Enlightened Conflict

read the world

August 23rd, 2014

reading is traveling words

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”


Augustine of Hippo







If you are a reader … this is going to be fabulous. Oh. And most of it was generated by a couple of tween/teen <young adult> people who love to read.




So often we have our favorite authors and many of those ‘favorite’ are driven by either where you live or by popular media.



I hesitate to call it a ‘reading rut’ but if you are not careful … you will see that over time your bookshelves with start having a slightly homogenous feel to it.



book touch lightly

I say that because that means we often miss out on some fabulous reading out of the mainstream.



That is why I believe this is fabulous.



I came across this “list of books from around the world’ on the tumblr site ‘about books and dreams’ which connected me to two different lists I wanted to share.




Suffice it to say … there are a shitload of books listed here and you could spend a lifetime finding & reading all of them.




But … well … what a lifetime, huh?



books to read









–         The original list …Read The World – The Peirene 100 Essential Classics From Around The Globe.



A truly challenging, eclectic and inspiring list compiled entirely by Peirene Press readers:








And then I saw a commenter … a young adult … kind of ‘diss’ the list in that snarky young way that young people can pull off <and I loved it>:



The thought was actually creating a list which is a reflection … a true reflection … of the world population.




What a fabulous idea <and lots of work>.




I do not know who ‘eastiseverywhere’ is … but job well done.










I recently got ticked off over a “Read the World” list that was still really centred on Western books.




Then I started thinking: what if there were a reading list of 100 books that reflected the actual demographics of the world population of 7.152 billion people right now?



Here are:


19 books from China;

world broekn down 100 people

17 from India;


4 from the US;


3 from Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan;



2 from Nigeria, Bangladesh, Japan and Mexico, and 1 each from the Philippines, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Turkey, DRC, Thailand, France, UK, Italy, Burma, South Africa, South Korea, Colombia, Spain, Ukraine, Tanzania, Kenya, Argentina, Algeria, Poland, Sudan, Uganda, Canada, Iraq, Morocco, Peru, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nepal, Afghanistan, Yemen, North Korea, Ghana, Mozambique, Australia and Taiwan.



50 books are by men.


49 are by women.


1 is a work of divine revelation.






Authors (roughly) reflect the ethnic makeup of their nations – e.g. the South African author is Black, not white; the Malaysian author is Malay, not Chinese; one of the PRC authors is non-Han Chinese; one of the American authors is non-white.Bucharest, romania: A woman walks between books displayed on the pavement d



I’ve tried to represent a range of historical periods and the most acclaimed writers in each section.



Writers presented are those widely available in English – this is why Ding Ling, Zhang Yueran and Akka Mahadevi weren’t featured: because it’s really hard to find their work in English.



Also, a writer is only of a nationality if s/he’s got/had citizenship of the area at some point – i.e. Jhumpa Lahiri is American, not Indian.



Sure, I know this list is problematic – smaller countries, like those of the Caribbean and Oceania, are kind of wiped out. But I’m open to change this. So send in your suggestions for changes if you’ve got them!



And remember: if you’re gonna read the world, you might as well do it RIGHT.






Here is the Full list of Books:

<note 1 from Bruce: of course I would edit the list to match up with my likes & dislikes … for example … for Spain I would include Arturo Perez Revarte … for Russia … well … I could include several others … but you get it … you can edit and add & subtract … but the point is you get exposed to books from around the world>.


<note 2 from Bruce: this list also becomes more difficult if you maintain representation of the world … for example … France with its extensive list of great literature is limited to one book because of its relative size in the midst of the larger world>


<note 3 from Bruce: please forgive me for any formatting issues or readability issues … this post was frickin’ difficult to build and format … I would have tortured someone at wordpress if I could ever find someone to wring their proverbial neck … >



read fast sorcerer

On with the list ……





The Analects of Confucius

The Tao Te Ching of Lao Zi

The Art of War by Sun Zi

The Poems of Li Qingzhao

The Journey to the West by Wu Cheng En

Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Shi Naian

Selected Stories of Lu Xun

Rickshaw Boy by Lao She

The Dyer’s Daughter by Xiao Hong

Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang

Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian

The Republic of Wine by Mo Yan

The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa

Red Azalea by Anchee Min

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow by Wang Anyi

Daughter of the River by Hong Ying

Wild Swans by Jung Chang

The Good Women of China by Xinran




The Ramayana of Valmiki

The Mahabharata by Vyasa

The Dhammapada of Buddha

The Kural of Tiruvalluvar

The Story of My Experiments With Truth by Mohandas K. Gandhi

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor

Five Point Someone: What Not to Do at IIT by Chetan Bhagat

A River Sutra by Gita Mehta

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Breast Stories by Mahasweta Devi

Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai

Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Spouse: The Truth About Marriage by Shobhaa De

Moving On by Shashi Deshpande



The Poems of Emily Dickinson

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Beloved by Toni Morrison


Letters from A Javanese Princess by Raden Adjeng Kartini

This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Saman by Ayu Utami


Dom Casmurro by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

Dona Flor and her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado

The Hours of the Star by Clarice Lispector


Songs of Blood and Sword by Fatima Bhutto

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif


Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamande Ngozi Adichie


Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore

The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam


War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

reading 3

The Poems of Anna Akhmatova


reading 2

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami


reading 1

The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel


Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco


When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip

reading is traveling child


Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste


Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz


The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt


Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi


My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk


The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja



Letters from Thailand by Botan


Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


The Aeneid by Virgil


Letters from Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi


Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela


Please Look After Mother by Kyung Sook Shin


Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


The Life of St Teresa of Avila by Herself


The White Guard by Mikail Bulgakhov


Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah


Devil on the Cross by Ngugi wa’Thiongo


The Topless Tower by Silvina Ocampo


Fantasia: An Algerian Calvacade by Assia Djebar


The Poems of Wislawa Szymborska


Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih


Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol by Okot p’Bitek


The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood


The Poems of Rabia Basri


Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami


The Time of the Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa


The Dancer from Khiva by Bibish


Kampung Boy by Lat


The Quran


Doña Inés vs. Oblivion by Ana Teresa Torres


The End of the World by Sushma Joshi


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini


I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali


Eyes of the Tailless Animals by Soon Ok Lee


Changes by Ama Ata Adoo


Neighbours: A Story of a Murder by Lília Momplé


Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay


Notes of a Desolate Man by Chu Ti’en-Wen




And to be fair to the about books and dreams tumblr author … she added her own list:



–          I’ll start adding some titles here (trying to stick to novels) and you can send me yours in a message.





The Sea of Fertility series by Yukio Mishima, Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto.


books and time

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo, Battles in the Desert by José Emilio Pacheco, Les Exilés de la Mémoire (Los Rojos de Ultramar) by Jordi Soler, The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz, Confabulario by Juan José Arreola, Popol Vuh, The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela, The Nine Guardians (Balún Canán) by Rosario Castellanos, Tear This Heart Out by Ángeles Mastretta.


Perfume by Patrick Süskind, Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, The Tin Drum by Günter Grass (born in Poland).


The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (born in Morocco).


Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (born in Cuba).


Delirium by Laura Restrepo, Recipes for Sad Women by Héctor Abad Faciolince.


The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Tell Me Who I Am by Julia Navarro, See How Much I Love You by Luis Leante, Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones.


The Aleph and Other Stories by Jorge Luis Borges, Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar, The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato.


Dear Life by Alice Munro, In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honoré (born in Scotland), Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen.


Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo.

Czech Republic:

Slowness by Milan Kundera, Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke.


The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar Keret.


Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The African Trilogy by Chinua Achebe.



Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh




Blindness by José Saramago, The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa.



Memory of Fire series by Eduardo Galeano, The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories by Horacio Quiroga, The Truce by Mario Benedetti.



And then because the blog owner is Brazilian … she asks … can I add more Brazilian literature?



- Agua Viva, Near to the Wild Heart, and The Passion of G. H by Clarice Lispector

- The Posthumos Memoir of Bras Cubas by Machado de Assis

reading and where you will go

- Winning the Game and High Art by Rubem Fonseca

- They Were Many Horses by Luiz Ruffato

- Blood-drenched Beard by Daniel Galera






If you can’t find something new to read off of this list … well … you are hopeless.

lest they be angels in disguise

September 6th, 2013

angels shakespeare at nightBe not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.” – on the wall of Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris

<note: the owner attributed it to Yeats but it is a variation of a biblical passage>



I will begin by saying that for English speaking book lovers in Paris there are bookseller stall 3two must-do events … casually strolling the long stretch of bookseller stalls along the Seine trolling through the thousands of books … and visiting Shakespeare & Company book store.



