Coffee with Mimi – So many books, so little time

Published 6:35 pm Friday, October 4, 2019


Contributing Columnist

There are many good books in the world, and I’ve read some of them. Sometimes, I was forced to read a book as assigned by a teacher in order to pass the class, I read. I delved in and then was glad I did. There are also plenty of really good books out there which are often referred to as “pleasure reading.” I’ve enjoyed many. They catch my attention through a blurb on the book cover or they are another in a series by a favorite author. They are comfortable.

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And then, there are great books in my world. Often a friend has made a recommendation. A few of these books are actually classified as “great books.” But, that has nothing to do with their greatness. These books are real page turners, but more than uncovering some murder solution they make me think.

“A Tale of Two Cities” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” fall into the had to read, but absolutely loved in the end, category.  I remember spending a high school Thanksgiving break completely engrossed in what was a homework assignment.

 Anything by Maeve Binchy is always a pleasure to read. Every so often, I will go to the public library stacks and scan to see if I’ve missed any selection. 

Reading is serious business. I willingly admit that I may start a book and not finish it. There are times I have made it from first page to last because I was required to, but not any more. The book may have spent weeks or months on the bestseller list. I bought it, started it and set it down on the bedside table. If it remains in the same spot about as long as it stayed on the list, it is likely doomed. I’m sure it was a good book, for many others, just not for me at this time, or maybe ever.

I don’t want to close a great  book at the end. I want to absorb every word in each sentence. If I am distracted by the dog, or a phone call and find the words have passed by, I will clear my mind and reread the passage. A great book is more than a good story. It reminds me of what is really important and possible in life; mine, specifically.

One might think I have a short term memory, but there is no time like the present. I just finished two books and am in the middle of a third I hope to never forget. One has been made into a movie; one not, at least yet; and the third is unlikely to ever hit the silver screen. I don’t want to know any of them except in print in my hands and memory, ever.

These stories belong to me and I don’t want to share what I gathered. I will tell you I thoroughly loved them. But it is up to you to read and decide for yourself. And, I will not let some screenwriter tell me his, or her version of the story because I have already got what I need from them.     

Coincidentally, two of the books are about animals, one a dog and the other a donkey. Actually, saying they are about the animals is not an accurate or fair characterization. There are animals in each of the books who play very different roles on the surface. In each book, there is a main adult character who has morals and scruples and great faith in the workings of the world and the people in it, still. Neither of the books is moralistic, nor do the authors try to impress with a convoluted use of style conventions, or vocabulary.

Every word these authors chose is just right and means what it says to me. I like good words. I keep my electronic dictionary handy to check when I am unsure of a form or use, but sometimes I just want to appreciate the flow and know how it fits without feeling compelled to check my understanding. In fact, the meaning of each word is completely clear.

The book I am currently reading is quite unlike those two in subject matter. So far, no animals play a role. The author has a prodigious vocabulary and an extensive and highly respected knowledge of American history, in particular. While there is a well constructed and sequential story line, the individual episodes are not the story of the same one or two characters through time. They are connected by the demand that the reader understand and accept his or her own responsibility to understand and interact with the world.  

That story and how it ends is the responsibility of the reader. 

Reading is serious business. What we know and how we think is shaped by what we read in so many ways. We can be lifted up and enriched and challenged, and question. We can also be changed. I doubt if I would read Huckleberry Finn in the same light today as I did as a teenager that long ago Thanksgiving.  

I have piles of books ready and waiting