Reviewed/Read World Book Encyclopedia Five Times by Age 8

People are often amazed by the minutiae that this writer knows about their lifestyles or land of origin. Often I am asked if I have traveled there. Only in readings.

As a poor child with little opportunity to participate in social activities of other kids, a refuge was a set of World Book Encyclopedia which my mother acquired. While not every entry was read with each reading, more new entries were read with each reading with familiar ones being reviewed. My being well-read was noted by teachers even at an early age.

Ironically, my knowledge gleaned from reading the volumes was de facto stolen knowledge. The encyclopedias were not paid for, in part, because we moved every few months. The saleman could not or would not keep up. After a few moves, the condition of the volumes reduced or eliminated their resale value but not the value of the written word.

I probably would have read them more but I left the comfort of my mother's many abodes at the age of eight, shining shoes 40 to 50 hours a week to pay most of my basic cost of surviving. When visiting my mother, I would pick up where I left off. That I did not read them a sixth time reflects how I did not visit my mother too often. I have few memories of things for which to be thankful. The encyclopedic refuge was one of the positive things.

Blessed with a good memory, I can recall several instances where my recollection of World Book entries provided interesting moments.

  1. In 7th grade, the Social Studies teacher stopped me in the middle of my explanation for the cause of the French Revolution. The teacher wanted a "no bread" cause not a monologue on the Jacobins and Robespierre.
  2. In graduate school, a student's comment about Chinese Gordon elicited a treatise on Khartum, the Niles, the Mahdi, Omdurman, Kitchener and Churchill.
  3. In Toastmasters, an innocent question about what is nepotism by a person allotted a two-minute speech prompted a lot of stares as I gave a three-minute recital on "not potent" and nephew.

My wife wishes I would remember more often to take a bath--don't remember seeing that in the World Book Encyclopedia.