Thursday, February 9, 2017

My History of Book Reports And "Ready Player One"

With books and reading being as much a part of my adult life as it has been, it's hard to believe that I didn't like it as a kid. Well, I should say I didn't like it when it was considered "work" and not leisure. 

Ever since I learned how, I have read for enjoyment. Comic books (or "funny books" as me and my cousins used to call them) were the top source of material. I wasn't into the super hero comics. I liked the cartoon characters such as: Archie, Casper, Little Dot, Richie Rich and more. Like these:

My next step was moving up to Big Little Books. These were longer stories based on my favorite Saturday morning cartoon shows. These included both cartoon, super hero, and live action characters. There were a lot of books in this series. Here are just a few. 
I really did love reading. But that was for fun. 

My feelings about reading changed a bit when I got into grade school. That was when me and my classmates were introduced a little thing called "The Book Report". I hated book reports for several reasons. 

First, you were told what book to read. You had no choice. This happened in 2nd and 3rd grades. The assignment was usually something I wasn't the least bit interested in reading. 

Second, you had to write a full page report about what you read without just retelling the story. The teachers would take off points for doing that. 
Third, was that there was always the possibility that you would be called on to get up in front of the class and read your report. Ugh!!!

A lot of the times I wouldn't even read the book. The night before the assignment was due, I would skim through the pages and make my best attempt to "fake it." Sometimes that would get me by; others I'd "crash and burn". Of course, the entire time, I made sure to make it look to my parents like I had everything under control and I knew what I was doing.

I remember one such improvised report on the classic book "Swiss Family Robinson" was handed  back to me with the question "Did you even read this book?" written in red ink next to a large circled red "F-". That was one my parents never saw. 

When I reached 4th & 5th grades, I got a bit of a break when it came to book reports. I got to choose book I wanted to read. The teacher had to approve it. She probably expected my choices to be something classic, like "Tom Sawyer" or "Charlotte's Web." 

Of course, I didn't choose anything that "mainstream". I remember a couple of books I reported on were:

A book that my sister, Peggy, liked read when she was in grade school. I also remember choosing this one:
Some time during my year in 5th grade I discovered a library series that made book reports a little more tolerable all the way through of middle school. 

During the last half of my 8th grade year in middle school lasting into high school, I fell in love with the game of baseball. In our middle school library, I discovered a series of biographies about the games greatest players. I read books about Micky Mantle, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and a few more.  

I must confess once I got to high school the assigned reading returned and so did the coasting on the book reports and tests. 

The culmination of it all being my treatment of a work book about Beowolf during my Senior year. My cousin Gary and I, (we had the same teacher but were in different classes) got together one weekend and answered each question with a joke or wisecrack. For example:

Q: What did Grendel do when he walked into the castle?
A: He slipped on a banana peel. 

My English teacher, Mrs. Martin, called me to stay back, after the bell rang, one day. She told me that while she appreciated the humor and creativity and actually laughed at some of the answers she was "officially" giving me an incomplete. Although I don't remember what it was, I eventually had to do a make up assignment.   

So there  you have an relatively brief  history of my early reading habits and book reports. 

After high school I continued to read for entertainment. As an adult in my 20s and 30s I was reading an average of 1-2 books a month. I worked a lot of different part-time jobs during those years. Fortunately a lot of them allowed me to read while I was working. 

I have continued to read consistently throughout my adult life. About 15 years ago I realized that the combination of the mounting number of books I'd read and the passage of time was effecting my ability to recall some of what I've read. 

So, ironically, I decided that I would start writing book reports for myself, so I could go back and review them whenever I wanted. 

I also included those book reports as part of my Yearbooks that I created for the years 2001-2004. 

For the last 5 years I have use technology to read books. I have had 2 types of Kindle readers. The Kindle Fire I have now allows me to research on the internet to supplement what I read while I'm reading.   

I also listened to books too. My audible account allows me to download and listen to an average of 3 books a month. I listen mostly to biographies and I really enjoy them. 

I've written all of that to write this. Here is my book report on the most recent audio book I've finished. 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 

Last summer when my  sister and her family came to visit, my nephew, Bobby, recommended this book to me. He said it was one of his favorites. After listening to it in audio form, it is also now one of mine. 

It's read by actor, and popular geek culture celebrity, Will Wheaton. This book, which is set in an apocalyptic world of 2045,  contains everything that will spark the interest of someone who grew up in the 1980s or is a fan of 80s pop culture. 

And even though it was published over 5 years ago the main element in this story is cutting edge in this day and age of ever developing virtual reality technology. 

The O.A.S.I.S, an all encompassing VR universe that's enthralled nearly the entire world, is the setting for the greatest treasure hunt in the history of the world.

 After the death of James Haliday, the man who co-created the OASIS, dies a video, left by him, announces that his multi-billion fortune is up for grabs. It will belong to the first person who can solve his intricate puzzle and find the three keys, pass thru three gates, and ultimately Haliday's Easter Egg. 

Having been fascinated with 1980s pop culture Haliday makes the hunt all about all things 80s. 

Haliday begins the quest for his riches by leaving behind a poem that contains clues for anyone smart enough to uncover them.  

The main character, Wade Owen Watts, an orphaned high school student from Oklahoma is one of the millions of  treasure hunters. He immerses himself in learning anything and everything that James Haliday paid any attention at all throughout his life. This includes: Movies, music, video games, role playing games, TV shows and anything else related the 1980s. 

Five years after the contest is announced he experiences more success than anyone up to that point. 

Once he makes a connection that leads him to a place that is practically right in front of his face, he becomes the man to watch in Haliday's quest. However, he's soon followed pursued by a friends, strangers, and members of an evil corporation. 

That's just the start of the adventure that had me listening to this audio book any time and anywhere I could. I loved this book, although I was a little underwhelmed by the ending. 

If you are into any type of geek culture from the 1980s I highly recommend this book. However, if you do decide to read  or listen to it I would suggest you do it sometime before March of 2018. That's when the movie version is going to be released into theaters.

So there you have a rather long and detailed post. I hope you weren't too bored by my recollections of my relationship with books over the years. 

If you take my advice and read "Ready Player One" I'm sure you'll forgive me. Thanks for reading my blog. Now, go take some time and enjoy a book.

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