Books I Grew up on: Braden Hancock

Books I Grew up on is a blog series featuring guest bloggers who discuss reading in their childhoods: the books they loved, the paths they found to developing a love for reading, and how reading helped them become who they are today! Today’s Books I Grew up on guest blogger is computer scientist and machine learning PhD student at Stanford, Braden Hancock. 


Where did you grow up? What was it like growing up there?
I grew up in the suburbs of southwest Ohio. It’s a magical place that nails perfectly (in my opinion) the balance between living too far apart from other people (total farm land) or on top of each other (sprawling apartment complexes of Manhattan). Evenings were spent at the ball field, the park, or playing outside in the yard.

What role did books have in your childhood? 
With 9 kids in the family who (almost) all loved to read, we kept the library busy. My mom had two separate library cards (since each card has a max item limit of 50 books), so we would get somewhere between 50 and 100 books each week. If you read through your allotted books too quickly before library day (usually Tuesday if I recall correctly), you’d end up reading the encyclopedia or your siblings’ books while you waited for a chance to refill.

How did you first develop a love for reading?
It’s hard to remember the beginning. It was just always there. I think it helped that my older brother really enjoyed reading. I saw how much he liked it, and that made me want to read the books he was so enjoying. And then my younger brother saw the books that I was enjoying, so he wanted to read them. And then our younger sister saw him…

What was your favorite book as a child? Why?
I really enjoyed the Bailey School Kids books when I was in young elementary school; I think I was very proud that I was reading “chapter books”, and mythical/folk creatures (vampires, leprechauns, werewolves, witches, frankenstein, etc.) are so much fun as a little kid. Good fodder for the imagination.

What is your favorite children’s book now? Why?
Now I enjoy the Olivia books when I read them to my 2-year-old daughter. They’re good books for kids—nice pictures, simple words, clear story—but they have all sorts of fun hidden gems for the parents, too, that make them fun to read.

What advice would you give to young readers?
Redwall. Such a good series. Look forward to the day that you can start reading the Redwall books.


Braden is a computer scientist working with artificial intelligence at Stanford. Right now he’s trying to write programs that will let us teach computers just by talking to them instead of typing into them. We can already control some computers with voice, but we don’t yet have very good ways of teaching them new things with voice. He’s excited to change that!

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