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In Praise of Reading

By Glynn Young

I was an early reader. I don’t recall how early, but I do remember riding my red bicycle to the dime store when I was six, to spend 59 cents to buy Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion. It was the first of many such trips, for more Trixie Belden mysteries, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, Black Beauty, and Tom Sawyer, among others, published by the Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin.

When fourth grade arrived, I could participate in the monthly Scholastic Book Club. Few things in school were as exciting as the teacher handing out the four-page order form for the new books available. Most were priced at 25 or 35 cents. One or two would be 50 cents. My mother allowed me a monthly budget of $1.50.

Scholastic Book Club ended with sixth grade, so I was more on my own. I found my way to and around the book sections of department store and local bookstores, including the ones opening at the new shopping malls sprouting all over my suburb of New Orleans. I still have great memories of one called the Dolphin Book Shop at Lakeside Shopping Center.

It was at the book shop that a friend and I, both in the same 12th grade English class, bought our copies of Don Quixote. The Spanish classic was the one of two major novels we read that year (the other being David Copperfield), and we had the option of reading either the condensed (and much shorter) version or the complete version. Of the 36 students in the class, two of us chose the full version, with its 990 pages. We both struggled to keep up with class discussions – we had a lot more to read for each class – but neither of us regretted our decision.

My reading addiction grew worse in college. Not only did I have to read a lot more than I was used to for classes, I was growing my outside reading. And I had a bad habit of always starting some can’t-put-it-down book during final exams.

Business travel and vacations almost always introduced me to new places to find books. In New York, I discovered not only Scribner’s Bookstore but the offices where editor Maxwell Perkins met with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe. I found Brentano’s. I found used bookstores, like the Faulkner Book Shop in Pirate’s Alley in New Orleans. I learned how to sort quickly through the shelves at used book stores. I found what is likely my favorite place on the entire planet, Blackwell’s on Broad Street in Oxford, England. And, yes, I early signed up at Amazon and a few years ago was alerted by a friend to Book Depository, which ships free worldwide from the U.K.

It’s been a lifetime of reading, and it shows no sign of stopping. Reading has changed my life, and it was reading that led me to writing. What reading taught me was that I – like each of us – had at least one story that needed to be told. Reading taught me that other people’s stories could speak to me in ways I never imagined. Reading taught me that the story I had to tell could speak to other people in ways I never dreamed.

And it didn’t matter whether it was literary fiction, a mystery, a romance, a supernatural thriller, a biography, or history. If the story was well told and well written, it could speak into our hearts and souls.

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Glynn Young is a national award-winning speechwriter, communications practitioner, and novelist. He’s the author of four published novels, Dancing PriestA Light Shining, Dancing King, and Dancing Prophet;  and the non-fiction book Poetry at Work.   Visit Glynn at FacebookTwitter, LinkedInPinterest, his blog, the Dancing Priest book page, and his business web site.

 

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2 Responses to In Praise of Reading

  1. I’m in a agreement with you Glynn. I have always loved reading. I would get the Hardy Boys or Chip Hilton series from the library and read them. I would even take them to school and “hide” them in my class textbook and read while in class. I, too, remember the scholastic books where we could order books. My appetite for reading hasn’t diminished. I don’t have the time for reading much fiction these days although I try to make time. I found favorite writers (Steve Lawhead, Al Lacy, Narnia, Blackstock, Coble, and some guy named Glynn Young, among others) and well as some favorite non-fiction writers. I hope my love for reading never diminishes with age.

  2. Glynn, I remember Scholastic!

    When I was still well enough to travel, I always made sure I bought a book in each city, and would keep the receipt therein, as an aide-memoriae. It was fun.

    The hand life dealt was kinda bleak,
    so I looked to written words to learn
    that my place was not unique,
    and that for the light I might yet yearn.
    I stole stuff to raise the cash
    that would buy me myriad books
    and while I endured the lash
    of justice, the purloined pages took.
    There is a better world out there
    and it’s not so very far away
    from where we stand, if we but dare
    to keep our hearts and minds in play.
    Successful thieving brought elation,
    yeah, but it laid a sound foundation.