Let me add that no matter where you are … we book lovers are snobs. And sometimes inhospitable. Not only to strangers but to everyone <who we don’t think reads books>.


The trouble is we can even be snobs and inhospitable to each other.



Shakespeare & Company is not just a bookstore … it is A bookstore.

The most recent owner <who just passed away> said: “I wanted a bookstore because the book business is the business of life.”


Overlooking the Seine and facing the Notre-Dame < at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, Paris>, the well-worn, well-used jumbled store spreads over three floors and has always been an eclectic open house for literary lovers.  It has always provided a way station for aspiring writers and literary nomads providing food and uncomfortable little beds often letting them spend a night, a week, or even months living among the crowded shelves and alcoves. <if interested … here is an excellent short article about the book store:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/mar/07/shakespeare-and-company-bookshop-paris   >


It is an amazing book store.

life nature and you



And amazingly intimidating.



I love books … love reading … am a mediocre writer at best … but love writing.


However … walking into this book store makes everyone – even those who love the same things I do – feel inadequate.


I am intimidated every time I walk in there.


I know that someone will know more about books, be able to quote more things, be a better writer … or I imagine simply be more literary worldly.




And there are people within the store who can simply look at you and make you feel inadequate <and even more intimidated>. Heck. Hemingway hung out in this book store for gods sake.


That is what us quasi-intellectual wanna-be people do to each other.


But I imagine we <all of us> do it with each other … and places … and spaces … everywhere and in every situation.

Which of course leads me to the quote.


Be not inhospitable to bookstores, lest they be angels in disguise.


I imagine my point here is that not all bookstores are created equal.

Just as not all people are the same. Sure. They all have books. But each has its own character, scent, style, and distinct feel … a certain je ne sais quoi.


While I can honestly say that I have never walked into a bookstore and been unhappy … I can say that a certain type of bookstore can make me happier than another.


And I know I judge book stores by their façade, who I see walking in and out … as well as by a variety of other cues.


I am being stupid.


For while independent store lovers scoff at the big chain bookstores … and some people cannot tell the difference between one book store or another … and some people don’t even go into a bookstore <the magical world of online> … all bookstores have an angel in disguise within.


We are silly if we are inhospitable to any bookstore.


Which leads me to the people you share a bookstore with …


Be not inhospitable to patrons lest they be angels in disguise.


The Shakespeare & Co. use of the quote most likely suggests that they recognize they NEED to remind everyone to show some courtesy to the patrons with which they share the confines of the store.angels in disguise bookstore


I chuckle when I think of this … we have an uneasy relationship with others in a bookstore.

We eye each other as comrades in arms … and yet keep each other at arms’ length.


We share some common desire to be near books.

Yet we are strangers in our own strange world.



It is easy to be inhospitable to one of the strangers should they infringe upon your space, physical or mental, as you peruse the titles hidden in dark shadowed corners.


And yet … they may be an angel in disguise lurking in the aisle gazing at another book.


In my ‘high & mighty’ literary view of the world I tend to believe there are more likely angels in disguise in bookstores than outside bookstores. And, yet, even knowing this … while courteous … I doubt I am as ‘hospitable’ as I should be knowing this <most likely because I forget>.


Which leads me to people in general … and to what a silly man I am.


What if angels don’t like books or reading? <a heretical thought to a book lover>


That thought suggests that the strangers we judge, as we so oft do, on the streets … outside bookstores … could really be angels in disguise.


I imagine this part is about giving someone the benefit of the doubt.

And a point about ‘environment’ and the fact that environment matters as we judge.

Just as I judge people who frequent bookstores differently than I judge others.


But should it matter?

Should I, or we, make judgments associated by some choice.

In other words … ‘they choose to be there and in doing ‘that’, ergo, we assume they are <fill in blank>.’


Sometimes circumstances choose the environment you meet or see someone. Do we think of that?

Typically not … we simply see the moment as indicative of all moments … judge … have perceptions … and look upon these ‘strangers’ that cross our paths in Life.


To be honest … we most likely are not hospitable.

Rather … more likely we are simply indifferent.



But the true question at hand.


Would we remain indifferent if we knew that stranger was an angel in disguise?

<a point to ponder in general>


angel guyWell.

