Time enough to read.
One of the joys of being retired is that I can now re-read all of the old books and stories I have enjoyed through the years as well as read what is new. My wife and I read quite a lot and have a rather large number of books in our house and garage, something over three thousand soft- and hardcover books. They range from her several hundred volumes about teaching reading and English to my books about cosmology and string theory.
We have mysteries, biographies, juvenile and young adult fiction (in addition to the hundreds, if not, thousands, of these books she has purchased for the students in her classroom); however, most of what we read is fantasy and science fiction. From Jules Verne to Isaac Asimov and Anne McCaffrey we’ve read, and are reading, millions of words. As I am writing, typing, this she is on the patio re-reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series and on the table beside me I have Jack McDevitt’s A Talent for War; this is the first in his Alex Benedict/Chase Kolpath series.
In grade school I had to, like millions of other kids, analyze stories, dissect characters and plots, and write book reports. What a way to kill an interest in reading. I cannot remember the name of a single book about which I had to write a report in grade school. I do remember reading C. S. Lewis‘ The Screwtape Letters, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, Richard Tregaskis’ Guadalcanal Diary and all of the Tom Swift books I could get my hands on; I first found these in our Holy Angels (Arcadia, California) School library. I also collected hundreds of comic books.
In high school (Don Bosco Tech) we had to read Charles Dickens. I hated reading Dickens. David Copperfield and Great Expectations, gag me with a spoon. They may be classics, but forcing them down my throat didn’t make them palatable. A Tale of Two Cities was readable, and written by someone else, could have been enjoyable. The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I found on my own, was fun.
If you’ve never read The Scarlet Pimpernel or seen the 1934 film, I recommend them both. Written by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, it premiered as a play in 1903 and, with a re-written last act, became a hit in London in 1905 with the book appearing soon after. If you grew up, as I did, with Zorro/Don Diego de la Vega, Batman/Bruce Wayne, Superman/Clark Kent you might enjoy the story. Sir Percy Blakeney is a foppish English aristocrat (secret identity) who, as the Scarlet Pimpernel (hero), rescues French aristocrats about to meet Madame Guillotine. Unlike Don Diego, Bruce and Clark, who make-do with or without girlfriends, Sir Percy has a beautiful wife. If you like the story, try the sequels.
We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?—Is he in hell?
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel”
How ironic, here I am writing about books, something I was quite loath to do fifty years ago.