Dink Starns and the Explorer Post Book List

Dink Starns was one of my Explorer Post leaders, including during the time of the 1963 Quetico trip. He was a big influence on my life and I was sad to hear that he has just passed away.

Dink worked for a publishing company and led the way on our 52 books project. We would identify 52 books for the coming year, which were important to read, would be of interest to adolescent boys, and were all available in paperback. Dink would bring in a copy of each for a display. We then had a program in which people talked about the books they knew. It was an unusual activity for an Explorer Post, and a novel way to increase interest in reading.

Here is one of the lists, probably from 1963, formatted as we saw it then. Each year would be different, although some books would have multiple appearances.The choices ranged from classics that we should have read, but hadn’t, to books that seemed risqué at the time, such as Fanny Hill or the Communist Manifesto.

Skimming the list below, your eyes might pass over Mutiny on Bounty. But that was significant. The remake of the Mutiny on the Bounty film had been released in 1962. It was based on the popular novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. Those of us who had read that book or seen the movie knew all about the evil Captain William Bligh. The selection below is Bligh’s own account, which tells a quite different story, and caused us to ask those fundamental questions: What is the truth? How can we know?. Reading Bligh was a much better introduction to critical reading than some didactic programs that lead students down a prescribed path in an ironically uncritical fashion.

This particular list has selections from the Bible (Ecclesiastes), from ancient Greeks (Plutarch, Plato), and modern classics (Hugo, Kipling, Shaw). There are books by atheists and devout believers. There was a fairly good representation of international perspectives, given that all the books had to be in English. Some books might not rank high on quality or message, but they could get boys to read. Some were school classics, but many were read in school only when they could be safely hidden behind a large history or math book.

Books that seem non-controversial today brought a frisson at the time and place. The Ugly American, written just a few years earlier, called into question the patriotism that led to the Vietnam War and a boom to the Fort Worth economy dependent on an air force base and airplane and helicopter manufacture. To Kill a Mockingbird was not just a good story; it was a challenge to the prevailing racism in a city that thought if itself as the beginning of the West, but was still part of the segregationist South.

The overriding theme was that reading was fun, something to do and share with others, and something that would help you think in new ways. Those ideas were not widely accepted then, especially among boys of that age. Dink helped change that for me and many others.

  1. Auntie Mame
  2. Beau Geste
  3. Bligh, W. Mutiny on Bounty
  4. Brestit, History of Egypt
  5. Bridge over the River Kwai
  6. Buck, P. Good Earth
  7. Cervantes Don Quixote
  8. Chesterton, G. K. Father Brown
  9. Cuppy, W. The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody
  10. Ferber, E. Giant, Cimmarron
  11. Fisher, Gandhi
  12. Fitzgerald, F. S. Great Gatsby
  13. Fleming, I. James Bond
  14. Generation of Vipers
  15. Genghis Khan
  16. Golding, W. Lord of Flies
  17. Great Expectations
  18. Green Mansions
  19. Hilton, J. Good-by Mr. Chips
  20. Hilton, J. Lost Horizon
  21. Hugo, V. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  22. In Midst of Life
  23. Irving, W. Sketch Book
  24. Keys of Kingdom
  25. Kipling, R. Kim, Jungle Books
  26. Last Hurrah
  27. Lee, H. To Kill a Mockingbird
  28. Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letter
  29. Magnificent Destiny
  30. Max Schulman
  31. Melville, H. Moby Dick
  32. Morehead, A. Blue Nile, White Nile
  33. Nutting , A. Lawrence of Arabia
  34. Orwell, G. Animal Farm
  35. Orwell, G. 1984
  36. Packard, V. (any)
  37. Plato Dialogues
  38. Plutarch Lives
  39. Rand, A. The Fountainhead
  40. Roark, R. Something of Value
  41. Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye
  42. Seven Days in May
  43. Shaw, G. B. Androcles and the Lion
  44. Six Days or Forever
  45. Solomon Ecclesiastes
  46. Stillwell Papers
  47. Stone, I. Sailor on Horseback
  48. Teahouse of August Moon
  49. The Little World of Don Camillo
  50. Twain, M. Huckleberry Finn
  51. Ugly American
  52. Voltaire, Candide

5 thoughts on “Dink Starns and the Explorer Post Book List

  1. Michael Alexander: I was surprised by your comment. For me, it only reveals your false impression of Fort Worth in 1963. In the early- to mid-1960s, Explorer Post 52 at Trinity Episcopal Church, was a satellite of the university community that surrounded Texas Christian University. Although Fort Worth was always proud of its nickname, “Cowtown,” which reminded us of its roots as an important stop on the Chisholm Trail, during the late 1800s, by the 1960s, it was far from being just a cowtown. And, BTW, we don’t all wear cowboy boots and live on ranches.


  2. This list was the actual from one of the years, 1963, I think. I had kept paper copy and later typed it as is. I wish I had the other ones, and even the list of books that were considered and rejected.


  3. Thank you for this list. I remember Dink presenting his 52 Books List a couple of times during the late 1960s, when I was a Post 52 member. Of course, it was always a bit different. The majority stayed the same, but there were always new ones. Now that he is gone, I wish I had one of those lists. How many of the books on your list do you think were also on Dink’s list? I can identify several: Auntie Mame, Beau Geste (I read that when I was sophomore in high school, at Dink’s recommendation), Generation of Vipers, The Fountainhead, The Catcher in the Rye (which was all the rage in the ’60s), Seven Days in May, and a few of the others. I remember that he had The Egyptian, by Mika Waltari, on his list. In 1965, when I was a new Post member, I remember that several of us attended a high school football game together. I was an insignificant fly on the wall, as I was only 16 at the time. Dink and Larry Kleinschmidt started talking about Waltari’s The Egyptian, and rather than watch the football game, I listened intently to their conversation. In my mind, these were pretty cool, well-educated, erudite, witty, cultured guys. I wanted to be like them. At that point, they were my secret heroes, and in order to be cool, like them, I needed to start reading more. Now, I sit in my personal library of over 4,000 volumes. It all started with Dink. He will not be replaced.


  4. Quite a list! For Ft Worth in 1963!! I am surprised that he was able to keep his position. GK Chesterton and Ayn Rand? Sure, but there are some seriously subversive books on that list. Auntie Mame for god’s sake! Sex, booze and raucous irresponsibility!!! More dangerous than Marx – Karl or Groucho.

    That makes two recent deaths of people important to you – one in the present and one from the past. My condolences.

    Summer ending: is sanity returning to Wellfleet.



  5. Pingback: Explorer Post 21/52 « Chip’s history

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