I Never Go Anywhere Without A Book Or Two Or Three Or Four Or More

May 31, 2010

A book is like a garden carried in a pocket. • Chinese proverb

Many persons read and like fiction.  It does not tax the intelligence and the intelligence of most of us can so ill afford taxation that we rightly welcome any reading matter which avoids this. • Rose Macaulay 
(Or perhaps, Rose, some of us are taxing our intelligence so much that we need to levy some amusement.)

Warning: Touching story of self-sacrifice opens this post. Our son, who just recently bought an iPad, loaned my husband and I this delight for our train trip. What can you say about a son like that? Of course, we already knew he was wonderful, but this confirmed that he’s thoughtful too. I’ve already played with it enough to know that I want one. Unfortunately, only one of us at a time can use it to read the books available on it. We’re schlepping paperbooks aboard too.

I am tired. Our cross-country voyage begins today and ends on Thursday. Of course, I’ll be reading. I’ll be reading my summer syllabi and making sure I have the schedules planned for my classes. I’ll be reading my conference presentation materials and making sure I know what I’m going to say and how I’m going to say it. I’ll be reading some of the things I haven’t had a chance to work on yet and writing reports to finish up the quarter. I’ll be reading for inspiration so I can write along the way.

I won’t be reading papers. I finished that yesterday. All I have left is final essays and they’re not due until later this week.

The author Gilbert Keith (usually known as G.K., even by those who weren’t his pals) said that there is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read.  Ditto for women.

I’ll also be reading junk. Stuff that’s the mental equivalent of cotton candy. It will taste good going in, but if I take the 300 pages or so and compress the wisdom, there won’t be much left. And that’s okay. So much of your life if you’re a teacher or student is consumed by reading the haftas. For me, many of the haftas are pleasurable, but sometimes, my brain needs a break. I’m looking forward to reading something that won’t stimulate a thousand thoughts. Two or three are all I want to deal with.

When my husband and I travel with books, we choose ones that we both want to read and when we finish with them, we leave them along the way for others to find and enjoy. A Post-It® gift message keeps our leavings out of the lost and found. This sprinkling the country with books is also one of the reasons I don’t travel with my favorites or with the non-fiction that is my particular addiction. I don’t want to have to carry it across the country and back.

I hope that required reading hasn’t dampened your enthusiasm for the joys of relaxing with an entertaining book. If you don’t usually read for fun, give it a try. Visit a bookstore and look in places you wouldn’t usually check for reading. Look for titles that are enticing. Summer is coming. Read.

If you’re going to read purely for fun, what kind(s) of reading do you choose? (Note: In an extremely informal survey of English teachers, many of them like books featuring serial killers, real and imaginary. It’s up to you to decide what this might mean.)

I’ve never known any trouble that an hour’s reading didn’t assuage. • Charles de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu, Pensées Diverses



  1. Zinn,
    I related to that mention of not wanting to read something that stimulates a thousand thoughts…I just finished House Made of Dawn, recommended by Greg Bryant, and it took me a really long time to read. I hadn’t felt that level of literary pleasure since Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac in February. A really good book seems to be what I’m always trying to find because it gives me so much stimulation, but the “easier” ones are definitely quite welcomed. I highly recommend anything by John Green, young adult finction writer.

    Same with really great discussions. I’ve had some, especially simce my recent participation in Socrates Cafes here in Portland. After a two or three day high following those, I usually just want to talk about the weather with people.

    Love the idea of leaving books for folks. I also travel with more books than underwear it seems.


    • Hi, Carrie,

      I’m in Union Station in D.C. and the connection comes and goes. More books than underwear–that definitely describes my style too. Love it! I’d like to hear more about Socrates Cafes.


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