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Garrison, I've just turned 50

June 21, 2006 |

Garrison, I've just turned 50 and have learned to read over the last 2 years. In this day and age you'd think it impossible to get through life without reading, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to point to pictures for a waitress who's struggling with nine tables and to praise your companion's choice of movies at the ticket booth and again point to a bag of Twizzlers. Money and numbers were one thing, but words, they just came slowly to me and I finally got the right person to confess that to. She was a retired school teacher who I met twice a week and here I am poking one letter at a time on this thing.

You can imagine that the radio has been a great friend of mine and that's why I am writing you for advice. You've painted so many pictures in my head and the books that I can now read do the same thing. I'm up to words like reticent and beneficent, one that you recently used in a Post to the Host. My question is, what to read? I'm in the middle of a simple Bible now. I'm well acquainted with ordering books on line and would like to know your opinion on which way to turn next.

Thanks in advance and for the years of Dusty and Lefty and news from your home town.

Ron C. Ormond Beach, FL

Congratulations, Ron. Head off to your local public library and look around and see what catches your eye. Start with the Recent Acquisitions, the shiny new books, and browse through them and find what interests you. Like "102 Minutes," a terrific book about 9/11. While you're there, you might pick up a collection of the Grimm Brothers fables and also the stories of Hans Christian Andersen, both classics. I recommend short stories ---- Bobbie Ann Mason, John Cheever, and Eudora Welty are three great ones. I recommend the book I'm reading now: John McPhee's "Uncommon Carriers" ---- he's a very classy writer, none better, and if you like him, there's a lot more to choose from. From short stories, you can move on to short novels, like Charles Portis's "Norwood" or "The Red Badge of Courage". And you can't go wrong with the Selected Essays of E.B. White. But don't buy books online just yet. Try the library first. You may want to have a stack of books and dabble in each one. Just follow your nose. But why not start out with the good stuff? You can save the trash for when you're old and incompetent.

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