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May 27, 2015

Buried Alive (@KathleenMBarker)

by Kathleen Barker

I've often wondered if the love of reading is a result of genetics or environment.  As the daughter of a woman who never read for pleasure and a man who made weekly treks to a public library, hauling home multiple books each trip, I landed squarely in the read-to-excess group. Still, I'm not sure it just happened out of the clear blue.  In addition to seeing Dad sitting on the couch, reading every night, I also attended schools with rigorous, year-round reading lists.  What began as an annoying academic requirement soon blossomed into a love affair.

My father knew the importance of good grades, so he gave me a quarter for every "A" I brought home on periodic report cards (yes, I am that old). Of course, twenty-five cents is unlikely to incentivize many students today, but researchers found long ago that avid readers develop superior skills that far surpass good spelling and larger vocabularies. Grammar, writing and speaking ability, general knowledge and I.Q. all expand with reading.

Curling up on my sofa with a book is such a deep pleasure that the seat cushion has developed Dad's telltale depression that my brother and I once snickered at.  Yet where my father's stack of library books was quite modest, I have a coffee table with multiple sloping piles, patiently waiting their turn.  My to-read Everest is out of control.  Magazines are relegated to in-flight reading to spare myself the agony of tossing unread print material into the trash.

Those of you who are yelling at this page, telling me to get a Kindle...yeah, I have one, and it only exacerbates the problem.  Towers of books can, at least, physically rebuke me by their visual presence.  Downloaded ebooks are imprisoned in a thin, black orphanage, emitting no sense of urgency.

For decades at my house, spring cleaning did not apply to books.  Until Hurricane Katrina.  Although my treasured books were not damaged, I decided to move from a four bedroom house with two large attics to a townhouse with no attic.  It became clear that I must learn to survive without my textbooks and anthologies from college at the very least.   Potential loading and unloading friends could be enticed with the promise of no 100-pound boxes of books to lift.

Seven garage sales followed over a two month period.   The ten-cent books flew off the table.

As I continue to downsize, it's become easier to part with things. I was actually doing quite well...very well indeed...until I started to write books as well as read them.

So, just let me know if you'd like a German 101 book from 1968.



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