In my columns over the years, I've sometimes referred to the "Nerd Canon" (which has amused my editors no end). These are the books that virtually every fanboy and fangirl in the world read at some point in their life. Heck, as my editors have said, you get the idea right away if you're a fanboy/fangirl, and if you don't, why are you reading this column? Go away, "norms."
Now, the Nerd Canon isn't static (nor should it be). It varies from generation to generation. But we all get the idea.
Then again, some books in the Nerd Canon aren't negotiable. I mean, if you haven't read and absorbed Asimov's "Laws of Robotics," why are you even here? Who are you? Go die!
My Nerd Canon started in my elementary school library, where I literally read every book in the place. (By sixth grade, and I remember this bitterly, I was forced to read the "Peter Rabbit" series because those books were, literally, the only ones I hadn't read.) But I found a few books that bordered on comic-booky kinda stuff, the kinda thing I was subconsciously looking for, and I was off to the races.
Because I then read everything by: Edgar Allan Poe, Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, A.E. Van Vogt, Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, Harlan Ellison, Philip Jose Farmer, E.E. "Doc" Smith and H.P. Lovecraft.*
(* I learned later that when I read the oeuvre of these worthies in the '60s and early '70s, that I hadn't actually read everything they ever wrote -- I had just read what was in print when I was buying their work, or searching it out in libraries. Oh, the ignominy!)
I read everything I could get my hands regarding mythology. Most of that was Norse or Greco-Roman, including everything by Snorri Sturluson, Edith Hamilton and Joseph Campbell.
I read every Star Trek novel, adaptation or "making of" book. I read every Doc Savage and The Shadow book (as available). In the summer of 1974, I bought and read everything by Edgar Rice Burroughs, as those stories were re-issued (by Ace? I forget).
I eventually gave up on trying to be comprehensive on prose when cyberpunk came along. I read Neuromancer and didn't care for it, and discovered that I was completely out of step with SF fans. So I gave that up and stuck with comics.
If you're still reading at this point -- and I suspect everyone who started this thread is still with us -- then I have some questions:
1) What was YOUR Nerd Canon? I'm dying to know! How does it differ or overlap with what I said above?
2) When I bought all those stories years ago, I bought them in paperback. That was in the '60s and early '70s. In the '80s, I sold my whole hoard to local bookstores for a couple of bucks -- less than a penny on the dollar. They simply weren't holding up. My Conan books, for example, were literally sticking to each other, and when you pried them apart, parts of the cover would be torn off. I don't know why that was, but it was. There was no point keeping them. So I got rid of them, to make room for stuff that would last.
And that brings us to the point of this thread. (At least for me.) I'm going to go ahead and buy some nice replacements for those old books. I've ordered some nice HC versions of the first four Tarzan books. I've got a gilt-edge Complete Sherlock Holmes collections, and will soon have similar for Conan.
So what else should I have for the library I will build and totter about in my dotage? What is my Endgame Nerd Canon?
Sound off, Legionnaires!
If someone asks you "What's Green Lantern's secret identity?", you should know at least half a dozen correct answers to that question. (Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Charlie Vickers, Len Lewis, Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz, Sojourner Mullein, and that's just human GL's off the top of my head.)
Can I do it with Flashes?
Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West, Lia Nelson,Mary Maxwell, John Fox...
Back when I used to care about Star Trek, I read several of the James Blish episode adaptations, and acquired (and still have) first editions of Starfleet Technical Manual and the Star Fleet Medical Manual. And definitely David Gerrold's books The Trouble With Tribbles (about how he wrote the script for that Star Trek episode, which was his first sale, and the making of the episode) and The World of Star Trek.
Also, early forerunners of trade paperback collections -- Stan Lee's The Origins of Marvel Comics, Son of Origins of Marvel Comics, Bring On the Bad Guys and The Superhero Women.
Comics histories, such as Les Daniels' Comix, volumes 1 and 2 of The Steranko History of Comics, All in Color for a Dime, Jules Pfeiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes (my first edition prints only one page of Captain Marvel's origin story from Whiz Comics #2, for fear of upsetting the then-tenuous legal situation between DC and Fawcett).
And, of course, Michael L. Fleischer's wonderful works, The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes, the Batman volume, the Wonder Woman volume, and the Superman volume (published as The Great Superman Book).
Oh, and of course Superman from the '30s to the '70s and Batman from the '30s to the '70s.
I would read any original Star Trek paperback that I could find.
Ditto for any Peanuts collection.
There was the Secret Origins of Super DC Heroes book that was a boon for a Golden Age fan like me.
I absorbed the Fleisher books as well as Jeff Rovin's Pictorial History of Science Fiction, Encyclopedia of Super-Heroes, ...Super-Villains and...Monsters.
Plus numerous books on Greek mythology!
Most modern science fiction prose leaves me cold. One of the criteria I follow for enjoyable SF reading is a book published pre-1980 which usually means a novel length of 200 pages or less. Even if it isn't the greatest, being relatively short you can have it read in a couple days then move onto something else. If you are looking to fill in gaps from your earlier science fiction reading, used book stores and library book sales have been a good source for me in finding these type of books.
There is quite a bit of overlap between your “nerd canon” and mine, Cap. I don’t see any glaring omissions, but I would add Ian Fleming’s James Bond… not any one book, the entire series.
PLANET OF THE APES: I have always enjoyed the “Planet of the Apes” movies and have long owned the paperback movie adaptations as part of my personal “nerd canon.” There were also several paperback adaptations of television show episodes, but I didn’t own any of those… until recently. The brief popularity of the new series of movies led to the release of new paperback “omnibus” collections, even one that reprinted adaptations of the animated episodes.
M*A*S*H: This one is more individual (I suspect) but I still have the entire collection of M*A*S*H paperbacks (M*A*S*H Goes to New Orleans, M*A*S*H Goes to Paris, etc.). The only ones I have read multiple times are the three written by “Richard Hooker” (the original, M*A*S*H Goes to Maine and the last, M*A*S*H Mania). Every once in a while I almost pull one off the shelf, particularly M*A*S*H Goes to Texas, now that I live here.
Here’s the Wiki