Above all others, and there were plenty of others, these are the books that put me firmly on a course of lifetime reading.
Kon-Tiki for Young People – Heyerdahl and William Neebe (1964)
In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl rode across the Pacific Ocean on a raft named Kon-Tiki, made a bang-up film out of the deal, and showed me for the first time that not all adults were the level-headed midwest stay-at-home types (read: squares) that I thought they were.
The Giant Golden Book of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Reptiles (1966)
A handful of us passed this one around for an entire year during second and third grade. It gave me my first real concept of history, pre-history, and geological time.
The Boys’ Life Book of Outer Space Stories (1964)
A really odd collection of not-necessarily classics. For example, “Load of Trouble” by Edward Wood (not that Ed Wood) seems to be the only thing the guy ever wrote. But it was my first Bradbury (“The Man”) so, nuff said.
The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (1964)
Along with Abrashkin’s Danny Dunn books, Eleanor Cameron introduced me to the concept of series SF. After I read it, I built my own rocket from a steel drain pipe and an old pickup dashboard.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbinders in Suspense (1967)
That Alfred Hitchcock was some sly operator, packaging grown up suspense stories in big, hardback books aimed at kids. Genius! This one introduced me to Robert Bloch with “Yours Truly Jack the Ripper.”
Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful (1961)
Of the big Random House books, this one was my favorite. Not only did it have stories about real ghosts, but also, a curious story with an interesting main character: “The Red-Headed League” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Yep: first Sherlock Holmes.
By the time I was ten, I had checked out each of these books from the grade school library a half-dozen times or more. I remember reading Cameron’s book straight through in three or four nights. The anthologies I read over time.