Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 764 (316) Read for Pleasure Alone

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

Retirement introduces a special element to our reading life. We can feast over the entire reading realm. There are no limitations; sort of like our earliest experiences. We can read for pleasure alone.

The Hardy Boys were some of the first books that I remember reading. Frank and Joe would get into one dilemma or another and then through bravery, action and luck would solve the mystery. Then came the Zane Gray westerns, the Tarzan adventure series, and the sports books of unlikely heroes fighting through seemingly impossible circumstances to excel in the field of competition. Books with names like, The Gray Ghost, the Jim Thorpe Story or Phantom of the Foul Line. Memories of these books come easily to mind. They took me out of a small town in the USA. They brought the exotic and adventurous into life. They took me into the mysteries of crime, the ruggedness of the wild west, the wildness of the jungle and the world of competitive athletics. They were read for the pleasure they brought.

When we approached school age we had to read to learn. We must read this book and write a report. We must read this poem or this essay because we will be tested on it. We must read our math and science problems. We must read these books because they are classics. We read to learn how the world works. We learned to read for information or knowledge. The open book brings opportunity and possibilities.

How many books do we read in a lifetime? I suppose someone has done a study and the statistics could be found. The range must be enormous. I recall interviewing a librarian one time and mentioned bedtime reading that is so enjoyable for parents and their young children. She informed me that such readings were the exception and that most homes are book free. I expressed obvious disbelief but she assured me it was true. The wide-eyed child sitting on a lap in a big easy chair listening to a tale being told is not the norm: sort of a Norman Rockwell vision of America. What a sad mistake. For being read to or doing the reading to a child has to be one of the most pleasant experiences in life.

The number for books read by retirement must number in the thousands for most of us. Many of those were probably in quest of information that might help us lead a better life. We want to learn. We want to pass the class. We want to learn the subject. We want to know how to do something. We wanted ... There was a goal involved.

Retirement brings an opportunity to truly read for pleasure alone. We no longer need to learn this or that. We no longer need to satisfy the requirements of a class, teacher or profession. We can kick back and read for nothing more than pure enjoyment. What a treat.

The only difficulty is choosing which book to read. I stopped going in bookstores years ago. I always felt as if I was drowning in one. Overwhelmed. Oh, I still go in bookstores but it is a rarity. If I do go in I won't stay long. I will get whatever book I came for and flee. We have great independent bookstores within walking distance of my house; new and used. I know that they are a treasure and I used to spend time browsing the ails. But it became time spent in frustration since I couldn't read them all but I wanted to. I would find another hour had slipped by with me just looking at titles.

Electronic books have come to my rescue of late. I can see the title of a book or read a review and then order and have it delivered instantly. My bookshelf today is invisible. I have systematically been giving away paper books and clearing the shelves. We still keep some around for our guests or children and our grandchildren. The leather bound that we accrued over many years remains shelved waiting for us to die and our children to divide them up. They are treated as antiques with double value.

Reading for pleasure is not an easy transformation for some of us. My wife is a pro at pulling up one series after another of well written escape, adventurous or intriguing mysteries. Luckily for me I can then lift one occasionally and send it directly to my reader at no cost.

Retirement brought a change to my use of books. I wondered if I actually knew anything or if I just knew whatever I found in a book. I decided to put these podcasts together without any research or reading for the purpose of production. I wanted to think. I certainly kept reading but not with the intent of using them in these podcasts. I wanted to pry into my own mind rather than sort through the thoughts of others. Emerson's statement about reading being for a scholar's idle time has taken up permanent residence in my memory. I wanted to think rather than read.

There was a winter in Alaska when I tried to read a book every day. Then a few years ago I found myself limiting my reading to ten pages a day. Since page numbers have disappeared on my Kindle I find myself trying to read a book 15 to 20 minutes a day. Some days I over extend but that is the usual. Then there is all the incidental reading of newspapers, magazines and internet type stuff.

Retirement and reading seem like a match made in heaven. We are free to explore and enjoy. Heavy emphasis on enjoy. I just don't want it to get in the way of thinking.

This is Retirement Talk.

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