Libraries have always been a big part of my life ever since I learned to read. I went into the first grade never having been taught a thing about reading and won a prize for reading the most books in my class that year.
School libraries became one of my favorite haunts after that. I read most of the stuff that boys read during the fifties. Every year I got better and began raising my level of books. The Hardy Boys were a big favorite(I may even have read a Nancy Drew or two; I don’t really remember) and the Tom Swift, Jr. titles I devoured as fast as I could get my hands on them. Edgar Rice Burroughs was another love. I read everything of his I could find and, as unsophisticated as I was, didn’t realize there was a lot more until I started digging through the public libraries.
We lived in a very small town and the first public library I remember was one small room in the basement of the local YMCA. Mama told that it had once been a barber shop where I’d gotten my first haircut ever(I certainly don’t remember as I was somewhere under a year; mama said I cried a lot). It was crammed with books and I loved exploring the shelves to find stuff I could handle.
Some few years after that, the doctor in town built a substantial building to house his office(he was giving up house calls) and half was turned over for a bigger library. Several rooms in fact. I was in heaven the first time I checked it out. Who could imagine that many books in the world(hey, I was small; what can I say).
It was in that library that I made my greatest discovery: TUNNEL IN THE SKY by Robert Heinlein. The spine had a small rocket ship at the bottom and it looked like it might be interesting.
Boy was it!
I went through all the Heinlein they had(I’m talking about his juveniles here) and then went all over the library looking for those “rocket” books. I couldn’t tell you the names of most those authors I read back then. The only other ones that come to mind are Andre Norton and J(oan) Hunter Holly. I hate to admit if I’d known they were women, I may not have tried them.
Those “rocket” books ruined me so to speak. I suppose the Tom Swift books might be considered science fiction, but he wasn’t blasting off to other worlds on a regular basis.
I so got into that stuff that I recall one memorable Saturday jumping on my bike early and riding the mile or so to the library. I found six SF that looked good and figured that should hold me for the weekend. Little did I know.
Getting home, I started to read and before the day was done, I finished all six. These were of course short juveniles, but still…
After Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton’s books were next among my favorites in my early teens. The Time Traders series tops the list, but her novel Daybreak 2250 A.D.(Starman’s Son) would be the one I liked the best. I own copies of both though the first version I owned and read was the previous. It shows the protagonist and his partner, a large mutant cat, on a raft with the ruins of a city along the banks of the river.
It would be a couple of more years before I made it to high school and learned all my favorite writers had so many more books. More adult books. As well as a wealth of other books of all types.