Goodbye Encyclopedia Brown: Thank you Donald J. Sobol

One of my first introductions to critical thinking was through the Encyclopedia Brown books.  They were more like riddles than mysteries, but they always taught you to pay close attention to the details and figure out which part was bullshit.

The author of these wonderful books, Donald J. Sobol, has passed away today.

If you have a few moments today, you can go read up on the ten most difficult cases or peruse the Encyclopedia of Encyclopedia Brown.

So long, and thanks for all the fun!

Goodbye Encyclopedia Brown: Thank you Donald J. Sobol
The Bolingbrook Babbler:  The unbelievable truth is now at

13 thoughts on “Goodbye Encyclopedia Brown: Thank you Donald J. Sobol

  1. 1

    I’m just now introducing my 7 year old to Encyclopedia Brown. I agree with you that reading these short tales helped me learn to think about what I was reading, pay attention to detail, and not make assumptions.

    Thanks for the links.

  2. 2

    I still remember the one where the squirrel backed down the tree – for some reason that memory gets triggered every weeks when I watch the little grey beasts.

    A great introduction to reasoning and logic…

  3. 3

    I loved the books too. I even had those “obscure facts” books. It got me started on trying to look up useless trivia that’s not always so useless. What struck me is how dumb the father figure was. I remember one case where it was solved by remembering that polar bears and penguins live at different poles. If *facepalm* and *headdesk* had been invented in the early 80s I would have used them.

  4. 4

    Thank you for this post, I am looking for books for a very bright 6 year old. These sound great, too bad I was in the wrong generation to know them.

  5. 6


    I don’t know what your generation is, but I read these books in the early 70’s. I think they date from the early 60’s. It was a joy to be able to pass on my love of this series to my kids.

  6. 7

    *Sigh*, yet another memory of childhood comes to an end. Sobol’s books, along with others like “Choose Your Own Adventure” books were great. I and many kids I went to school with began reading regularly because of such books.

    How many kids today ever read for fun? Fun inevitably leads to curiosity which leads to enlightenment. Small wonder the homeschool crowd frowns on such thinking.

  7. 8

    Oh wow; I loved Encyclopedia Brown when I was a kid; always made sure I got the latest them from those school book orders…I even started reading the old Brittanica we had at home, and the encyclopedias in the school library just for fun.

  8. 10

    I also very much enjoyed the E.B. stories as well, although there were a couple that even as a kid I found problematic. One had a racist statement in the narration, making a historical reference about a time when the area around the town was “still overrun by Indians”, as if the original residents were an infestation that had had to be eliminated.

    Another had a solution to mystery that was based on sexist assumptions (and may possibly been a bit transphobic): E.B. deduced that a woman was actually a man dressed as a woman because when she hailed a taxi, she gave the driver the address before getting in. According to him, only a man does that whereas a woman would always get in and “settle her skirt” before telling the driver where she wants to go. Even as a 10 year old socialized-as-a-boy kid in 1970 I knew that kind of blanket gender assumption was nonsense.

  9. 13

    I’m in the lost generation, my daughter was born in ’77, so we slipped through the cracks on these books. The boys are turning into avid thinkers and readers, I’m grateful for this.

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