Happy Birthday, Isaac Asimov
If he were still alive, Isaac Asimov would be celebrating his 88th birthday today. However, that is not quite the same as saying he definitely would be 88 today. When he was born, circa 2 January 1920, in the village of Petrovichi in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Tsarist Russia was gone, the Soviet Union was still 2 years in the future) the record keeping wasn’t very good. It’s actually possible that he was born as early as 4 October 1919, but the 2nd of January was the date he celebrated his whole life.
Asimov died on 6 April 1992 from AIDS that he’d contracted from a blood transfusion during a 1983 heart bypass operation, though his illness and cause of death weren’t made known until 10 years after his passing. When considering his legacy Asimov said the following:
What I will be remembered for are the Foundation Trilogy and the Three Laws of Robotics. What I want to be remembered for is no one book, or no dozen books. Any single thing I have written can be paralleled or even surpassed by something someone else has done. However, my total corpus for quantity, quality and variety can be duplicated by no one else. That is what I want to be remembered for.
The Asimovian corpus is vast. It is sometimes said the he is “the only author with a book in every category of the Dewey Decimal System,” but that is incorrect; he only hit nine of the 10 categories, the exception being the 100s: philosophy and psychology. The Asimov FAQ suggests that “a more accurate statement is that Isaac Asimov is the only author who has so many well written books in so many different categories of library classification.” For instance, check out Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, which covers the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Apocrypha.
If you want something shorter to read to commemorate his birthday, check out one of his short stories. His own favorites were (in order) “The Last Question,” “The Bicentennial Man,” and “The Ugly Little Boy.” The first is, without question, his best short story—and utterly brilliant—and “The Bicentennial Man” is also great; but I’m not a fan of “The Ugly Little Boy.” Others that I’d highly recommend are “Nightfall” and “Profession.”