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Betty Stone: Read any good books lately?


Betty Stone



From time to time I hear a teacher or professor lament, "Students just don''t read anymore." What a pity! I know that the printed page has to vie for popularity with all sorts of high tech entertainment, but I grieve for anyone who misses the pleasure of reading a book. In fact, the only things I guess I have in common with a giant like Thomas Jefferson is the color of our hair and his quotation, "I cannot live without books." I am so addicted to reading that, if I had nothing else to read, I''d probably read the phone book. 




Young reader  


It all started, as many things do, when I was a child. From the time I learned to read, I rarely lived far from a library. Radio, movies and books were our diversions. Summer was reading time.  


In my youth we not only had no TV, but there were few, if any, organized sports for youngsters, and swimming at the Y was limited to certain hours. Lacking air-conditioning, the heat of summer mid-days was no time for vigorous activity anyway. (I think that without AC, the South might never have developed, might have remained stuck in the lethargy of enervating heat.) 


We had long summers then, too, from the first of June to the first of September. I would walk around the corner, just two or three blocks, to the public library, where Mrs. Alice Dwyer presided over the gateway to the whole world. 


We did not have summer reading lists then, as my grandchildren do now, but I just read anything that suited my fancy -- that Miss Alice allowed me to check out.  


I remember one summer, when I had first heard of Sinclair Lewis, I searched the stacks for one of his books. The only thing that looked remotely like his was a book by someone named C. S. Lewis. Thinking the "S" might stand for Sinclair, I checked out C.S. Lewis''s space trilogy and accidentally met one of my favorite authors of all time. Although I never saw or spoke with him, his essays have influenced me perhaps as much as any individual I ever knew personally. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when the famous Inklings got together. 




Escape in pages  


In those Depression and World War II days, travel was rare, sometimes impossible, but books transported me far from my humdrum life. 


On hot summer days I would take my current book outside, sit on a lawn chair in our little front yard, under the pecan tree, where I could wiggle my bare toes in the relatively cool green grass. I was usually undisturbed, except when my grandmother would call to me asking if I would "like to go to Mrs. Moss''s grocery store" to get something that had been forgotten. (The groceries for the day would have already been delivered by the store earlier in the day.)  


I wondered why in the world she always asked if I''d "like" to go. Of course I wouldn''t. I never wanted to leave the far more interesting scenes in the pages of my books; but though I groaned, I never argued with her. Like the library, the store was just a couple of blocks away. 




May I recommend ... 


Most of us have favorite memories of childhood. Mine would have to include those long, lazy days of reading. The habit is with me still, and as summer stretches ahead, I revel in reading. I thought I might share some suggestions with you. This is not a reading list and is not intended as literary recommendations by any standard. If you, however, are looking forward to some light summer reading, as I am, I have a few suggestions. 


Actually, my first one is not so light after all. It is Pulitzer Prize-winning Jon Meacham''s biography of Andrew Jackson''s White House years, "American Lion." The incredibly young editor of Newsweek, whom I am privileged to know as one of my daughters'' good friends, depicts a Jackson somewhat different from the rough, uncouth character some claim him to have been. A complex man with humble beginnings, he could be both a smooth and charming politician as well as a stubborn and fiery soldier. He was absolutely, totally dedicated to his country and tenaciously loyal to his friends. (Personally, I found Meacham''s earlier book, "Franklin and Winston," more enjoyable; but then I remember those days myself, and I am not quite old enough to remember Andrew Jackson.) 




Lighter fare  


On a much lighter side, I have just finished reading a couple of books you might like to take to the beach, if you are lucky enough to go. The "Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" is a delightful book by first-time novelist Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece, Annie Barrows, who helped her finish it when she became terminally ill. It tells of the early post-World War II years, following the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands. Few people know of the history of that occupation, and this book tells of difficult times, yet keeps a light touch and offers a gripping romance in a typical witty British way. 


For devotees of "Being Dead Is No Excuse," Mississippi Delta authors Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays have served up another delectable dish, "Some Day You''ll Thank Me for This or The Official Southern Ladies'' Guide to Being a ''Perfect Mother''." We Southerners are proud of producing some great writers, but we also are not averse to poking a bit of fun at ourselves. These authors know us intimately and describe us accurately. You''ll recognize the characters they present. There''s probably someone like that in your own family. It''s a tasty book, recipes and all. 


Another Southern delight (with continued emphasis on the "light") is the Miss Julia series, set in North Carolina. I''ve just read Miss Julia Delivers the Goods by Ann Ross. I found Miss Julia did indeed deliver. A straight-laced Presbyterian, Miss Julia encounters in the series an assortment of totally unconventional challenges. She meets them with an unique flair. 


Now I''ve made some suggestions. Perhaps you''ll pass along some recommendations to me. Happy summer reading! 


Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.


Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.


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Reader Comments

Article Comment YY commented at 10/17/2009 8:52:00 PM:

I am planning to give my wife a big surprise with tiffany jewelry on sale as a birthday gift, but I don't know which one to choose, any ideas?

I get this tiffany and co from my grandmother when she passed, but I would like to know if it's definitely real, how can I do this?


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