He who reads can do anything in the world — or out of it!
It’s ok to change as we age, and one of the ways I have changed (most), I believe, is in what and how I read. I may have shared on some other occasion that in 1st grade I got horrible scores in reading. I took my reportcard home and my mother saw the almost-failing grade and boy-howdy-I-knew-I-was-in-trouble!
That year, at the onset of summer vacation, she marched me down to the local library (which bulding is no more — but a photo of the original library can be found right) and I joined the Billy the Bookworm club. I was assigned to read some certain number of books during that summer and I went from being an atrocious 1st grader to being an advance reading 2nd grader! Wahoo!
That summer changed my life — literally. But since then my tastes in reading have done a few flipflops. Until I finished grade school I brought home mostly books about making things; the processes by which things were made more than the actual making of them. I wanted to understand how things happened. In Junior High School I joined a group of accelerated students for a pilot program to develop students interested in science and math — a concept that was clearly missed by yours truly — and a group of 35 of us spent the next 6 years in a very close knit group. We had different curriculum than the rest of the school for the next 6 years so we pretty much stuck to ourselves — a fact that didn’t do anything for my social skills and I bet I could sue the school board for my stunted social growth!
Anyway… the three years of Junior High School I spent reading philosophy. My mom was livid. It was bad enough that before this I had read almost exclusively non-fiction educational stuff, now I was bringing home philosophy books by people she’d never heard of. Being an ardent Christian she was sure I was going to adopt some weird ideas but in the end the philosophy taught me how to think, and also to appreciate the faith that she and the other adults I knew possessed.
Through High School I was a Boy Scout. I say it that way because that was pretty much sum and substance of my existence. I wrangled a paying afterschool job at the local council offices that kept me busy, first three nights a week, then five nights a week and paid me well enough that I didn’t mind not participating in extracurricular activities. At the same time I was active in our troop, then in the Order of the Arrow and I ended up as council chief of the Order in my senior year. For any of you former scouts, the highlight of my last year in scouting was to serve as my FATHER’s guide through the Vigil Honor of the Order and to initiate HIM — a nice turnaround for a 15 or 16 year old! But to the point — during those years I read about merit badges, and about scouting and about things like honor and valor.
About graduation time I took a real serious interest in my faith and I gobbled up the Bible and everything I could lay my hands on — with concordances and commentaries and greek and hebrew texts. I mean I dug in and learned as much as I could as fast as I could — My dad always told me I only had one speed: full speed ahead.
Into college and my interests in religion changed but I branched out into literature funally. I got a copy of a popular list at the time (mid to late 60’s) of the 100 fiction books that students should read, and the other list, 100 non-fiction books students should read. I went through the list haphazardly for a while — picking books that sounded as if I’d like them (usually I didn’t, but I read them all the way through nevertheless). After a while I just started at the top of the list and read my way down through the whole list. And I’m glad I did. I read authors whos names I now hear and I actually have an idea of what they wrote about, or stood for. It was great.
After college I didn’t read much fiction for a while. As you know I was an unpaid pastor for 25 years and between the church and making a living I had my hands full. But once I left the church the books came out again and I started reading. But now it was all about reading for fun. I started devouring mysteries. And I read a lot of them. I had taken an Evelyn Woods Reading Dynamics class in College but I rarely used the speed I learned there. I found I enjoyed the sound of the words too much to speed read. I wanted the cadence, and the tonality. I found myself reading outloud to myself silently. 🙂
Then there was a period of about 10 years when I read mostly about travel. Tour guides. Travel brochures. Or fiction that would take me places I’d never been. I loved traveling the world, and as it turned out some of the places I’d read about I traveled to — Paris, the South of France, Heidelberg Germany, The Alsace, Poland, England and Ireland. Words and ideas I’d read about became real things and places and I loved having had a foot up on the trip by having read.
When we went RV’ing I started reading fiction again. Mostly mysteries. I discovered that there was a whole new generation of writers that I knew nothing about. And I started getting acquainted with new names and new styles. Many of them I didn’t care for, but there have been a few authors who I have read 20 or 30 of their volumes and others that I struggled to get through a single tome.
And now… Since moving in November I find myself obsessed with the news. I read 6 or 7 regular publications regularly for daily, weekly, and monthly news. I read politics and sciences and even entertainment. I haven’t read a book in 6 months and pretty soon I sense I’ll tire of this regime and turn to something else again.
As I age, my tastes change. That’s good. That’s allowed. That’s who I am.