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Gary Brown, 59, Deer Park

His childhood: He was raised in the Chicago area. His father, an industrial engineer, traveled extensively and was rarely home. Brown was the oldest of three, and the only boy in the family. He craved more attention from his father, and “my mom was overwhelmed with me and my two sisters.” He was also painfully shy. When girls talked to him, “I didn’t know how to respond.” When required to give oral reports in class, he would shake or have panic attacks.

His favorite books: As a child, he loved fairy tales and adventure stories and all the books in the Little Golden Book Encyclopedias, read to him by his mother. As a middle-schooler and teen, he loved Edgar Allan Poe and has read everything by him, including his favorite Poe, the obscure “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains.” He eventually read his father’s entire classic books collection, devoured science fiction and helped ignite the love of reading in his sisters.

“He procured this enormous stack of comic books,” remembers his sister, Rebecca Dorian Brown. “It was a feast. He shared that giant mountain of comic books with me.”

How books changed his life: “As soon as I could read, it took me by storm,” Brown says. “I went to far-off places and experienced life all over the galaxy. It saved me. I excelled in school because of it.” Brown has had some adult challenges, including living with a disability, but he is proud to be a “self-taught carpenter, electrician, plumber, furniture-maker. I have raised all kinds of animals, built my own home and (done) many other things I attribute to my immersion in reading at a very young age.”

Rebecca Nappi

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