With my lifeline to literary sanity – the public library – closed, I have turned to my overloaded shelves of books. Bought months and years ago but never read, these books have waited for this moment in the sun. Or, more accurately, waited their turn to sit on the top of the stack on the bedside table.
A friend, facing the same dilemma, texted me to say that he had just finished rereading “Catch 22” and was going to reread “Lonesome Dove” next. “Catch-22” was my favorite book in college; I still own my 95-cent paperback edition. It’s complete with my original marginalia; it was assigned reading in an “Art of Satire” course in college. “Lonesome Dove” is possibly my favorite book, period. One night, after I got home from the editing desk at midnight, I stayed up all night reading it, stopping only because I had to report back to work at 7 a.m.
I thought about following my friend’s lead. But my history of rereading favorite usually turns out badly. With the exception of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” I’ve been disappointed by second reads of favorite novels. I decided I was ready to discover “new” writers and ideas. So, in a stack are “Waiting” by Ha Jin; “Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole; “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace; “Parting the Waters” by Taylor Branch; and “Broken” by Don Winslow. (Yes, Winslow is a new one, but he’s the best and I reading everything he writes.)
On the top of the stack is Juan Williams’ “Eyes on the Prize,” and I’m 120 pages in. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m only 33 years late to discovering this wonderful book about the civil rights struggle in 20th century America. I knew about Emmett Till and the Little Rock Nine and Montgomery’s bus boycott and the Freedom Riders, but I didn’t know as much as I should have to be this old and this educated. Still to come are Selma and Birmingham and the March on Washington. I’m going to turn to it as soon as I finish this post.
It’s never too late to discover.