Monday, July 16, 2012

What they were reading: Louis L'Amour

"Riding a freight train out of El Paso, I had my first contact with the Little Blue Books. Another hobo was reading one, and when he finished he gave it to me. 

"The Little Blue Books were a godsend to wandering men and no doubt to many others. Published in Girard, Kansas, by Haldeman-Julius, they were slightly larger than a playing card and had sky-blue paper covers with heavy black print titles. I believe there were something more than three thousand titles in all and they were sold on newsstands for 5 or 10 cents each. Often in the years following, I carried ten or fifteen of them in my pockets, reading when I could. 

"Among the books available were the plays of Shakespeare, collections of short stories by De Maupassant, Poe, Jack London, Gogol, Gorky, Kipling, Gautier, Henry James, and Balzac. There were collections of essays by Voltaire, Emerson, and Charles Lamb, among others. 

"There were books on the history of music and architecture, painting, the principles of electricity; and, generally speaking, the books offered a wide range of literature and ideas. I do not recall exactly, but I believe the first Blue Book given me on that freight train was Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

-Louis L'Amour, in his fascinating  memoir about 
reading and roaming, Education of a Wandering Man


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