I began this by pointing out there are multiple levels of inhospitableness.


And I did so to point out that we all share this space … not just in book stores … but in life.

And often in our tight time world we judge, create perceptions … and behave with those perceptions in mind.


To be honest.

I am writing this less to make a point to all my readers but rather to make a point to myself.


Far too often I imagine I judge strangers.


Which is too bad … lest they be angels in disguise.

marginalia and raucous conversations

March 6th, 2013

“Reading a book should not be a passive exercise, but rather a raucous conversation.”  -marginalia Studs Terkel, Pulitzer Prize author, historian, actor, and broadcaster, was known to admonish friends who would read his books but leave them free of markings.

Marginalia is the study of things scribbled in margins of books.


I am a book margin scribbler myself <although I doubt my scribbled-in books will make anyone any money someday>.

I call them marks of affection. Indicators of my relationship with the words I found within. Sometimes they are notes of inspiration … for new thoughts, ideas, things I will write in the future, things I may speak in the future … or simply admiration for wording.

My margins are a reflection of the immediate me. am I scarring a book or simply etching my appreciation for a stunning glimpse of clarity?

My To Kill a Mockingbird <albeit not my 1st edition copy> tends to highlight Scout’s wisdom.

The Eight by Katherine Neville <a 1st edition I have read and reread> is strewn with notes regarding history and thoughts.

And many many other nondescript books which may have had only one truly memorable literary moment <most published books have at least one incredibly well crafted thought>.


I also admit I love collecting older books with notes in the margins thumbing through dusty yellow paged books in random corners of used bookstores seeking scribbled margins.

I think the notes represent a book within a book.

A glimpse into what some stranger sees or feels.

I believe how I feel about marginalia puts me in a minority. Scribbling in margins just seems like something polite readers do not do.

A guy named Paul F. Gehl blames generations of librarians and teachers for “inflicting us with the idea” that writing in books makes them “spoiled or damaged.”

I agree.

And I would add in my parents and all the other adults around me.

Marginalia was more common in the 1800s.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a prolific margin writer, as were William Blake and Charles Darwin.


marginalia making book fee loved“In getting my books I have always been solicitous of an ample margin; this is not so much through any love of the thing in itself, however agreeable, as for the facility it affords me of penciling in suggested thoughts, agreements, and differences of opinion, or brief critical comments in general.” – Edgar Allan Poe


I imagine it is a certain type of reader who might be inclined to underlining, noting things or even scribbling notes & comments in the margin.

Speaking as one myself I know I am giving a book my complete attention as i hover over the pages with a pencil nearby when words inspire me to do so. I also believe it is a commitment to return. To regather those comments and thoughts another day.

“… quite simply, a human being who has a pencil in his or her hand when reading a book.” – George Steiner <defining an intellectual>



I am not an intellectual … but I do tend to read with a pencil nearby, scribble notes or circle phrases or turn down the corner of pages if I find something I want to reread.

All of those things I just stated about the margins of books?

Uh oh.

I hear a chorus of librarians <and my mother and sister> groaning about the sanctity of the book.

But I have Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, Coleridge and Studs Terkel on my side.

All were proponents of this nefarious deed.


Mark Twain left a comment about “Huckleberry Finn,” in his copy of “The Pen and the Book” by Walter Besant.

The book, about making a profit in publishing, scarcely qualifies as a literary masterpiece. It is highly valuable, instead, because Mark Twain penciled, among other observations, a one-way argument with the author, Walter Besant, that “nothing could be stupider” than using advertising to sell books as if they were “essential goods” like “salt” or “tobacco.” On another page, Twain made some snide remarks about the big sums being paid to another author of his era, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.


Twain was engaging in marginalia.

And despite the fact the only thing I share with Twain is having a mustache … I also engage in marginalia.


Despite the fact everyone will be skewering me for marking up books … marginalia has a rich literary history <sometimes regarded as literary archaeology as I try and explain my modern graffiti in the classics>.

Part of the history?

<I have stolen these examples from another wrier on marginalia>


Some examples, like Fermat’s Last Theorem, are of the most desperate importance.

Others, like an early medieval monk writing ‘My hand is so cold I can hardly hold the quill’, are utterly unimportant but immediate.

In some cases, there is art work – Nabokov sketching a beetle in his copy of Metamorphis.

