I am becoming obsolete; I like to read books

I'd rather read about an angry white whale than shoot angry birds at green pigs


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Reading is maybe the one passion that ensures you will never need friends but that you will always have friends.

That's one of the arguments I've holstered for the next time I engage our 12-year-old over the need for her to turn off the TV and pick up a book or a Nook.

Our schools do a fine job of teaching our children to read.

The rest of us need to do a better job of teaching them to love to read.

Ignore the menial chores, leave the nutritious morning milk untouched and turn your room into a Selena Gomez-themed slum -- all is forgiven if I see you sitting there immersed in a book.

It is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card. And I'm not just referring to household obligations.

Nothing liberates a restless soul like reading a book.

This belief puts me in the exquisite company of Lord Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), who said, "I'd rather be a poor man confined to an attic with plenty of books than a king who didn't love to read."

More and more I see myself becoming like the Burgess Meredith character from the old "Twilight Zone." Either one of them.

He plays reading zealots in two of the show's most memorable episodes. In one he finds a cheerful silver lining to a nuclear holocaust when he realizes his life is now one uninterrupted reading splurge -- right up until he stumbles on the steps of the library and breaks his glasses.

In the other, a totalitarian regime judges him obsolete for his devotion to books that exalt free thinking. He is sentenced to a televised death and cleverly rigs his apartment so his oppressor must share his explosive fate. The accused calmly spends his last mortal moments reading a good book.

It is, in fact, The Good Book.

Then his execution ends up solo after he graciously frees his tormenter when he hears him plead, "For God's sake!" -- a broadcast declaration that leads the populace to determine that the tyrant, too, is obsolete.

My wife and I have spent about an hour each night reading books aloud to our two daughters since they were old enough to pay attention. Those times have been an absolute joy for both of us, even as part of us wishes we could put down the Shel Silverstein, the Dr. Seuss and their many worthy peers and escape in adult ways -- perhaps by watching shows about the undead as sleep deprivation turns us into zombies.

But Josie's now at an age where she doesn't need our bedtime stories. And I find myself feeling an increasing urgency that she find her own.

On the other hand, she was so blown away by "The Hunger Games" trilogy she thinks nothing else will ever fire her imagination. At her urging, I, too, enjoyed the Susan Collins books, but what a pity it would be if she turns out to be right.

Reading has something to do with how I make my living. It has everything to do with how I live. No occupation could enrich my life the way reading books has. An open book is an open invitation to meet the most interesting men and women on the planet.

Being a reader these days, though, defines you in ways similar to people who face common struggles. We're feeling outnumbered -- under siege by moronic diversions and fellow citizens who would rather play "Angry Birds" on a screen than engage a book about an angry white whale.

Let the cacophony continue without us.

We'll be sitting all alone in small, still rooms surrounded by thousands of silent voices who have so much to say.

That's all I have for today.

Thank you for reading.

opinion_commentary

Chris Rodell, the author of "Use All The Crayons! The Colorful Guide to Simple Human Happiness," is a freelance writer who lives in Latrobe and blogs at Eight Days to Amish (eightdaystoamish.blogspot.com).


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