The phrase World Book Day is trending on social media, and bibliophiles are not hesitating to advise people to go read a book. In an age where so many read only on digital devices, it’s nice to see those old fashioned reading devices get a nod. Ironically the date for the celebration in 2018 is also the birthday and death date for one of the world’s most influential writers.
Speaking of influence, if I had to praise a particular book, I’d praise a book that was originally self-published before going on to become one of the major influencers of how we construct our thoughts on paper in English. William Strunk, Jr., published his book The Elements of Style in 1919, possibly to make the lives of his students at Cornell University a little easier. None other than E. B. White studied under Strunk, and White went on to edit the editions published by a big house. Just about anyone taking an English course at a US college will encounter The Elements of Style at some point.
On the cesspool otherwise known as Twitter, many people posted titles of books they’re reading, and some asked others to list their current reading selections.
I didn’t post anything there, but I will say I just finished Steve Berry’s The Bishop’s Pawn. Berry bases his books on motifs in history; this book focuses on the era of civil rights in the US and the life and death of Rev. Martin Luther King. It’s a solid book, but I didn’t get caught up in it the way I have some of Berry’s other books. I had problems with a major conclusion he came to regarding King’s death. One thing I like about Berry is that he always includes notes at the end of the book to point out what historic events are real and those that are fictionalized.
I’m also reading The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise. It’s an amazing work by Dario Fernandez-Morera, but it is slow going. The author is very thorough in his documentation, and it’s a scholarly work. It hasn’t drawn a lot of attention in what we call our popular culture because it isn’t an easy read and the research may make people uncomfortable. Americans are probably among the most illiterate in the world when it comes to world history, and this book is a great start to understanding the context of world events before the US was even founded. I highly recommend you read it.
Another book I’m making my way through is Secret Empires (Peter Schweizer). The book is an expose´ on corruption in Washington. Members of both major political parties are complicit. You may be shocked by the depth of this corruption and by the fact many in media on both sides of the aisle have refused to cover the astounding arrogance of the political class in using power for personal profit.
I also read a lot of poetry. Of late, I’ve revisited poems by Kim Addonizio, James Dickey, Mary Oliver, and many others. Via Facebook I discovered poet Tom Hunley and reconnected with Jennifer Reeser. These are but a few of the poets I enjoy—there are many others like Rod Borisade who haven’t yet published a book of their poems.
As I scrolled through social media comments about World Book Day, I thought about one of the most influential writers of all time. April 23 is the date we mark for William Shakespeare’s birth and death. It’s also the birthdate of a dear friend of mine who has passed on. He wasn’t a writer, but we used to joke about his sharing a birth date with The Bard.
Recently when I was doing some spring cleaning, I was boxing up books to donate to charity and culling out books I wanted to keep. I realized that so many of the books I cherish were written years (some even a century) ago. My husband told me I needed to do something about my book addiction.
I told him I can’t. Every day is World Book Day for me. A book was one of the first things my mother put into our hands. I still have a number of books from my childhood, among them a set of leather bound World Book Encyclopedias. My mother worked a blue collar job, saving her money to buy us those books. She did many things right for her children. That was one of the most important.
What are you reading?
(Kay B. Day/April 23, 2018)