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In the Suburbs / Resolved to make more time to read

Published 6:06 am, Tuesday, January 21, 2014
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We were visiting our friends Eden and Howard on a recent Sunday at their second home near the beach in Milford, where I noticed three books piled on their living room coffee table. I recognized the authors immediately -- David Baldacci, Jeffrey Deaver and Jeannette Walls -- because we carry titles by all three in the bookstore where I work.

But when Eden asked if I'd read any of the books, I looked down sheepishly and said I hadn't. As I wallowed in my literary guilt, she said that they love to read at this house, because their cable access is limited and they enjoy just reading together.

That's when I had a shocking realization. I am a writer, who also happens to work in a book store, but I don't make nearly enough time to read for pleasure and to expand my vocabulary and literary horizons. Shame on me!

I am up to date on most of the titles for the New York Times best-sellers table in the front of our store. And I've recommended David Baldacci titles to hungry fans, along with Jeannette Walls' memoir, "The Glass Castle."

But I haven't grabbed those books off the shelves during a break and started reading them myself. So I jotted down the titles and decided to get serious about reading at least one of these two books.

I told my wife on the way home that it would be great fun to read the same book together and have a discussion. I suggested that maybe we could start with the Walls memoir. Eden had said it was powerful.

It's not as if we don't have a library of books at home. We have some wonderful titles, purchased over the last 40-plus years, but sadly I've barely creased some of the book jackets.

Our collection contains a slew of hard-copy books, most of which we purchased on a whim as we walked through a Borders or Barnes & Noble or that we heard about on a National Public Radio broadcast. The majority of our library, however, is very current paperbacks. The rest are cookbooks (we'll be dead before we cook even half the recipes) and reference books for my wife's social-work practice (from here to neuroses).

As I packed the treasures into boxes, I recalled saying quietly to my wife that we could have purchased some expensive frill or taken a trip to Europe with the money we might have saved on books. We chuckled and promptly went out the following weekend and bought three more books we'd heard about on NPR.

But time hasn't exactly been on my side for pleasure reading. With my crazy work schedule and other obligations, I don't always have the time to read. Or I don't make the time, either, I'll admit.

Yet Eden and Howard aren't retired and are busy, but make time for pleasure reading -- especially when they travel to sunnier climes. They bring plenty of books to read while lounging on Caribbean beaches.

In particular, I have been eternally grateful to our friend, Eden, who introduced me to the Nicholas Sparks books. After devouring "The Notebook" many years ago, I read five more of his books, which seemed always to be set in the Carolinas.

And my wife has always been a very committed reader. She recently read "The Presidents Club," a fascinating book about how presidents, beginning with Harry Truman, have come to rely on former presidents for advice, strategies and ways to handle the unexpected. The book is on my list, which is growing steadily.

And my wife suggested that we get the books-on-CD versions for two long car trips -- Justice Sonia Sotomyor's memoir, "My Beloved World," and the late Jacqueline Kennedy's reading about her years in the White House.

One of our favorite books on CD is Garth Stein's "The Art of Racing in the Rain," a beautiful story told by a dog. We cried through eight discs.

Despite these small steps toward expanded pleasure reading, I still feel the need to read more and more often. While I haven't made a resolution, I certainly believe I am more resolute now about making the time to read. I just hope I will follow through, because there is such a wealth of titles in our home and in the bookstore.

Next stop, the Walls memoir.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at steven.gaynes@yahoo.com.