In other cases, there is an absence of anything intelligible: Churchill’s poignant red crayon marks on German decrypts detailing their murdering ways on the Eastern Front.

There is stupid marginalia: a student copy of Wilfred Owen’s collected poems where the word ‘futile’ had been written in big block capitals next to that poet’s Futility.

There is irrelevant marginalia by important people: Lincoln’s attempts to learn legal Latin in his law books.

Then there is important marginalia by irrelevant people. The first evidence of Hamlet being performed in a Chaucer belonging to one Gabriel Harvey: ‘The younger sort takes much delight in Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, but his Lucrece, and his Hamlet Prince of Denmark have it in them to please the wiser sort’.

There is stolen marginalia – the ‘precious’  early Welsh stanzas from the Juvencus manuscript were cut from their place and hoarded away by a scholar.

There is posthumous marginalia – medieval glosses copied out as a text in manuscripts where we’ve lost the original margins: for example, the Greek words taught to Anglo-Saxon students in the seventh-century by Theodore of Canterbury. 

There is even – in homage to Invisible Libraries – Invisible Marginalia: in Wuthering Heights, for example, there is a reference to Catherine’s pen portrayal of Joseph in a margin of a book.

There is even’ notes to friends’ marginalia: Coleridge in a borrowed book of Charles Lamb: ‘I will not be long here, Charles!—& gone, you will not mind my having spoiled a book in order to leave a Relic.’



As I noted earlier … sometimes when you read you are inspired by how something is articulated.

Therefore Marginalia can reflect history … as in the fact one book can create a source of inspiration <for another book>.

Like this.

A copy of Thoreau’s “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers” <which had been borrowed by Jack Kerouac from a local library in 1949 and never to be returned> has on page 227 a short sentence Kerouac had underlined in pencil with a “small, neat check mark beside it.”

The sentence: “The traveler must be born again on the road.”

<of course … Kerouac is famous for his book “on the road”>



I found a relatively bad overall poem about marginalia which has a couple of very good stanzas:


From Billy Collins’ poem ‘Marginalia’:

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.


friends_talking_on_benchWell … I have always been a book giver … but maybe I should become a book lender … and encourage people to write in the margins when inspired. Mostly because I am relatively sure I have never had a bad discussion when discussing a book … even a raucous discussion.

Am I speaking heresy <to the sanctity of published literature>?

Aw. Who knows.

To me?

We should all at some point “seize the white perimeter as our own.”


Make notes.


Make more notes.

Books are made to create a raucous conversation … whether it be with others … or in your own head.

hard to plan the day

September 20th, 2010

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – e.b. white


My plan for the day.

Each day I wake up and aim to be the best I can be at work.

For those who work with me and the people who work for me and anyone I can impact.

But does that I mean sacrificing being able to enjoy the world?

Does enjoying the world mean vacation?

Or relaxing?


This whole life thing is tough and I haven’t even starting thinking about what good ole EB calls “life challenges.”

That is just how I think about it.

For everyone <this includes me>?

Balancing self versus others is tough.

Toiling toward success versus relaxing is tough.

Heck. Life in general is tough.

And it’s even tougher if you can’t decide how to attack life.

The hardest part?

You can’t. Every morning you are trying to decide how to attack the day.

Despite all the self help books and “the 12 ½ traits of tried & true toilers” (I just made that up but I got to use lots of “t’s” which made me happy) and no matter how you plan and make lists and all that crap … you cannot.

Every day is a plan made … when you wake up.

(so it seems a little crazy to me investing boatloads of energy trying to plan your life let alone the day)

Of course everyone wants to improve the world.

I don’t know I have ever met anyone who hasn’t wanted to (even in the smallest way).

In fact (I am digressing here) I would argue that even if it isn’t in your ‘plan for the day’ should the opportunity to do something that would improve your world stepped into the day you would drop a shitload of other things down on the list to make room for it (hence your plan for the day has gone to hell in a hand basket … hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm … but … for a good reason ..)


Despite the ‘wanting to improve the world’ decision you made the night before (and the awesome dreams you had during the night) as soon as the alarm goes off and the caffeine starts kicking in you are quickly shifting focus to ‘how do I keep my head above water today.”


And where the hell does “enjoy the world” come into play?

Do I have good balance? Shit no.

