Morning Sun

The blessings of books

- Bruce Edward Walker (walker. is a Morning Sun columnist.

Truthfully, I love this time of year despite occasional­ly numbing bouts of seasonal depression. For the most part, life is good.

Even when I’m in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I cannot beweep my outcast state. Although I haven’t pulled out my snowshoes or cross-country skis thus far this winter, there’s still much for which to be thankful.

My adolescent fantasies have seemingly all been realized: limitless films to view at my leisure and a beautiful bride to keep me company; music galore on compact disc, vinyl and cassette; classic stereophon­ic equipment that would’ve been the envy of the younger me; my faithful dog Athena; friends; an intermitte­nt cigar and scotch; fly fishing; and books. The teenage me never entertaine­d the concept of a communicat­ion device that served as well as a repository of knowledge and commerce.

I am not a wealthy man by any stretch of the imaginatio­n, but I consider myself extremely fortunate. My fortunes include those listed above, but as well the faculties to recognize the incredible blessings of my life, for which I must collective­ly credit siblings, parents, teachers and friends for either bestowing upon me or planting the seeds of curiosity. Beyond this esteemed collective are the more infinitely esteemed Trinity as well as the musicians and authors I’ve admired over the past decades.

I’m not sure what inspired these musings, other than reading this past weekend the average adult only reads 12.6 books a year. I’m not quite certain how the Gallup organizati­on arrived at that number, and I’m equally uncertain how we’re supposed to feel about it: Sad, because we believe adults should read more, despite not knowing the quality of the material they read? Or should we be skeptical that our fellow Americans aren’t reading books, but perhaps reading newspapers, magazines and all sorts of matter on the internet? Happy, for some bizarre reason?

I’m not inclined to shame anyone who doesn’t read on a habitual basis. I only consider myself fortunate that I do. From my earliest memories of my parents and older siblings reading to me to applying for my first library card, I was raised on books. Ever since I’ve been an avid consumer of the written word of whatever I could get my eyes upon whether it’s award-winning fiction and poetry or the more pulporient­ed science fiction and crime potboilers.

True, the advent of the internet, home video market and streaming services has introduced a major time-suck wherein passive viewing has displaced to some extent active reading. This applies even to a guy who was nicknamed “Mastermind” by my fourthgrad­e teacher because my nose either was always behind a book or I was franticall­y writing short stories and writing/drawing comic books featuring classmates.

By the time I had reached high school, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was offered assists along the way by a viewing of “All the President’s Men” as well as listening to recordings of Edward R. Murrow’s classic broadcasts. That was journalism, but, like Whitman, I felt I also contained multitudes. There was also poetry, fiction and criticism to write.

My best friend’s mother encouraged me to draft a letter to the editor of a previous incarnatio­n of this fish wrap. At the age of 16, I began writing theater criticism for the Daily Times News, thanks to my friend’s mom and editor Bill Diem, who responded to my letter immediatel­y. A high school teacher walked me through my first draft of my inaugural critical essay, offering substantia­l edits and pertinent suggestion­s — which he did during the height of summer vacation, by the way, a personal sacrifice I’ve always appreciate­d.

In conclusion, my heartfelt thanks to all the people who encouraged my love of books and writing.

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