I read my first Louis L'Amour western novel in 1980, when I was 24 years old. I had grown up reading Zane Grey stories; my parents owned a handful of old hardback copies of them. If I had even heard of Louis L'Amour previously, I suppose I assumed his books weren't as good as Zane Grey's. I was quite mistaken! I actually prefer L'Amour's style to Grey's, which tend to be long on description and short on action.
So when local librarian @jacobtothe recommended this book to me, I was immediately enthusiastic about reading it. L'Amour's primary purpose in this book is to show the reader how prolific his reading has been, and how it has helped to shape him into the person he is, and how useful it has been in his writing career.
L'Amour lived from 1908-1988. (He was a year older than my own father.) He dropped out of school at age 15, preferring to seek an education in his own style. He doesn't recommend this for everybody, but it worked for him. He skinned dead cows in Texas, worked as a roustabout with a circus, hoboed across Texas in search of temporary jobs, did a little boxing, was a caretaker for a mine, and was a seaman who sailed to many distant ports in Asia and Europe. That's not a complete list, either.
Everywhere he went, he read. He picked up books wherever he could. Hoboes often traded books with each other, as did seamen. He bought books around the world. He lived close to a library whenever possible. Blessed with an amazing memory, he made good use of much of his reading about people and places and history while he was writing his books.
L'Amour kept lists of the books he had read, although the early lists got lost. In the back of this book are lists of the books and plays he read 1930-1935, and 1937. His average for those years is 104 books per year! And these are not light reading. The authors range from George Santayana to Edgar Allen Poe to Voltaire to H. G. Wells, and everything in between. He read whatever he could get his hands on, in no particular order. He was simply interested in everything and wanted to learn as much as he could.
I must admit, after reading this book I feel as if I have wasted many hours reading books of no particular significance, and even more hours scrolling on Facebook prior to my recent deletion of my account. I am inspired to tackle some authors I've never tried, if I can get my hands on the books.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who likes to read. The book is laced with stories about L'Amour's adventures in his wandering years, making it all the more interesting. My favorite quotes from the book are "Still, a book is less important for what it says than for what if makes you think," and "I believe adventure is nothing but a romantic name for trouble."