Friday, February 3, 2017

Books are made for reading

I have difficulty understanding or even conceiving of someone who doesn't read books. Our house is filled with books, books in every room, some neatly decorating bookshelves, some stacked in baskets beside comfortable seats, some lying patiently on bedside tables — books ready to be picked up and read. I read every day, and almost every day from books. On days when I don't read a book, I read magazines, which are also prevalent around our house.

So when the president of the United States says boastfully that he doesn't read, my mind is flummoxed. It's inconceivable. I'll admit that I'm not a great reader. I can't check out 10 books from the library and return them all in a week or two, fully consumed, as some people I have known can. I am a slow reader, perhaps in part because of the years I spent editing newspapers, parsing each word and punctuation mark for misuse or error. And my reading tends to be at night, an effective sleeping pill that allows me to put aside the tensions and worries of the day and relax until my eyelids fall closed and I lose my grip on the book I've been reading. Many nights I've awakened, the lamp still on, my book in the floor, my stopping place a mystery. The next night, I hunt for my stopping place and pick up the narrative again.

I also tend to feel obligated once I've begun a book to stay with it to the end, whether it is a novel with a beginning, a plot (or two) and an ending, or nonfiction that may only be a series of facts or arguments. I recently finished a book that I found engulfing. I could not get William Kent Krueger's "Ordinary Grace" off my mind and kept the novel close by my side to snatch a few minutes to dive back into the immersing plot.

But now I'm reading a novel (I won't mention any names) that I find a bit plodding and confusing. There are time shifts and new characters and plot shifts that fail to keep me interested. But I've devoted the time to get more than 100 pages into the book, and I won't give up yet. Still, that non-fiction book that is next on my bedside table keeps enticing me. Surely it's better than this bland and skip-about novel.

Even when I hit the inevitable bumps in the literary road, I cherish my books and my time to read. Even not-so-good books are better than not reading. With all due respect, you should try it, Mr. President.

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