It is 1:47 PM Wednesday April 30, 2014. I was reading a book titled, “Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeannette Watson and Books & CO.” by Lynne Tillman. As I was reading this book I started to remembering the history of how I got into reading books. What encounters have I had over my 61 years with books and reading books. I was trying to remember the first time I was exposed to reading materials.
I remember back in the early 60’s living in Norfolk Virginia and getting in the mail a Boy Scouts magazine in the mail. I also remember reading as a boy Mad magazine. I do not know if I was into comic magazines as a boy.
I grew up among people who did not read to me. I do not remember my mother or my step-fathers reading or having books. I do not believe my step-fathers or my mother went beyond High School. I do not even know if my mother finished High School.
I do remember reading as a boy the Bible on my own. I do remember as a boy checking out books from Library Book mobiles. I also remember reading encyclopedias that one could buy one volume at a time at grocery stores. I remember sitting on the floor at grocery stores and reading encyclopedias. I do not remember owning a set of encyclopedias as a child.
I remember when I was nine years old my grandfather sending me books as gifts. I have still today two Bibles given to me by my grandfather.
I remember as a boy looking at books whenever I came across them. Books have always fascinated me.
As a boy I was exposed to pornographic magazines. My mother was divorced a couple of times and she has boyfriends that kept in their homes Playboy magazines. I do not remember reading Playboy magazines, but just looking at the photos of nude women. I think around this time I was in my early teens.
The first novel I remember reading was novel my mother bought titled, “The Carpetbaggers” a novel by Harold Robbins (published in 1961). I bought at a used book sale awhile back a copy of this novel by Harold Robbins.
In my early teens I went through a period where I stole paperbacks from grocery stores. I would steal paperbacks and then find some isolated spot unusually in a vacant lot and read. I would not take the stolen books with me but hide them someplace. I think I only did this when I was in Middle School (around 13 or 14 years old). I had no money to buy books so I shoplifted books. I am shame to confess, but as a teenager I did do a lot of shoplifting. I would steal books and candy. (when I got older and had no money I would steal pens so as to write).
I think I really got into reading books when I got into my High School years (1968-1970). In High School (Richmond California) I was really into books. I started hanging out at the Richmond City Public Library where I was always checking out books. I still had no money for books. I do remember my first foster parent Maria having a small library of books that I would read. I would though have to say in High School I was more into sex, drugs and Nature. I did though in High School read a ton of stuff but not deeply. I still have some books from my High School days.
The summer after graduating from High School is when the Lord Jesus saved me (Summer of 1970). After I completed High School the following year I went to Contra Costa Jr. College for a year. I used the colleges library a lot and I also started reading and studying the Bible. I would say the first five years of my Christian life I read and studied the Bible mainly. The Christian circles I was in with were mostly into emotional Christianity and not intellectual Christianity. I do not remember reading many Christian books the first five years of my Christian life.
Around 1974 or 1975 I was living and working at a Christian commune in Northern California and at this commune was a large collection of Reformed books. I remember mainly reading C. H. Spurgeon’s three volume Commentary on the Psalms. Years later I bought for myself Spurgeon’s three volume commentary set on the Old Testament Psalms of David.
To make a long story short around 1976 I started reading Reformed or Calvinistic literature. I still had no money to buy books but the church I was a member of had a large library of Reformed and 17th century English Puritan reprints which I read. Also I discovered in the San Francisco Bay Area where seminaries that loaned out books. Back in those days I would spend time in seminaries reading old books by the Puritans and other Reformed writers like Thomas Boston, Thomas Goodwin, John Owen and on and on it goes. I now have in my own library the writings of Boston, Goodwin and Owen.
I basically read only Reformed Puritan literature from 1976 till the present. Well I think I stopped reading all the time Calvinistic literature when I got laid off from my last job back in June 2007. When I was working I only had mental energy to prepare for my Adult Sunday School class (which I taught for 10 years) and personally devotional reading. Since 2007 I have mainly read whatever interests me as a Christian.
I should do some back tracking and mention that after leaving the Richmond Rescue Mission in 1976 I attended in Grand Rapids Michigan Reformed Bible College. I met my wife Carol while a student at RBC and she would buy me books while we were dating. (Carol and I knew each other only six months before we got married. On May 19th we will celebrate being married 35 years.)
While in college I bought a lot of books and have continued to buy books till the present day.
After graduating from Reformed Bible College we moved to Jackson Mississippi where I attended Reformed Theological Seminary. Throughout seminary I read a ton of stuff and continued to add to our library. Like I wrote earlier during these years of college and seminary I mainly read Reformed Theology and the Bible. Now I did buy while in seminary some secular book but not many. I do remember while in seminary buying for example “Naked Lunch” by William Burroughs. (back in those seminary days Beat books where hard to find new)
Since getting laid off from work back in June 2007 and leaving the visible church I have gone back to reading not only Christian literature but the books I read when I was a young man. A couple of years ago my wife and I got into going to used book sales and now into visiting thrift stores. I now read all over the map. I now fill my days reading books and writing in my paper diary.
2:48 p.m. - 2014-04-30