I came to reading begrudgingly. I was an impatient student easily bored with books. Finally an eighth-grade English teacher in Sidney, Kay Jester, figured out my problem. She told me that I had an inquisitive mind and had an affinity for storytelling. She also told me I was reading the wrong books.
She offered up her own copies of “Moby Dick,” “A Tale of Two Cities” and “Red Badge of Courage” as a way to open my eyes. Kind of like a 1963 teacher-student challenge.
I loved them all and haven’t stopped reading since. Mrs. Jester is long gone now, and I can only imagine her exultation at the thought that “Chuckie in the back of the first row” (she called me that; we were seated alphabetically throughout my school years) would some day be able to point to several books that he himself had authored.
Books have been my lifelong companions. I still have books that were on my boyhood bedroom shelves more than 50 years ago. I’ve carted them to college to apartment to trailer to condo and to my own homes. They’re my friends. Sure, some of them are upset because they remain closed up in dark boxes in my garage or basement, but that’s OK. They know I’m still here.
I thought I might share some of my reading interests with you. I’ve received a remarkable selection of books from family and friends this year. Here are some favorites. Yes, they are heavy on the nonfiction side. But I think you might find one you’ll enjoy.
“Devil in the Grove” tells the story of the legendary black jurist Thurgood Marshall in his early days as a civil rights lawyer. His story is frightening. He dared to face down the slack-jawed, dentally challenged dimwits who were the pillars of the Jim Crow South in the 1930s and 1940s. He went there to defend poor blacks who’d been brought to hanging trees on trumped-up charges. The chapter where Marshall himself escapes his own lynching by just a few minutes left me breathless. This book, by Gilbert King, tells a little-known yet equally important story of this towering 20th century figure before most of us had ever even heard of his name