Everyone thinks like a writer. Among their many character flaws, writers feel an obligation to share their inner dialog with the rest of the world, whether or not the world is interested. Blogs are great for that. I find facebook less great for that. It’s famous of course, for self-publishing, as is Twitter and all the new social media platforms, but the format doesn’t suit my style of sharing my inner dialog.
So when I was invited to play a game by my facebook friends to post seven days of books that have influenced my life, I’ve instead taken to my blog. I don’t play facebook games in general because most of them are simply intended to share little icons that contain adware. This game was harmless, but I prefer the long form story with mixed photos and text to seven short bursts of content.
I began reading in earnest in 4th grade. Over the next two years I read every Hardy Boys mystery on the planet, which for me was the Carnegie-built library in Marion, Iowa. Although the most influential book from that period of my life was Old Yeller, which made me cry. I also read a fair share of Indian Chief biographies. Whenever I played Cowboys and Indians, I was an Indian.
By middle school, I was in an advanced English class, and was forced to read some of the classics, such as Great Expectations. I didn’t care for stories where authors were paid by the word. I don’t mind long books, but I’m a fan of getting to the point. The book from those years that opened my eyes to the world and the horrors of war was The Children of the Atomic Bomb. One of my sisters borrowed it from the West High School library in Davenport, Iowa, apparently in 1966. It still sits on the bookshelf in my study. Don’t tell anyone. I read Jaws in 8th grade as well.
My reading diminished in high school, first in lieu of sports, and then to afford me time for girls. I found girls too pretty to ignore. I tended, however, to read books after my mother was finished with them. She was into financial thrillers by Paul Erdman, first The Crash of ’79, later The Panic of ’89. In more recent years, my favorite author of financial thrillers became Michael Lewis, although his stories are more non-fiction. His method though is to develop the characters in a manner similar to what makes good fiction, so he blurs the line.
I read less fiction in college than I did in high school. Not enough time. I started my subscription to the Wall Street Journal then, which I continue nearly forty years later. As I started my career, I shifted to more non-fiction. Sometimes I have to force myself to read more fiction. To stay competitive in the job market, I don’t understand how a generous amount of non-fiction can be avoided. I read a book or two on the telecom market, which preceded my graduate studies in that industry, but the first book I read to support my job as a firewall admin was Firewalls and Internet Security: Repelling the Wily Hacker. It was the tech bible at a time I found myself deploying firewalls between IBM’s Sydney data centers and the data networks supporting the 2000 Olympic Games venues.
My first truly fun read on cybersecurity was Clifford Stoll’s, The Cuckoo’s Egg. It was also non-fiction, but read like a fictional tech thriller and was a strong influence on my desire to write a cybersecurity tech thriller. My style though probably borrows more from reading everything Neal Stephenson has ever written, such as Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and Reamde.
My favorite genre is historical fiction. I’m currently reading Pillars of the Earth by one of my favorite authors, Ken Follett. It might have been first published forty years ago, but I received the 3rd story in his Kingsbridge trilogy, A Column of Fire, for Christmas last year, and I want to read them all. My goal as a writer is to graduate to writing historical fiction, once I think my writing has improved enough for a more literary style. Perhaps after I’m retired and have time for the requisite travel.