Avid readers: ‘A lot going on in there’ – Glenn Allan

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

‘Avid readers’ is a new feature in The Leader, suggested by the Rotary Club of Slave Lake Library. This is the fourth in the series.

Reading recommendations can crop up in unexpected places. When listing a handful of books that have had a big impact on his life, Glenn Allan tells this story:

“I was at the dentist and he said to me – ‘You’ve got to read this!’ It was In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson. It was laugh-out-loud funny.”

That led Allan to another of Bryson’s books, ambitiously entitled, ‘A Really Short History of Nearly Everything.’ That was the one that had the impact.

“He looks at what we know and how we know it,” Allan explains. “We think we know a lot, but we don’t.”

That was just the latest (published in 2009) of a list of books Allan has read that have challenged the way he looks at the world. He likes that sort of stuff, and continues to look for it and favour it.

A much-earlier life-changer was ‘Star Maker,’ by Olaf Stapledon. It’s high-concept science fiction stuff.

“Phenomenal,” Allan says. “Mind-blowing. It got me thinking.”

One thing it got him thinking about is that there are other ways of looking at life, the universe, history and so on than what’s current or accepted. Erich von Daniken and Zecharia Sitchin are two authors he names – both known for proposing alternate (outlandish, some would say) theories about how ancient civilizations came to be.

“That got me thinking,” Allan says. “Our history is not necessarily what we think it is or what we’ve been told it is.”

What else has made an impact? The high school English standards 1984 and Brave New World, by George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, respectively. Allan says both books had much more impact on him later in life than they did in high school. Brave New World in particular, he says, is “frightening” in how some of what it predicts seems to be coming true today.

But does he read merely for entertainment?

“Yes. I read trash! James Rollins’ Sigma Force books. They’re fun. Also Lee Child. Jack Reacher – I love that guy!”

Allan says he’s also “a big guy for military history, futurism and speculative fiction. Geo-political stuff,” also.

“One guy I find really challenging is Noam Chomsky. “He hurts my brain!”

Chomsky writes about America’s role in the world, how society is the way it is and how it got to be that way, Allan says.

Allan also spends quite a bit of time reading news sites on the Internet.

“A lot of it is unpleasant and stupid,” he says. “I think, maybe you should read a few more books before you start spouting off about things you don’t know!”

‘Don’t bug me. I’m reading’ Glenn Allan seems to be saying.

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