Reader's Digest Condensed Books, Vol. 1, 1982, was the first volume of Reader's Digest Condensed Books published in 1982. This also makes it, apparently, the 139th volume in the series. It featured three condensed books, Through the Narrow Gate by Karen Armstrong, Noble House by James Clavell and The Judas Kiss by Victoria Holt.

This is the only Reader's Digest Condensed Book I've read, or at least read most of: I only remember reading the first two stories. I never remember trying to pick up another one of them, despite their being a shelf full of them. A bit about how I came across a shelf of Reader's Digest Condensed Books: my great-grandfather was a college football coach, who in his retirement took up some form of Wrightian architecture as a hobby. He built a house near Salem, Oregon, with an odd UFO shape, its second story having a complete band of observational windows. And in that second story living room, he also put a long row of bookshelves with a 12 foot wide mirror above it, a fireplace, and a waterfall. He believed all homes should have waterfalls, and one wall of the living room, about eight feet wide and six feet tall, had a masonry wall with pipes behind it that, when turned on, had water roll down the wall to fit in a small retaining pond. This was all pretty wild for someone who before then had lived in the most ranch home of suburban ranch homes. Especially that book case, big enough to carry hundreds of books. There were old encyclopedias, a complete set o lawbooks from the 1950s or earlier, random mass market paperbacks, and of course, the Reader's Digest Condensed Books. My great-grandfather had passed away before I was born, and the house had been occupied by my great-grandmother, who collected books in her old age. When she moved out, my family moved in, to see a house full of both treasures and junk. Having so many books around was something of a treasure, even when it was, like the Reader's Digest Condensed Books, junk.

So that is why I opened this book up and read it, sometime around 1989. I was about ten years old, I read a lot but hadn't started to really read "adult" books consistently. Why I picked up this one, I don't know. The first book, "Through the Narrow Gate" was the autobiography of an ex-nun, telling about entering and then leaving life as a nun. Why a ten year old in a house full of books should light on that, I couldn't tell you. The second part, Nobel House, was more interesting, being a story of espionage and business intrigue. I remember this one making a big impression on me, and I would later read the unabridged Noble House, as well as James Clavell's other novels, such as Tai-Pan and Shogun. I remember that reading this abridged Noble House was what made me aware of the stock market, and first made me start reading the financial section of the newspaper. In general, almost thirty years later, I remember a few parts of both of these two books clearly: a scene in "Through the Narrow Gate" where the author talks about a nun who, although she had cancer, managed to live in tranquility, and another one whose empty ego had just made her empty. Noble House I remember much of the story, although I am not sure how much because I read it later. Whether I even attempted to read the third book in the volume, I do not know. If I did read any of it, I don't remember it.

I guess the fact that the people who abridged these books managed to make an impression in the mind of a child that he remembers three decades later is a sign that they were doing something right, that they were managing to communicate the essentials of the story. But beyond that, I am a little bit confused about how exactly they put this book together. They started with a non-fiction biography of a nun and followed it up with a very abridged (and censored) version of a 1000+ page work on Hong Kong capitalism. Followed by a gothic romance novel. Did they intentionally put together this as including non-fiction and fiction, with different time periods and tones? Or did they just stick their hands into a big pile of abridged manuscripts and stick them together because they were on a deadline?

Anyway, as per Request, that is my synopsis of a volume of Reader's Digest Condensed Books. It was an early experiment in "adult" reading, but doesn't have much else to recommend it.

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