The best I can say for myself is that the one thing I have down pat is the work thing. Relentlessly focused on making anyone I manage be the most successful they can be (in life and in business). I kinda figure maybe my ‘enjoy the world’ comes from the fruits of that endeavor.

In my own odd way I have figured out how to improve the world and enjoy the world.

I will say this to anyone reading this though.

Figure out your own.

But figure it out so you aren’t always choosing on over the other. Maybe it takes some weird logic like I developed to get to a balancing act. Maybe you can figure out your own less obtuse way of doing it. It really doesn’t matter (and when people say you have a fucked up way of looking at it … well .. they are wrong … because it is YOUR way of looking at it … and they are wrong to impose their guidelines on you).


The point?

Yeah. Life makes it really really hard to plan your day if your two aspects are improving the world and enjoying the world.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and figure it out.

In fact. You will be a lot happier if you invest some energy at some point (hopefully with some cocktails and maybe a really good friend) and figure it out.

travels of reading part 1

September 7th, 2010




This is partially a rant about people who don’t take advantage of the opportunities reading provides … and partially simply a plea for people to read as often as they can.


Let me begin with the traveling ‘thing’ I mention upfront.

I have been extremely fortunate in my life to have had the opportunity to travel different parts of the globe.

And experience lots of things. And see many different things.


But even with that.


I tend to believe books and reading have offered the best travels I have ever experienced.

Yeah. I do love reading and I believe reading books really is like traveling.



Traveling to places … new and known.

To thoughts … new and known.

To others minds and how they think … and what they think about.

To other types of thinking. To fresh ideas.


It is an absolute fact that everyone has the opportunity to see so many things through reading.



And imagine things limited only by the boundaries of your own imagination and vision.


And experience thinking and ideas and combinations of words that energize the mind and the heart and the soul.


Reading just gets you … well … thinking. Just thinking about things.


As we read I believe all of us have found those ‘moments’ in books.


book stack

There are those moments when you actually traveled through a slice of someone else’s life … living it word by word.



As I typed that … I remember I was fortunate to be given a proofers copy of The Horse Whisperer and asked my opinion of the book before it was ever published.

I know I gave it a great review.


And I believe the book made me cry in the first 50 pages <which may be one of the most heart wrenching tangled emotional ‘stepping into a moment’ sections of a book I have ever encountered>.


That is an example of traveling through someone else’s life experience.


You travel through their experience and feel it … right in your gut.


You live it.

You get so close to the moment through the words you feel like you have traveled right into the moment that you are experiencing it.


I find the same (but different) feeling when I read The Economist <so it does not have to be novels>.






Anyone who reads knows about the moments when you come across a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things that maybe you’d thought before … and it was lurking in your own mind … and it appears on a page articulated by by someone else, someone you’ve never met, maybe even someone long passed.



It’s as if someone has heard your thought and knew you couldn’t figure out a way to put it in words and has traveled to you through this book to say “here it is, worry no more, for now you know what it is.”



And, of course, <because I am consistent on this issue and I am who I am> reading is an easy path to knowledge … any kind of knowledge <factual, historical, metaphorical>.



Of course you can gain knowledge through experience, or discussion, or other paths … but reading is so freely available and simple to do that it can only be deemed a great failure to anyone who doesn’t encourage it as a core activity for any and all of us. It imagine I consider it a failure because, to me, reading is a privilege.



I do know I would like to see America become a place that’s proud of intellectual curiosity.

But I fear too often intellectual curiosity is belittled by people whose idea of culture is determined by television or People-type magazines or internet blogs.


reading cracking open a bookYou would like to think that knowledge should be a lifelong goal and not something satisfied by high school mandatory reading lists or four years of college … but rather a lifetime of reading.



Here is the issue <ok. some issues>.




Some statistics which are disturbing <at least to me they are>.


From bookstatistics.com:

-          58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.

-          42% of college graduates never read another book.

-          80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.

-          70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.





Did you know that there are approximately 30 million adults in the U.S. who can’t read?





THAT last one sends a shiver down my spine.

Well … honestly I am not sure which factoids bothered me the most … the ones where people know how to read and choose to not read or the people who do not even have the ability to read.

Pick your poison.



While I would like to think most people would like to read <like I do> I imagine I also assume they can actually read <bad assumption it seems>.





Look at number 2 on the list.


80% of families did not buy or read a book.


80 frickin’ percent.





