Do you love to read?
I do. Well, at least I do, now …
In fact, I usually have at least two books going at any one time … occasionally three. Yes, I love to read and I have for a long time now, but it wasn’t always so.
There was a time when reading was a chore for me. The thought of wading through a book was something I dreaded. Especially if the book was some sort of required reading for school and I had a deadline to finish it. My apparent affliction with ADD didn’t help either. I wasn’t diagnosed, but looking back, it is pretty obvious that my attention span was extremely short … it still is, just ask my wife!
But, somewhere along the way, as my mind matured, my ability to concentrate increased and I began to appreciate books. Today, not only do I read for enjoyment, I also read as an act of self-discipline. Almost as though I am making amends for growing up as a virtual non-reader.
Because of my stated connection with the past, most of what I read has something to do with history. Not always, but most of the time. While I enjoy the occasional historical novel, I mostly read non-fiction. I want to learn as much as I can and while a novel can add a bit of zest to what can at times be rather dry subject matter, you’re never quite sure if the author has taken license with the facts. Let’s just say I’m skeptical of fiction when it purports to deal with a true story. Blame Oliver Stone!
Each summer for the past few years, I’ve chosen a particularly challenging reading assignment for myself and when I’ve reached the end, I’ve had that feeling of accomplishment that comes with doing a task that requires discipline. This summer, I’m reading the complete 4-volume “History of the English Speaking Peoples” by Winston Churchill … about 1,800 pages total, covering around 2,000 years. Over past summers, I’ve taken on and finished Shelby Foote’s magnificent “Civil War Trilogy” as well as a similar multi-volume opus by Bruce Catton. I read and enjoyed William Shirer’s daunting thousand-page tomb “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” and I even tackled “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand … not because I wanted to particularly, but because these were books that I’d heard about all my life … books that you simply should read. And so I did. And I’m glad I did.
Because I didn’t read the things I was assigned in high school, when I became an adult, I went back and caught up by forcing my way through “Moby Dick”. I have to admit that his was a tough one to finish, but I got through it on sheer will power. I also found time to read “Catcher in the Rye”, “Huckleberry Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and I found all three fascinating. I truly regret not having read them much earlier in life!
By conservative estimate, I have now read several hundred books in the past 20 years. My taste, though still focusing on historical topics, has become somewhat more varied. I ran through every last one of the “Sherlock Holmes” mysteries, most of the early Stephen King novels and I was hooked on John Grisham for a while as well. I still try to throw in a novel every once in a while for variation, but I find that they can be hit or miss and I’m frequently disappointed by books that critics and other readers have raved about.
Mostly I concentrate on topics and themes in American and world history written by authors who do a lot of research and stick to the facts as much as possible. I have read most of what Stephen Ambrose published before his death and my shelves are packed with dozens of volumes I’ve enjoyed by various popular historians and well-respected academicians as well.
Were you always an avid reader, or did you find yourself getting hooked on books later in life-like I did?