Saturday, January 2, 2010

Post #2 - Reading as a Hobby

This post is all about reading and writing and if I get to it, some of the authors I admire.

Reading has been important to me from the first day I learned how to turn those odd graphical symbols on a piece of paper into sounds and language.  Over the course of my lifetime I've read a lot of books. I wish I had a list, because I've forgotten at least 90% of them.  However, some of these books I have re-read, several of them three times or more.  The books I've re-read have meant different things to me each time I've read them.  Sometimes a book I've read at an earlier time in my life comes across as a dud the second time around.  I attribute this change to the River of Life moving along and changing the meaning I once found in the book and its ideas.  The book hasn't changed, but I have.  Sorry, old friend.

Some books however can be read over and over, they are truly golden.  I've never really thought about the meaning of 'golden oldie', but it means untarnished.  Perhaps golden is not the best analogy, because gold in itself has no meaning beyond a surface color, sheen and texture, you're not too likely to find new meaning in it 10 years from now.  Each re-reading of such a book however brings something new, something you never saw before, something you never really understood and perhaps mentally skipped.

So what are these books?  Number one on my list is The Odyssey.   What an amazing story.  I read it for the first time when I was 15 and re-read it last when I was 50.  Each time it has been a wonderful experience.  Odysseus is the man.  End of story.

Now, the next author may surprise you, but this gentleman is J. R. Tolkien.  I first read  The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as a teenager, and have read them again every 10 years or so.  I had the distinct pleasure of reading these out loud to my sons, what a pleasure that was.  I have to give The Hobbit the nod over the LOTR as a more satisfying work of art, at points LOTR is too stultified, but I easily overlook this for the greatness of the theme, the sweeping plot and its grounding in the down-to-earth hobbits whose lives change and are changed by the events Tolkien chronicles in his imaginary but so real world.

Next up I trot out old friend Charles Dickens and his masterpiece David Copperfield.  I bought a copy of this book for my son for Christmas, which in fact inspired this whole post - as I said on Christmas day, this is a book you can read every decade and find it teaches you something new as it breaks your heart and rewards you with some of the happiness best (and only) found in books.

My last author for now is Ray Bradbury and his compilation of short stories, The Martian Chronicles.  This is relatively lightweight compared to Homer, but I make no excuses for a great story teller with a world-class imagination.  The best stories are just as good as they were the first time I read them 35 years ago or so.

For next time:  writers I most admire - and would like to meet.

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