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Take Up, Read!

The "tablet vs. books" debate will never end...and luckily, neither will the impulse to read.

The last time I wrote publicly about books, the word “nook” meant a place where you read (as in a corner, maybe by a cozy fire), not something you read books on. My, how things have changed.

But old debates about the fate of the printed word haven’t. Just look back a few months to the August 12th edition of the New York Times Book Review, where contradictory essays winked at the reader. They were titled, respectively, “Dead Again” by Leah Price, and “It’s Alive!” by Gillian Silverman.

They offered not so much diagnoses of the health of the printed word as peeks at the publishing landscape, surveying previous assessments from the past as well. Both essays are worth your time.

To my mind, however, more worth reading, honestly, are books themselves, whether printed on paper, or enjoyed on nooks, Kindles, iPads, iPhones…whatever.

As an observation (ironic, as I’m urging you to read on a blog…), it’s hardly groundbreaking advice, but it’s based on years of editorial work, and reading book reviews, rather than books I necessarily chose to read.

But let’s talk numbers: When I first wrote for The Advocate and Greenwich Time 13 years ago, reviewing books, interviewing authors and writing columns, I’d say I read roughly 150 books annually: novels, collections of poems, essays, stories and nonfiction of all stripe. Nowadays, I’m lucky if I finish a dozen or so a year.

You see, since I left newspapers, in 2006, I lost my way gradually—not only did I stop writing (a genuine passion)—but I stopped reading for pleasure.

Why? I forgot how to turn off the TV, forgo distractions (movies, food, HBO, “time-sucks,” all that), and do the legwork that makes books, well, “bookish.” That usually means turning off the noise, sitting down in front of the printed word and losing yourself in language.

In my case, basically, I lost how to get lost.

So, my first post offers this simple advice, as a book/word-lover (sure to be mocked for its simplicity): invest in print. Start reading again, if you’ve dropped it, as I did, if that was once your passion.

That’s not to say the business of reading isn’t work, but rather, it’s work worth doing—worth your time and effort.

The title of this post comes from an anecdote related to St. Augustine, when (according to legend) he heard a voice saying, Tolle lege!: “Take up, read!” Augustine himself also supposedly said, “Oh God, make me chaste…but not yet.” That's a paraphrase, but it's good advice, too, book-wise: always read widely, promiscuously.

Run the numbers, from the most delectable recent stuff you might not want people to know you’re reading (but everyone’s reading anyway), like “Fifty Shades of Grey,” to deliciously palatable classics like “The Great Gatsby.”

So, well…what are you waiting for?

Take up, read!

David PodgurskiDavid Podgurski is a writer and editor who has lived in Fairfield County his entire life. A former books columnist for The Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time newspapers. Feel free to email David.

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