they were 10-15 years old. I came to it a bit late but we had a lot of fun talking about some of our favorite reads. Rather than try to storify it, let’s take another whack at it from the blog side….

My trouble was one mentioned by edyong, i.e., that I can’t really recall precisely when I read which particular books. My other problem, which was what made the Twittersation so much fun, was that I don’t always remember the books until my memory is jogged. So let’s have at it.

In my more fixed memories, I am pretty sure I started the obsessive-reading thing just prior to first grade. My first real book memory is of On the Banks of Plum Creek from Laura Ingalls Wilder. I went through most of her works in short order. Then through towards 3rd or 4th I was working through Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames, Bobbsey Twins, my dad’s old Tom Swift books. Somewhere in there came The Great Brain and perhaps 4th to 5th a diversion into my mom’s old-lady mysteries- Agatha Christie, etc. None of this was what I think of as formative in terms of really essential good-reads, although it established the life of a reader. Later on, there were more in this category. Piers Anthony is apparently most famous for xanth novels but I don’t think I read many of those- Apprentice Adept series was my thing

Watership Down, Narnia Chronicles, The Dark is Rising series and the Arthurian works of Mary Stewart were around 5th grade. These are starting to be what I think of as formative books…ones I’d be disappointed if my kids never read and ones that in many cases really did contribute to my orientation on the world.

There are also a host of books which I don’t know when I read them but very likely it was just prior to, and into, Skloot’s 10-15 year old interval. My recollection is that by 13-14 my obsessive reading was tapering off so mostly up to about 13.

Lord of the Rings, of course.
The Foundation Trilogy by Asimov
Vonnegut’s works
Heinlein- an interesting recollection of always thinking his intellectual elitism and macho libertarianism was a bit of a spoof. This was buttressed by my later life realization that for some people Heinlein was their Ayn Rand. Like they actually were on board with that stuff. Rollicking good reads though.
L’Engle- I think I read Wrinkle in Time and the two other ones a bit early
Thomas Covenant series

What do you remember Dear Reader? Which fiction books from your youth were most important to you?

ps for the scifi nerds who haven’t seen it yet, Baen Free Library will give you free samples (not recommended for anyone starting their new Assistant Professor job).

pps anyone who mentions the Hobbit movies will get punched in the e-nads

Gurdur has an excellent post on “How not to criticize psychiatry“. It’s a must read.

Many psychomedications – just like many medications in general – can have bad side-effects. So do you for example recommend vaguely against antibiotics or cortisone or aspirin because in each case there can be bad side-effects? Or how about whether Lipitor (a statin, used to lower cholesterol level) can cause memory loss or not? Or chemotherapy meds that can really go to town in side-effects? This is yet again the hurdle of lack of exactness; a very vague accusation made without context or consideration. There is also the factor that a severe mental dysfunction is itself very dangerous to the sufferer – and as with many other conditions, such as the also-as-yet-poorly-understood autoimmune conditions, it becomes a matter of weighing risks and effects of a medication against risks and effects of the original illness.

Likely because like most people, most skeptics etc. simply don’t know enough about psychiatry – or medicine in general. Access to good healthcare is an even more important issue, and includes psychiatry, yet just how many skeptics, atheists etc. cover health and healthcare issues in any detailed depth? Very few indeed. SC is right to say psychiatry should be a concern for the left, for skeptics, for everybody. But then so too should immunology, paediatrics, and practically every other branch of medicine. Health care is a pressing concern, and often very much a class issue too.