Some Books Are To Be Tasted, Others To Be Swallowed, And Some Few To Be Chewed And Digested,* And Some Books Just Slide Right Down The Gullet, Lubricated By Silliness And Seasoned With Absurdity

July 7, 2010

The covers of this book are too far apart. • Ambrose Bierce

I’ve confessed many times to reading middle-of-the-night books that few academics would brag about, but as a teacher who’s concerned with literacy issues, I feel compelled to reveal my bookish secrets. I read lots of stuff just for fun and I read lots of books and articles that most people would have little interest in. I reference the serious ones in other venues, since they represent the kind of reading that only the interested would be interested in. I love this intellectual stuff too, but I don’t feel compelled to impress you with my erudition. If it isn’t enough that I use the word erudition correctly in a sentence, clearly you are people who will never be pleased, so I might as well not worry about it.

There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it. • Bertrand Russell

When I write about books here, I hope to remind people that reading can be fun. That isn’t always the message students get in school where reading can be boring and tedious and can require intense concentration in order to take away requisite knowledge. This is a skill students need—the ability to persist even when the reading is less than entrancing—but they also need to learn how amusing books can be.

Every night, I have to read a book, so that my mind will stop thinking about things that I stress about. • Britney Spears

I wear a quiet hat in class to get students’ attention. It’s a horned plastic helmet and I’ve just discovered that Vikings never wore such headgear. This piece of historical myth-information is debunked by Michael Powell’s (2010, New York: Fall River Press) Lies You Learned at School. Page 18 reveals that “the Viking fighting style actually precluded their [horned helmets’] use.” I unlearned much more—you’ll have to buy the book.

I was reading a book…’the history of glue’ – I couldn’t put it down. • Tim Vine

How could anyone who collects old sex books pass up The Best of Sexology: The Illustrated Magazine of Sex Science? This book, edited by Craig Yoe promises on its cover that readers will be treated to “kinky and kooky excerpts from America’s first sex magazine.” I am hooked before I open it and can only hope that there will be breast stuff within. And there is, a whole article devoted to “Polymastia. . .Multiple Breasts” by Sara R. Riedman, Ph.D. I also find a picture of a spiked blouse designed to protect women from contact with those who might wish to cop a feel. What treats!

A bad book is as much of a labor to write as a good one; it comes as sincerely from the author’s soul. • Aldous Huxley

I’m a sucker for first sentences that grab my attention, so I love this one from Daniel Waters (2008, New York: Hyperion), Generation Dead. “Phoebe and her friends held their breath as the dead girl in the plaid skirt walked past their table in the lunchroom” (p. 1). This tale chronicles the story of “living impaired or “differently biotic” teens who won’t stay dead and who just want to fit in. I’ll use this for reading aloud at the start of class.

There is a great deal of difference between an eager man [or women] who wants to read a book and a tired man [or woman] who wants a book to read. • G.K. Chesterton

Twisted: Tales from the Wacky Side of Life is the kind of you-had-me-at-hello title that always appeals to me. This 2006 (New York: MJF Books) book from Bob Fenster is packed with strange quotations, facts, anecdotes and other odd stuff I hadn’t seen before. For example, I learn on page 178 that First Lady Patricia Nixon “was named Macaroni Woman of the Year by the American Macaroni Institute” and was even “sculpted in pasta.” I drift off into thought for a moment thinking about this. The only pasta art I’m familiar with is macaroni necklaces. Do pasta sculptors use cooked or dry noodles?

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

“My first conscious recognition of being abducted [by aliens] was in 1988” (p. 106). This is the opening sentence from one of the chapters in How It Feels to Be Attacked by a Shark and Other Amazing Life-or-Death Situations!, a book of real-life stories edited by Michelle Hamer (2007, New York: MJF Books). If you’ve ever wondered how it feels to choke to death on a cheeseburger, to be shot in the heart with a nail gun, to win the lottery, to be caught in a cyclone, or to have quintuplets, this is the book for you.

So there they are, a few of my recent summer purchases, books that will entertain me and my students, books I claim proudly as my own, knowing that my choices will impress no one.

There is a temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work; and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading belongs. • Henry Ward Beecher

What kind of summer reading do you secretly—or openly–enjoy?

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. • P.J. O’Rourke

* Thanks to Frances Bacon for the quotation at the beginning of the title.



  1. I enjoy reading autobiographies the most. I am intrigued by reading about people’s lives and the challenges they face are just like yours and mine in many ways. The book I read for this class is titled The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Not only does this book stress the importance of reading aloud daily to children for at least 15 minutes, but it gives you different genres of literature to read for different age groups. Another book which is more of a resource for instruction of the 6 + 1 Writing Model is title Picture Books and the editor is Peter Bellamy. This has more interesting picture books to read as well as mini-lessons for each trait.

  2. If I am at home, I openly enjoy young adult books or books that would make a good rom/com movie. I want entertaining reading during the summer. Young adult books can often be extremely well-written, but adults don’t often appreciate this. Also, I can have more informed book chats with students if I’ve read their level books.

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