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Bellingham Herald readers share their favorite books

Last week I admitted in my column that I’m hooked on books. I can’t stay away from them, and I described several books that, in retrospect, had a major, even life-changing, impact on me. I asked Herald readers to talk about books that changed their life, and I’m happy here to relay their responses. Read on.

Gerry Kahle, ‘Microbe Hunters,’ Bellingham

I like your term “bookaholic” and it is one that I can identify with. While it may be easy to name my favorite books, ones that I enjoy re-reading, “life-changing” is a whole different animal.

To start, I’m a retired scientist now living in Bellingham. I suppose the first two books have to do with steering me into my chosen profession. First came the collected stories of Sherlock Holmes. While I like to reread these for their atmosphere and dialogue, this first time through changed my vision on how I perceived the world. The awakening of pure logic within me was invigorating and illuminating.

The second book is a very obscure one called the “ Microbe Hunters.” My high school had a paperback store, which I’m sure was meant to inspire young men toward life choices. I remember reading a biography of Clarence Darrow which, if my mind had a different bent, would have led me into the legal profession. But it was the “Microbe Hunters” which influenced me. This book was a collection of biographies of notable scientists, which excited me to no end. Because of this book I was inexorably drawn to a career as a research scientist.

The third book was the popular work of fiction, “ Hawaii,” by James Michener. This book changed how I viewed history. Heretofore it was a boring school subject full of dates and places. But in Hawaii, it came alive as I finally realized the interconnection of events through the ages; i.e. how where we are depends so much on where we’ve been.

I’m ambivalent about the final book I’d like to mention. It is the 1888 classic “ Looking Backward” by Edward Bellamy. When I read it in high school, I was fairly apolitical, more interested in cars and girls. This book changed my world view to a left-wing activist (and this was before the Vietnam war). I said I was ambivalent, because this political worldview eventually gave way to a much more conservative viewpoint, so I have to question the influence of “Looking Backward,” but it was a major influence for a number of years. Parenthetically, my move to the right was not due to a book but more the perfidy of Ted Kennedy, but that’s a whole other story.

Leslie Drury, ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ Ferndale

In 1968, when I was 12, my brother headed off to take college classes and brought home a collection of interesting literature. One day, while snooping around in his room, I found three paperback books with brightly colored drawings - the first book in the series was titled “ The Fellowship of the Ring.”

I was a girl who read anything and everything I could get my hands on. My reading career began when I was 6 and we lived in the countryside in a house near Ferndale. To my delight, the bookmobile would park in our driveway! I could barely climb the steep steps, but inside that vehicle was a world of amazing adventures, all bound up between the covers of book. I honed that reading skill between the ages of 6 and 12, so as a pre-teen I didn’t hesitate to tackle the adult writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.

I still remember stepping into Middle Earth for the first time and losing myself in that other world; a world that appealed to my sense of chivalrousness and my longing for a magical life away from our little farm. I fully immersed myself in that mystical realm that Tolkien so masterfully created. I have read “ The Lord of the Rings” trilogy at least 10 times in the last 46 years; I’ve shared it with my children, I’ve talked about it with other Tolkien enthusiasts; and I’ve taught classes on the books to high school students. Just today, a friend’s little first-grade son came waddling up to me and said, “What is the name of the fat dwarf who walks like this?” He had heard that I was an expert on all things elvish and dwarfish.

Although I have grown older and have left much of my dreamlike musings and imaginings behind me, there are times when I still hear the call of those ancient battle horns, the clash of swords, and the cries of those who are willing to fight for what is right in a dark world. Someday not so far in the future, when all I have left are memories and I am about to exit this world, I think I will ride Shadowfax across those hills and valleys, I will wander those golden forests and consult with wizards, and I’ll join forces with the good folk of the land to defeat the fearsome enemy.

Jane Kletka, ‘Bleak House,’ Bellingham

I, too, am a bookaholic. I have loved reading since I was very young and continue with that enjoyment today. My reading subjects range from history, nursing ( I am a retired nurse ), spirituality, fiction, biographies, classics, etc. My favorite author is Jane Austen but also enjoy Ivan Doig and several others.

Currently I am reading “ Bleak House” by Charles Dickens. I am a member of a book group that has been meeting for many years now. Our current read is “ The Girl Who Fell from the Sky” by Heidi Durrow.

Sharon Morris, ‘Princess Bride,’ Bellingham

I also love books. ... I am currently reading “ The Princess Bride” by William Goldman, a book I heard over 12 years ago. I first heard the story read to me when I was student teaching and the teacher was reading it to her sixth-grade students. “The Princess Bride” is a fabulous book for parents to read to their fifth- and sixth-grade children. The play on words and the fun language makes it a joy to read aloud, as well to listen to. It’s also a great book for adults to read, full of “true love and high adventure!” I decided to reread the book myself, and I am enjoying it once again!

Keith Kovacs, ‘Adventures of the Krusaders,’ Bellingham

I would like to nominate my favorite book of all time that’s from a local Bellingham author. “ The Adventures of the Krusaders and the Legend Of Wilde Island” written by Konrad Kocsis. It is a unique mystery novel filled with humor, suspense, life lessons and some exciting adventures that are a stretch but seem plausible. It’s filled with many inspirational quotes, so I felt like I was learning something while enjoying this fiction story.

I just love how its set right here in Bellingham and the San Juan Islands. I was a little disappointed that our local bookstores didn’t carry it, so I had to order it on Amazon. But at least Amazon allowed me to read some of the pages and see the illustrations that are also from a local. From the illustrations you may think its a kids book, but as a 40-plus adult I found it captivating. All ages should read this little gem. I can’t wait to read the next one of this trilogy. It has inspired me to write also. I wish our community would support local authors like this more.

Karen Nesvold, “What Makes Olga Run,” Ferndale

I always have a book in hand or in my bag wherever I go. The most recent read for me: “ What Makes Olga Run” by Bruce Griersons. I love the research he has done on why this 95-year-old can still run and win marathons. The book’s full of research and great info on aging. I love the parts where he tells about how intention and desire keep us going, how important faith is, as well as community and a fighting spirit. It’s a really good book to keep you inspired, no matter what age you are. I work in an assisted living, and am amazed at what 90-year-olds can do if they put their mind to it.

Pearl Follett, “Nathan the Wise,” Bellingham

It would be very difficult for any bookaholic to resist telling what some of their favorite books are, so, of course I will tell mine. I have many, but considering the times we are in, with the threat of a war based on hate, religious intolerance and fear coming upon us, I will list the one that first came to my mind; “ Nathan the Wise: A Dramatic Poem in Five Acts” by Gotthold Lessing, 1779.

Within the play the theme of religious tolerance is told in the “Parable of the Three Rings.” Nathan, in answer to Saladin’s question as to which religion is true, told about an heirloom ring that passed from father to son. When it came to the father of three sons whom he loved equally, the father had two replicas made. Of course the brothers quarreled over who owned the real ring. It was possible that all three rings could be replicas. To find out if one had the real ring, he would need to live in a way that would be pleasing to God and mankind. Nathan compared the test of the rings to the three religions saying that each of us live by the religion that we have learned from those we respect and that here are no differences between Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

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