What happens to us <from childhood where we seem to have endless supplies of books to read>?


I do know that one of my favorite childhood memories is “reading” The Hobbit.





I didn’t read it. It was read to me. Our teacher read it to us in installments in elementary school in ‘reading time.’


Afterwards? I couldn’t wait to get my own hands on it and read it myself.



Since then I have read it and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy <plus the Hobbit> maybe 10 times. I have no idea at what age was my first time reading it … but it has to be very young. tolkein not all who

I remember being fascinated, excited and impatient waiting for the next chapter to unfold.  I created pictures in my mind at each reading and the next day another picture would be drawn.






Let’s be clear. I am not suggesting everyone love reading as much as I do.



I am simply suggesting it is good to understand that what reading has to offer is important <so at least you recognize the choice>.


Not everyone can physically travel … and books not only give someone an opportunity to travel anywhere in the ‘now’ but they give you an opportunity to travel through time … and see ideas past, present and future.





I know reading books certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on becoming “smart.” Smart can be found anywhere in the written world.


I’ve read some amazing stuff online, and I’ve read amazingly written thought provoking newspaper articles <not in local papers but maybe the NY Times or The Guardian>. And I do think staying open to new media is a key sign of intellectual curiosity.



In any case, I don’t know if people who don’t read lack intellectual curiosity. I think there can be other ways to satisfy intellectual curiosity <particularly in today’s web crazy world>.



But I do think if you don’t read you can find yourself with a lack of ability to think in the abstract and the potential. And that is a nice ability for lifelong learning and self improvement <adapting to Life>.



You may have heard the term “lifelong learning.”



Though learning begins when we are children … education is truly a never ending process <and reading can play an important part of learning for everyone>. Reading can not only keep us informed about the world around us but it also provides intellectual stimulation and helps keep us mentally sharp.



Research has shown that reading offers benefits not found in more “passive” media.



It gives the brain a much better workout than does watching television. When we watch TV, we take in the information in a passive way. But reading allows the mind to:


  • pause, reflect, think
  • operate more actively
  • use intellect and emotion together
  • develop a longer attention span.






And on that last bullet point.


To those of you who may say “I don’t have the attention span to read.”





I am calling ‘bullshit’ on that.


There ain’t anyone out there who has a shorter attention span than I do. I have the attention span of a gnat. And still a book can suck me in to a place where it doesn’t become about ‘attention’ any more but rather ‘involvement.’






Regardless of all my own personal ramblings on the greatness of reading there are some actual studies <if you doubt that this whole reading is traveling thing is really for you>.

-          Carnegie Mellon scientists discovered that the volume of brain white matter in the language area of the brain increased after study participants followed a six-month daily reading program. The Carnegie Mellon study proved that the brain structure can be improved by training poor readers to become better readers.

-          In 2009, Mayo Clinic conducted a Study of Aging that offered some good news for middle-aged and senior adults. Reading a book and other cognitive activities could decrease the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.


This suggests we should assume the brain is like a muscle.


Studies prove that exercising it and stimulating it makes it stronger. Reading stimulates brain activity. Reading a variety of “things” (blogs, books, newspapers, etc.) challenges the brain to think in new directions and absorb new concepts and information.


And children?



Children benefit from reading on many levels. Parents actively stimulate their child’s brain by sharing a reading time with them. Interactive reading time creates a shared bond between parent and child along with provoking a child’s natural curiosity about the world and environment.



Giving a child a chance to ask questions, express an interest in a particular topic, and hear new vocabulary and ideas forms a positive impression on a child that lasts a lifetime. Children with poor reading skills have a tendency to feel more anxious and sad (that comes from a study but I lost the source).


Reading also means we are in more control of how we learn and absorb different ideas. We can skim over portions that interest us less, move backwards and forwards, reread and, as in my case, make notes or write spectacularly articulated things down.



Reading helps keep us oriented and engaged.


Science, history, biographies, self help, religion, philosophy … the list is really endless … all make our ‘world’ a little more ‘full’ (but it is a glass that can never actually be completely filled) with each book we read.



I left this last thought to the end because people who haven’t really figured out how to enjoy reading don’t “get” this next thing I am gonna say.


There is an amazing pleasure to sitting down with a good book. It’s kind of like traveling to anywhere in the world <imagined or real> without leaving the comfort of our own chair.

