It is interesting how some things never change with time

Over the weekend I had to buy a gift for a 11 year old kid. I wanted to buy something the kid would like to read, so I asked what type of books would he like. Pat came the answer “Hardy Boys” – Franklin W. Dixon’s popular mystery series.

Nothing ever changes, does it?

That got me thinking about my own childhood and how things really haven’t changed much for the kids. Its almost 3 decades since I was that age and I was heavily into Hardy Boys as well. It was the 3 Investigators series (jupiter jones et al), Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries in that order of preference. I did read a few Perry Masons but those didn’t catch my fancy. On the comics front, Archies, Asterix and Tin Tin used to be huge favorites amongst my peer group. I still enjoy reading these. I can’t say that about Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. I suspect I’ll still like the 3 investigators but haven’t tried reading them recently. Something to be said about the timeless appeal of Archies, Tin Tin and Asterix. Some Mandrake/Lothar, Flash Gordon and other such comics were also thrown into the mix for variety.

Before Hardy Boys

Before I hit the age of “Hardy Boys” I was heavily into Enid Blyton’s famous five series. Whenever I think about Enid Blyton, I have this pleasant feeling. I should say it is the Enid Blyton books that firmly implanted english books into my mind. Before that I would read all kinds of fantasy stories in Tamil and some classic Tamil Muthu Comics series Irumbukkai Mayavi (Man with a iron hand – loose translation) etc. When I was about 7 or 8, I used to read with great interest, a comic strip series in the then tamil weekly magazine Gokulam called “Bale Baluvum Bottle Boodhamum” – loosely translated as Balu and the Genie from the bottle. I’m trying to look for it now in Chennai and I’m unable to find it. I’ll be so thrilled to get hold of a few copies.

After Hardy Boys

Later I graduated to Alistair Macleans, Robert Ludlum (Bourne Identity being my top favorite of his) and some Sydney Sheldons and Irving Wallaces. By this time I was in college.

Once I passed out of college and entered the work force, I somehow lost interest in fiction. I’m heavily into non-fiction genres – lots of books on management. Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger is the most recent fiction I read (although the story is inspired by real life incidents). Somehow the movie never captured the passion for swordfishing that well. Sebastian Junger brings it out in his book extremely well.

Current Interests

My interest in anthropology, history and culture were really brought to the fore by Mark Kurlansky’s Cod and Salt. Later, Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse have permanently kindled my interests in these topics. I take a lot of interest in neuroscience lately thanks to Dr. Vilayanur Ramachandran’s books Phantoms in the Brain and Emerging Mind. These 2 are amongst the best books I have ever read. Thanks to Archana Raghuram for recommending Phantoms in the brain.

Nothing ever changes, convinced?

Coming back to the topic – it is really intriguing to me that in the age of video games and the internet, Hardy Boys and the likes still hold sway amongst the kids. I haven’t interacted with American kids that much, but maybe someone can throw some light on what the kids there read?

JK Rowling’s Harry potter definitely holds sway I’m sure. Harry is popular in India as well. Overall it points to the fact that there is a big gap in the books available for Tweens and Teens. JK Rowling has masterfully exploited this lacuna. But I think there’s still plenty of opportunity for a new author to come in and appeal to this young population and create the next Hardy Boys.

What does your book reading pattern look like over the years? Does it resemble mine?


  1. Anonymous said April 11, 2007, 10:58 am:

    My son is 9 and started reading Harry Potter last summer and wouldn’t drop it down. He keeps rereading it over and over again. I think J.K. definitely captures the attention of kids right now.

    Other books he enjoyed include :

    1. All of the Roald Dahl books, we also watched some on movies(charlie and choc factory,Matilda,Witches etc.)

    2. Chronicles of Narnia series

    3. Indian in the Cupboard series.

    4. Box Car Children series – an american classic series similar to the Famous Five( 4 kids and a dog go on adventures)

    When i got some Amar chithra katha books(birbal,raman,jathaka series) from india, he was so amazed to read it and loved it. I am sure he would enjoy tintin and Phantom too.

