Chapter 78: Louis Sacher on sideways stories from Salinger to Steinbeck

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By Neil Pasricha and Neil Pasricha: Bestselling Author. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

I was a tiny and skinny kid with thick glasses at my public school in the suburbs of Toronto in the early 80s. I was pretty lonely and definitely hadn’t found my way. One day my librarian Ms. Ferrell handed me a book called Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar.

The book single-handedly turned me into a reader.

I had never read a book that was funny, absurd, choppy that just kept me flipping, flipping, flipping. I loved the book. I fell into the book. I read it again and again and again and still have multiple copies on my bookshelf today. (A small count towards the nine million copies sold.) In 2010 when The Book of Awesome came out I wrote in the Acknowledgements: “To Louis Sachar, for writing Sideways Stories from Wayside School and teaching a nerdy kid to to fall in love with reading.”

Louis Sacher was born in East Meadow, New York in 1954 and moved to California when he was 9. He liked school but was not much of a reader until he fell into the works of J.D.Salinger and Kurt Vonnegut. He started studying at Ohio University but left to go move back with his mom after his father sadly passed away in his first semester. Later on he enrolled at Berkeley majoring in Economics.

One day, on campus, he caught sight of a young girl passing out flyers. The flyers read: “Help - Teachers Aides Wanted at Hillside Elementary - Earn 3 course credits.” It struck him as a sweet deal. No homework, no term papers, no tests. He signed up.

He soon found himself both in the classroom and on the school playground, known to the kids as “Louis the Yard Teacher”. He loved it. And it ended up changing his life.

His time at the local public school inspired him to write Sideway Stories from Wayside School. He even named the kids in the book after real kids he taught. It published in 1978 though did not make a loud splash. No fanfare. So Louis went on to Law School and practiced law for 10 years — all the while writing children’s books on the side.

His writing finally took off in 1989. He quit law to write full time and is now one of the best known children’s authors in the world. (Although I’m a Sideways junkie he’s probably sold even more copies of Holes which won him both the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and the Newbery Medal and — no biggie — was made into a giant blockbuster film, too.)

I was delighted to sit down with a childhood idol. He called us up from the suburbs of Austin, Texas and we talked about absurdity, wooing readers, drinking urine, literary heroes, celebrity culture, writing structure, The Shawshank Redemption, wrestling with doubt, and how to live a quiet life.

Let’s flip the page into Chapter 78 now…

What You'll Learn:

  • What kind of reader do writers think about as they write?

  • Are writers still heroes today?

  • What made the 1960s such a special time of upheaval?

  • How do we live a quiet life in today’s world?

  • How can writers maintain humility?

  • How does one separate commercial success from what you do next?

  • How do authors use their craft to skip time smartly in their work?

  • How do you make a good movie from a book?

  • How do some authors cultivate friendship with their readers?

You can find show notes and more information by clicking here: https://www.3books.co/chapters/78

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3 Books is a completely insane and totally epic 15-year-long quest to uncover and discuss the 1000 most formative books in the world. Each chapter discusses the 3 most formative books of one of the world's most inspiring people. Sample guests include: Brené Brown, David Sedaris, Malcolm Gladwell, Angie Thomas, Cheryl Strayed, Rich Roll, Soyoung the Variety Store Owner, Derek the Hype Man, Kevin the Bookseller, Vishwas the Uber Driver, Roxane Gay, David Mitchell, Vivek Murthy, Mark Manson, Seth Godin, and Judy Blume. 3 Books is published on the lunar calendar with each of the 333 chapters dropped on the exact minute of every single new moon and every single full moon all the way up to 5:21 am on September 1, 2031. 3 Books is an Apple "Best Of" award-winning show and is 100% non-profit with no ads, no sponsors, no commercials, and no interruptions. 3 Books has 3 clubs including the End of the Podcast Club, the Cover to Cover Club, and the Secret Club, which operates entirely through the mail and is only accessible by calling 1-833-READ-A-LOT. Each chapter is hosted by Neil Pasricha, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Awesome, The Happiness Equation, Two-Minute Mornings, etc. For more info check out: https://www.3books.co

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