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What Wonders You Can Read

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  By: Vincent Cardegin 

On the toilet, on my armchair at the desk in my office, on my recliner in the living room, and in bed at night when I take the unscrewed shade off my table lamp so the 40-watt bulb shines brighter on the browning pages of my old paperbacks, I have started reading again.  For a long time, I read only news on my phone, and watched news on TV, and sampled shows I liked- mostly old ones, but they are now too predictable to keep my interest.  A few recent shows kept me going, but they have now ended, and none of the newer ones are clever at all.

   Desperate to find something to keep me occupied that wasn’t house and yard-related, I searched along my bookshelves.  Since I’m no longer a big fan of fiction, I reread Fermat’s Last Theorem by Amir D. Aczel; A History of Pi, by Petr Beckmann; Isaac Newton by James Gleick; Zero by Charles Seife; and Mark Kurlansky and his books titled Cod, The Big Oyster, and Salt, which is very dense and so I read it in between others.  I also found my old paperback copy of I, Asimov, by Isaac Asimov, and after taping the front cover back on (apparently I was using it as a bookmark years ago after it fell off) and taping two pages of pictures back into the middle of the book, I spent three happy days reading it.  Autobiographies are my preferred kind of book, though I can tolerate a biography.  (The first is written by the actual person, the second is written by someone else.)

   Since I can’t tie up the full twenty pages of the Hernando Sun with the books I’ve read and my comments about them, I must limit my mentioning to a few notables, and briefly.  The first five on my shelf of favorites is: Love, Lucy, by Lucille Ball; A Book, by Desi Arnaz; Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’s, by Ray Kroc with Robert Anderson; Finger Lickin’ Good, by Col. Harland Sanders; and Made in America, by Sam Walton with John Huey.  These are people and places I grew up knowing about or in some other way am familiar with.  They are definitely on my mental list of soon to be reread.

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   Oh sure, I have my favorite fiction in a different bookshelf, and those top five are: The Remains Of The Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro (made into a movie); I, Claudius, by Robert Graves (made into a TV movie); To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (made into a movie); Snow Fury, by Richard Holden (a lost science fiction classic), and all three Giants Novels by James P. Hogan, collected in a hardback edition (which I keep hoping they’ll make into movies).  And in those I keep the school picture bookmarks my grandkids gave me.  But those are fiction, and so are on the bottom of my list.

   The best thing about reading nonfiction is all the wonderful information you can find.  I was delighted to rediscover, in Mark Kurlansky’s book, Salt: A World History, the paperback edition, an explanation of where we got some of our words.  Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt, and that’s where get the word Salary—Sal being the Latin word for salt.  In fact, Sal became the French word Solde, meaning pay, and that’s where we get the word Soldier.  Back to the Romans, they liked to salt their vegetables, and thus the word Salad.  Such etymological gems are found throughout the book.  Be advised, however, that Kurlansky’s 484 pages is also a cookbook, full of ancient recipes.

   P.S. Okay, I have to admit that I found, misplaced on my non-fiction shelves, a paperback of Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke.  Undoubtedly I was not careful when transferring my books to New House almost two years ago, and I need to fix that.  But it’s one of my favorites, and so I’m rereading it, in between the chapters of Salt, and Reader’s Digest, and Archie.


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