    Overall i do agree some things never change with time, books filled with fantasy and adventure always seems to excite and amuse children.


  2. Anonymous said April 11, 2007, 3:16 pm:


    One interesting tidbit – Franklin W. Dixon is actually a pseudonym for a bunch of writers. Looks like Edward L Stratemeyer was the person behind the ideas/concepts around various Hardy Boys stories. However, the stories were written by different authors under the single pen-name of Franklin W Dixon.

    Same is true for Nancy Drew series too.


  3. Anonymous said April 11, 2007, 11:11 pm:

    Hi Sukumar,

    Looks like we have lot of common interest in Books. I still love Archie. I used to read Nancy Drew (some how Hardy Boys did not appeal to me). Enid Blyton’s Famous Five is my all time favorite, I think I have read on the books in this series.

    I don’t know if you have read Richie Rich comics. I used to enjoy them so much and tried to find them for my son. Looks like they are no longer available.

    Even I am heavily into non-fiction these days. But Harry Potter is something different. I have been trying to analyze what is it about Harry Potter that appeals to everyone. Even my 75year old uncle used to read. If you have not already read it, I would strongly recommend. I guarantee you will love it.

  4. Anonymous said April 11, 2007, 11:39 pm:

    Thanks Sujatha. I have read a few Roald Dahls (Umbrella Man..) thanks to Priya Raju. He is fantastic. I guess due to lack of awareness i missed reading Roald Dahl as a child. He is easily amongst the best.

    Damn! How could i forget Amar Chitra Katha? A great series which i still enjoy reading. It was a staple in my pre-Hardy Boys age. That reminds me – Chandamama was also a favorite and still read and enjoy some of the stories although now Chandamama stories seem very formulaic.

  5. Anonymous said April 11, 2007, 11:43 pm:


    Very interesting. We used to think that franklin w.dixon being a pseudonym was a rumor when we heard it first as a kid. There was no internet then, of course. Thanks for digging up the real truth.

  6. Anonymous said April 11, 2007, 11:49 pm:

    Thanks Archana. Yes, Richie Rich was definitely a favorite. Nice to know that you are a Famous Five fan as well.

    Inspired by the various mystery detective stories, I remember vividly a day in my childhood when i took a notebook and noted down the number plate of every single car that passed by my house, in the foolish hope that someone will ask me to solve a mystery or a murder and i would pull out my notebook and find the culprit!

    Though I haven’t read Harry Potter, i know all the stories quite well, thanks to Priya Raju who is a diehard fan. We actually stood in the midnight queue to collect the 4th book as it was released a couple years back. I am sure i will read the series one day.

  7. Anonymous said April 12, 2007, 1:49 am:

    This was a fav quiz question

  8. Anonymous said April 12, 2007, 7:03 am:

    oh! i didn’t know that. Thanks for visiting.

  9. Anonymous said April 12, 2007, 7:17 am:

    Even the Box Car children series, only the first 19 books were written by the author Gertrude Chandler Warner, after her death the series is still being written by various authors but on the cover it says “created by Gertrude Chandler Warner”.


  10. Anonymous said April 12, 2007, 10:38 am:

    oh! Looks like this is another formula. – Sukumar

  11. Anonymous said April 12, 2007, 1:15 pm:

    Sukumar, your reading habits looks almost exactly as mine, except for the ‘history’ books – maybe it takes few more crucibles of life. I would add Sherlock Holmes to the list of evergreens – have read the entire series several times.

    Since I am from Kerala, my fiction/literary reading was heavily influenced by some great writers like MT, Vaikom, OV to name a few. Having read such classics I could never justify reading popular fiction.

    Thanks for the nostalgic post..

  12. Anonymous said April 13, 2007, 8:22 am:

    Thanks Sibu. Sherlock Holmes is another one that i missed from my list. I love them and i have most of the entire collection. Need to add Agatha Christie to the list as well. I have read only a few hers, though. Unfortunately, i have not read any of the Kerala classics.