Ads #63: Book Ads

Reference book series were extremely popular during the seventies and eighties.  Sort of the offspring of the encyclopedia salesman, commercials for reference book series were quite common.  The most iconic was the Time-Life Old West series.  Who can forget John Hardin, "so mean he once shot a man just for snoring!"

I have fond memories of receiving books in the mail. I had a subscription to a nature series and would hotly anticipate the package each month.  What would it be this month? Reptiles? Birds? or, God be praised, Sharks!

Retrospace has a recurring post category based on another series called Understanding Human Behavior.    But be assured there will be more to come.

Beyond the reference library, there was the omnipresent book club ad in nearly every magazine on the rack. These things are still around, but like the Columbia Record Club, they've largely gone bye bye thanks to Amazon and e-readers.  Here's a few examples...

I've read The Lord of the Rings several times over, but have never been able to get into fantasy fiction.  I've tried Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks, Stephen Donaldson and many others to no avail. Only the Song of Ice and Fire series by George Martin has held my interest to the end.

The same goes for science fiction.  I've tried L. Ron Hubbard, Ben Bova, Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Phillip K. Dick, etc. with no luck.  Only Isaac Asimov's Foundation series kept me for the duration; but even those weren't anything to write home about.

I'd love to get some recommendations - I'm certainly willing to try more sci-fi and fantasy; but, it may be a lost cause. I'm considering starting up Stephen King's Gunslinger series. Bad move?

I read Battlefield Earth and the first few of Hubbard's Mission Earth series.  They were extremely enjoyable, but ultimately a lightweight affair.  You'll pour through hundreds of pages in an instant, but the content is as as light and airy as a Twinkie.

Was there ever a book less like a movie? The Neverending Story was impressive in its creativity and intricate imagination, but you won't give a flying fig about a single character or the plot.

Seized by the Secret Service?  I call bullshit on that. Evidently, this really was a source of government angst  (see comments below). Who knew?

Of all the book genres, none is less appealing than the self-help genre.  It's a sad commentary that this genre is so damn popular, filling more shelves than the science and history books combined.

Okay, maybe there's one book that sounds worse than a self-help book.  Presenting, the dumbest book ever.


  1. Gurps - was a Role Playing series (Generic, Universal, Role Playing System) a knock off (and much easier to use) version of D&D

  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GURPS_Cyberpunk#.E2.80.9CThe_book_that_was_seized_by_the_U.S._Secret_Service.E2.80.9D

  3. Science Fiction author Bruce Sterling's nonfiction book "The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier" devoted about half its pages to Steve Jackson Games, Inc. v. United States Secret Service.

  4. As far as getting into f/sf, I'd recommend starting with the Hitchhiker's Guide (Douglas Adams) or Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's "Good Omens."

  5. What kind of fiction DO you enjoy reading? Mysteries? Thrillers? Chick-lit? Westerns? Your answer to that will help with recommendations for sci-fi/fantasy. But if you have any interest in space opera(kinda combining the above genres, except change chick-lit to romance), my first recommendation would be Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden series. But don't tell anyone, we're trying to keep it hipster/geek quiet. We failed with George R. R. Martin. Oh, and if you like Martin, I actually prefer his sci-fi. Tuf Voyaging is one of my favorite books EVER. If you're into humor, anything by Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, or Spider Robinson.

  6. We've got most of the Time Life Western series, and the American Regions (Adirondacks, Great Plains, etc) series.

    I rarely read fiction, but when I do, it's nearly always private eye or crime fiction. Science fiction has never caught my fancy, even with movies and TV other than Star Trek and Star Wars.

    Fantasy not at all. When my wife drug me to Fellowship of the Ring the only thing I knew about the whole story was Hobbits were small and lived in holes in the ground. That was the sum total of my knowledge and I was so lost during the movie. You gotta admit, it sounds pretty stupid, a ring with a mind of its own? Everyone has like 5 different names?

  7. For fantasy, try Lev Grossman's Magicians books. Helps to have read Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia first, but not necessary.

    For sci-fi, try William Gibson's Bridge Trilogy.

  8. Yea, I was a member of the Science Fiction Book Club for many many years.
    My father got me the Time-Life book series on Ancient Civilizations and I used it all through school.

    Thanks for the memories.

  9. I was a member of the Science Fiction Book Club way back in the late 1960s. I still have most of the books I got from them. Still read mostly Sci-Fi now. Book clubs can be very tenacious. Around 1980, probably 8 years after I had quit, I got a post card from the Science Fiction Book Club saying they wanted me back.

  10. Your first entry has to be what was referenced in the first episode of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' - as Giles runs down all the local forces of darkness to Buffy she snorts "What, did you send away for the Time-Life series?" (which he did.)

  11. if you haven't read the Gunslinger series by Stephen King, you better get started! i began the series in late 80's and finished in 2007...it only took so long because i can read faster than Stephen King can write. it may not have taken so long if not for his near fatal accident in '99, but then Roland would have had to take a different route to get to The Dark Tower and Jake wouldn't have lived to finish the quest....you see....oh, just read it Gil!