We can visit a fantasy realm with JRR Tolkien, or the American West with Louis L’Amour, or solve a mystery with Sherlock Holmes or see the intricacies of war with Tom Clancy <that list could truly go on and on>.





In the end.


Some people will never ever be interested in learning unless dragged, kicking and screaming.


My biggest hope is that we adults <the ones who don’t like reading> don’t hinder our kids natural curiosity about the world and still encourage them to read <unfortunately … kids typically do as they see … so  … if they don’t see you read they don’t feel compelled to read>.


I do know that I will never quit trying to give everyone the opportunity to love reading and knowledge and encouraging curiosity.






Because not all of us have the privilege to travel.


And books give everyone the privilege to travel.


Doesn’t get much simpler than that.

travels of reading part 2

September 7th, 2010

“You get a little moody sometimes but I think that’s because you like to read.

reading is traveling childPeople that like to read are always a little fucked up.”


Pat Conroy


“Think of yourself as a curiosity fulfillment teacher.”





This is a follow up to my reading part 1 <which was serious about the importance of reading>.


This is more a rant <and a warning> on how people who love to read tend to abuse their joy of reading.


This rant possibly provides a counterbalance to my disdain for people who waste the opportunity to permit their minds to travel through reading … which is a luxury everyone can afford and has access to regardless of budget.




Abuse love of reading?


‘Reading lovers’ can take some things to absurd levels <simply because they read>. Things like:

being overly pretentious.

being sickeningly pompous.


In general … just treating people who don’t read <or are not “well read”> as some type of lesser being. Everyone should note that the ‘pompous reader’  can do this overtly or in sneaky, but still pompous, ways.




And then there is the perpetual idiotic rephrasing or quoting of literature <rather than seek their own words>.


Using quotes can be lazy.


Just as using any words of others can be lazy.


For reading is only good if you are using it to increase your own intellectual thinking.


And to come up with your own ideas.

And to express your own thoughts and ideas better,





I have noted that reading is traveling … as in ‘traveling through other people’s thoughts and ideas.’


And, sure, it is okay to show pictures of your trips and travels … but … you don’t want to read from the guidebooks as you tell everyone about the trip. People want to hear your thoughts and experience it through your eyes and words.







I am certainly a lover of a well crafted written thought. That poetic turn of phrase. Even that full chapter of prose that when it ends you finally exhale. And then only to turn back upon on some pages and reread something because the way the words have been put together it stirs something inside you … it could be your soul … it could be your mind  … it could just be ‘something’ but those words have created an imprint upon you.





The imprint is often best used in your own words when shared.



Do I use quotes or literary references?

Sure. You bet I do.



Do I use them to replace my own words?



quote insert

I use someone else’s words to either emphasize my own thoughts or introduce my thoughts or <in a business environment> to honestly “steal a moment.”


‘stealing a moment’ definition:

… that would be when the meeting is spinning in a direction and you cannot seem to stem the stream of unfocused idiocy spewing forth and you grab an appropriate quote out of your memory banks – because frankly your own words haven’t done shit to steer everyone away from whatever the hell it is they are saying – and you grandly toss someone else’s words out into the air.

That, my friends, is the art of stealing a moment with a quote.





Reading is useful only when … well .. you make it useful.



Reading and learning and saying nothing is a waste.



Reading so you don’t have to do your own thinking is a waste.



Reading to solely use other people words is a waste.



Reading to simply say things to show you are better and smarter (well, maybe more ‘well read’) is a waste.






And not reading is the worst waste.



Beyond my quote/using others words rant.


If you are a reader and love books?



Don’t abuse your love for reading.

Don’t just talk but listen.


And share after listening.


Your attitude with what you have gained from reading can either encourage someone to pick up a book or discourage some from reading.



If you love to read, you are an ambassador for reading and need to think of yourself as such.reading store



Think of yourself as a curiosity fulfillment teacher.

Think of it as your own personal “no person left behind” program.



Advocate reading don’t belittle someone who doesn’t.



And if you struggle to figure out how to encourage someone to read?



Try out this thought <this is me stealing someone else’s words>:


“This is my report on the importance of knowing how to read.

If you can’t read and you get a love letter, you won’t know what it says.

That would be very sad.

Although in the long run, it also could save you a lot of trouble.”


Charles Schultz


Enlightened Conflict