Thursday, September 30, 2010


When I was younger I was a voracious reader. Sometimes perhaps a little too voracious (Six Hardy Boys books in one weekend? Get a life, kid!) Anyway, I fell out of the habit but recently I've been trying to get back into it. I have been wanting to do more reading for a long time now, but I have a very hard time staying awake when I'm sitting or lying still enough to read. However, lately (as in this week) I've been forcing myself to stay awake and read from 9PM to 10.

I am kind of taking it easy, though, and am starting out reading some short stories. So far this week I picked up a copy of some Robert Louis Stevenson shorts that I found lying around and read "Markheim." Odd little story. Now of course Treasure Island was one of my early favorites followed very closely by Kidnapped. I had an aunt who was a polio survivor and perhaps it was her disability that got her so heavily into books. Both of those books I first read from her collection. Anyway, "Markheim" could easily have been made into an episode of The Twilight Zone.

A few years before my grandmother passed away, I gave her as a Christmas gift a book of short mysteries titled Murder for Christmas. During the last year of her life, she parceled many of her earthly possessions out to her relatives (mostly her grandchildren) and gave me the book back since she had read all of it. A few years ago I read about half of it; this week I started on it again at the point I had left off--the old bookmark was still in it. The title is not entirely accurate; some of the stories deal with other crimes than murder, but all are set around Christmas-time. Thus far I have read "The Adventure of the Dauphin's Doll" by Ellery Queen; was amused to find that the following story was the aforementioned "Markheim;" then also read "The Necklace of Pearls," a Lord Peter Wimsey story by Dorothy L. Sayers. Last night I reluctantly turned off the light in the middle of an engrossing story called "Blind Man's Hood" by Carter Dickson, which seems so far to be both a murder mystery and a ghost story. This book also has the occasional cartoon/illustration by the great Gahan Wilson.

I actually have one other collection of shorts like this, which my wife found for me at a used book store, called Murder Most Merry, and which are also all set at Christmas-time. I don't think I'll read it this year, though. Once I finish the one I'm now reading, I think I'll go into something else. I have been developing quite a taste for mysteries during the past few years.

Of course there are a few other books that I've had stacked next to the bed for a long time and dip into them now and then. I have been slowly perusing through The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes for some time. I've read this one before but it's been a while and I still enjoy refreshing my memory with many of these anecdotes. For a long time this was my "truck book," that is, the book I kept in my truck so I would always have something to read just in case. It became so battered that I had to tape the covers back together with packing tape. (My current "truck book" is a book of crossword puzzles--I don't have an actual reading book out there right now).

One book that--no matter where I've lived since I bought it--I have always had by my bed is a thick tome of The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe. It's something I sometimes just pick up and open at random, reading wherever I happen to open it.

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