Burying My Head in Large Books

In my younger days as a freewheeling little child, I read often and widely, at least if you define widely somewhat narrowly. I appreciated children’s stories and young adult novels. Fantasy was especially to my fancy, and I devoured a slew of the classics, including Lord of the Rings and most of the posthumously published forays into Middle-Earth’s history, before I graduated 6th grade.

High school affected me differently than most, I think. Raging hormones and a sort of restless skepticism of authority can have a pestiferous effect on young minds, leading to all manner of debauchery and wickedness. For me, the debauchery and wickedness came later. My act of rebellion consisted mainly of me burying my head in large non-fiction books and learning about stuff. Why yes, my middle name is Guevara, and I probably should have led revolutions in exotic countries. Clearly. 

And so, I eschewed the whimsical, imaginative world of fiction and devoted myself assiduously to the quixotic task of figuring out this little thing called life. I am still, several years later, failing in that attempt.

It wasn’t until recently that I decided I ought to read less non-fiction and more fiction. I figured this would be best for my personality, which, having absorbed the dry prose of too many ponderous books, had become rather dry and uninteresting.

And that is where I stand today.

I’ve hit the ground running, so to speak, and am making good time in my effort to read more fiction. In fact, I recently finished Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser, which I found quite delightful. It is not the most exciting or exhilarating book in the world; indeed, there are a number of rough patches—those being tedious, dull, or desultory—I had to force myself through. However, Dreiser’s writing is rich; his command of the language, impressive. If you can lose yourself in his well-chosen words, his meticulously crafted sentences, you will find even the dull moments of the story worth getting through. Although my encomium is worth very little, I nevertheless recommend the book to you.

I now regret the long break I took from reading fiction. I cannot get those years back, but I can use my short summer break to play a bit of catch up. Of course, I haven’t abandoned my need for non-fiction. I also, around the same time, finished The Great Stagnation, which I referred to a post or so ago. It was short and thought-provoking and well worth one’s time, all of which is to be expected from Mr. Cowen.

Also, my personality, having once rivaled the lassitude commonly associated with the dead, is now full of life, energy, and verve. The wonders of literature, indeed.


Just About Everything In Between

As I type this, I am finding it difficult not to break down in tears of joy. Why? Because—and here the tears are nearly sloshing over the brims of my eyes—today is the last day of the semester. I have but one last paper to vanquish and I will be finished and ready to begin a longer overdue summer vacation.

What, you might ask (or you might not—your choice), are my summer plans? I intend to read, and to read obsessively. I fully intend to satisfy my rapacious desire for words by devouring, in no particular order, books on economics, books on society, books on the environment, books on words, books on fictional people and places, books on history, and books on just about everything in between.

I jumped the gun a bit and started my summer reading with Tyler Cowen’s “The Great Stagnation,” and mostly finished it in the span of about an hour. Cowen, a well known economist, packs a tremendous amount of information into a very short book, thereby fulfilling his mandate as a practitioner of the dismal science to maximize the value of his inputs.

And that, so far, is the extent of my summer schemes. I’m not sure my ambitious plan to read just about everything ever written will leave me much time for anything else. Still, when the days are hot, nothing appears more appealing to me than relaxing under the shade of a tree, book in hand. If my summer consists of nothing more, I will be satisfied.