I have a special habit of reading. I can eat lots of books during a short period of time and then I spend years of reading just one or two books on a rare occasion and on a very specific topic. The fact is that most of time I don't search for books myself, there is no need, because it's the books who find me when they want me to read them. At some point I was kidding that I have a mosaic style of reading, as if I'm a kid playing with a giant jigsaw puzzle where each single book is a new small piece to the final work.
I hated classes of literature at school. We had to read a lot, mostly classic writers and poets, none of them were interesting to me and I felt literature as a boring obligation. The fun thing is, my mom is a decorated teacher of Russian language and literature, our house is filled with books and my father complains till current date that books in his house have much better life than he has himself. So what was wrong with me? Especially taking into account that my brother is completely the opposite, he loves reading and started to write his own stories at the age of 9.
May be it's all about the way you are and the interests you have? I started reading a lot at the age of 17. It was the beginning of studying engineering carrier in the University. Domination of technical disciplines forced me to look for some fresh air and to my own surprise I turned to reading philosophy. May be the kiss from Advanced Mathematics woke up the Sleeping Beauty from the magic spell and she woke up? May be :)
The truth is, I finally discovered something beyond just reading. It's still hard to say was it a constant attempt to find harmony in life or a desire to get closer to the essence of the human being. I vote for a bigger discovery, how about crazy idea that I realized I was born to be a philosopher? Definitely not the one who sits long hours in his chair thinking and writing or gives lectures to scholars, developing with time sophisticated theories that sometimes are so far from the real life that no one understands them. I mean practical philosophy, when you are an active citizen, trying to understand himself and everything around. Kind of a task for a superhero, right? May be :)
Right now I'm facing the same challenge but on a new level, as a parent. My son is a highly intelligent individual of 13 years old who likes to read but is very picky in reading as I was at his age. His specialty is facts and historic events, kind of a "walking encyclopedia" in all senses of this words. It's no surprise that his favorite books are encyclopedias, almanacs on history and interesting facts, geographic maps and historical battles. And lately it's all about soccer: scores, statistics, biographies, stories, etc.
I'm a bit lost because it's time to touch some other fields of experiences and knowledge, but I don't know where to start. Some days ago we talked about science fiction and I spotted some interest. I remembered myself, even with my hatred to reading being that age, science fiction attracted my attention, I loved stories by Ray Bradbury, Robert Shekley, Stanislav Lem. My favorite writer was Isaac Asimov and I proposed my son to read one of his books. Today we stopped at "Half Price Books" and found a couple of options. The winners were two books from Foundation series.
I also spotted a book I would like to read myself and proposed a deal: to read at least one hour a week together. I have my own interest, the incredible fact is that I never read Asimov in original. "The edge of tomorrow" sounded like a good choice and I bought it for myself. It's something special to have a book printed in 1985, with aged pages and in a good shape. Only gently worn cover tells that it was greatly appreciated by the previous owner.
I immediately started to read and had to stop very soon to write down a quote of a short paragraph that made me to think a bit. Some days ago I watched an interesting discussion on TV. It was about the difference in Russian and Western tradition of preparing good young scientists. So many talented scientists left Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union what it was feared that Russian fundamental science would never recover.
Fortunately, this is not the case and the heads of a couple of most important Russian Research Institutes of Russian Academy of Science agreed that the system is recovering. In their opinion the key is that there is much less competition between young and renowned scientists because of existence of academic schools in different fields of science, it helped to survive chaos and restore the process of creating new talent.
I never thought about the importance of academic school as a form of a tradition to create, develop and preserve knowledge, where the scientists with lots of experience help and share their achievements with younger generations. With passing of time one generation is replaced with the new one and in the case of a gap or a system failure there is still enough time to recover.
What I saw in foreword to "The edge of tomorrow", made by Ben Bova, reminded me of that discussion. I felt that at some point science fiction writers in the US had the same attitude of a Russian academic school and the quote I made demonstrates this very well.
Shortly after I met Isaac, when we both lived in the Boston area, he phoned to tell me that I would soon be receiving a call from the editor of "Amazing Science Fiction" magazine, asking me to write a series of nonfiction articles about the possibilities of life on other worlds.
"She asked me to do the series," Isaac said, "but I told her I couldn't because I was too busy and that you were a better choice anyway, since you knew more about the subject than I did."
I damned near fainted. Here's the foremost writer in the field, a PhD biochemist and polymath, telling me - a writer with almost no credits and only a smattering of the basics of astronomy - that I knew more about extraterrestrial life than he did.
Sensing my consternation, Isaac explained, "Look, I'll tell you everything I know about the subject. And you must know some things I don't. So that way you'll know more than I do!"
He was as good as his word. I did the series, and it established me as a writer within the science-fiction community. So much for Isaac's public persona.