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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The bright side of the pandemic: More time to read books

The Bright Side Of The Pandemic: More Time To Read Books

Twelve months ago, looking back on my year in reading, I wrote that there was no better time than 2020 to lose myself in 2020, sadly 2021 was just as good a time. Or just as bad timing is, make your choice.

Following on the heels of the strangest year of my lifetime was the second strangest year of my lifetime. I don’t want to foreshadow 2022, but it doesn’t look like a great improvement.

This means a lot of downtime in lieu of social events. And reading is the main way for me to fill it. Somehow I managed to read even more in 2021 than in 2020: 77 books compared to 53.

Two reasons I read more: The fourteen titles were audiobooks from local libraries I drive in my car. And, sadly, in 2021 we had a full 12 months of pandemic life, not 9 1/2.

There is nothing remarkable about the 77 books. You may have read more, or more total pages yourself; Many of my books were quite thin. Still, measured only against me, 77 was the second best total of my adult years.

Reading is what I do for fun (and sometimes for work). Not a single day has gone by in 2021 when I have read at least a couple of pages, if not 20 or 50.

I saw friends as conditions permitting. And, with civic life bustling again, I went to some art openings and attended city council meetings for column materials. (The inland empire can never be the same.)

But where once I would have seen 20 or 30 films in a year, last year I saw three. music program? Zero. Traveling out of state? Once. TV? not my bag cook? Banana bread contains a lot of carbs.

Books: All the time, baby.

I’ll take one for lunch, to a coffeehouse, on a Metrolink trip. A couple is on my nightstand. I even take one to council meetings.

It was a wise decision in the Moreno Valley meeting that lasted five hours. During most of the proceedings, I half heard Mark Twain’s “The American Clement” read.

I love Twain and am working my way through his work. The “contender,” however, is a real dog and I was following along. The meeting turned out to be a success: I plowed 60 pages. With that pace, two days later I finished it.

Thanks, Moval.

An equally lengthy San Bernardino meeting gave me time to run through 40 pages of Edgar Rice Burroughs denounced “Llana of Gathol,” one of his Mars novels.

Like I said, 77 books are good for me. A coworker who reads but heavily supports the tome heard that number and exclaimed: “Dang, man!” Yet if an elected official read only 77 books a year, his friends and family would wonder what was wrong.

San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford completed 206 books. Dang, man.

I asked how he did it.

“I read quickly,” he replied, “so that’s helpful!” I would imagine so. As a slow reader, I envy fast readers.

About a quarter of her books were audiobooks borrowed from the library, which she listens to at the gym or while walking the dog or cleaning the house. With her boys, she read a few young adult books aloud, which she counted on.

Most of her reading takes place on a Kindle, which she can use while standing in line, while riding in a car, if her husband is driving or watching a show that doesn’t fully engage her interest. Well, it’s too early to get him out. And she reserves an hour each night for reading.

I believe she is not reading during board of supervisors meetings, no matter how boring they are.

While I’m more committed to printed books than e-books, it’s just personal preference. Like Rutherford, I have become a fan of borrowing audiobooks from libraries, the subject of a possible future here.

A little bit of my reading was fiction, and the definite majority were books from the 20th century or earlier. Like any amateur reader, my picks are varied, as they should be.

These include four by Twain, two by Nathaniel Hawthorne, six mysteries featuring sleuth Travis McGee, 14 adventure novels by Burroughs and – why not? – Three non-fiction accounts of our space program.

Some of my reading included Southern California: “Writing Los Angeles,” an anthology edited by David Yulin; Essay “Being Los Angeles” by DJ Valdi; And in “Preserving Los Angeles,” Ken Bernstein takes a look at the city’s surprisingly strong historic preservation program. I called all three titles “Gerund Los Angeles”. Also, “Secret Staircases,” a guide to the public stair tread by Charles Fleming.

Some of the books on my list were honored inland: “Inlandia,” a groundbreaking anthology of fantasy and nonfiction about the Empire; “Desert Oracle,” a collection of Ken Layne’s writings about the Mojave Desert; “San Bernardino, Singing,” filled with prose and poetry from contributors about the city, edited by Nikia Chane; and, at the end of the year, the “Historic Mission Inn,” a photo-packed tour of the riverside landmark.

(I have two more Riverside books to read in 2022, both of which I hope you’ll be reading here.)

I would be forgiven if I didn’t use the word “sundoku” during this column. This is the Japanese word for buying or not reading books. Some of you tell me that you now use this handy word after learning it here in 2016.

World Nation News Desk
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