One thing retirees usually have in abundance is time. Instead of resorting to television when you find yourself with more time on your hands than you now know how to fill, why not try a good read. I’ve still got a Bil Keane’s The Family Circus cartoon from 1992, which shows Billy talking to his sister Dolly: “I’ll tell you the difference between TV, radio and books…TV puts stuff into your mind with pictures and sound. You don’t even have to think….RADIO puts stuff into your mind with just sounds and words. You make up your own pictures…BOOKS are quiet friends! They let you make up your own pictures and sounds. They make you Think.”
Author Ann Tyler said: "I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” Reading is also a way of making other chances.
An abundance of TV channels offer all manner of diversion from fact to fiction, but you can find an even greater selection, tailored to your own interests, at the library. Unlike TV where you have to watch it then or tape it, books work with your own schedule. Here are some suggestions:
If you’d have liked to have had a different job, what would it have been? Read more on the subject. What sport do you like? Check it out. Whose biography might interest you? Thomas Jefferson, Abba Eban, Benvenuto Cellini, Henry VIII, and Lou Gehrig come to mind.
What books do you wish you’d read when you were younger? What classics or former best sellers would like to read? Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Exodus, The Color Purple, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Shipping News. You might even have had, even hated, to read a book for an English Class. You may enjoy reading it again now that there won’t be a quiz.
Whose books have you always wanted to read? Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway, Conan-Doyle, James Michener, Tony Hillerman - they’re all in the library.
What period in time interests you? The Roaring Twenties? The Renaissance? Ancient Greece or Rome? Pick a time - pick any time - and you’ll find a lot to read. Try a history of an era, such as Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in which events are outlined as factually as possible; or try some historical fiction. I wish we’d been able to read more historical fiction when I was in high school. Because we are allowed to read historical novels like Andersonville and The Red Badge of Courage, I remember more about the Civil War than other periods we studied
If you would like a little lighter reading there are many historical romances and mysteries, many written in a series. Find a character in a time you like and follow his exploits. A popular historical series, the Aubrey-Maturin novels were written about characters in the British navy of the early 1800’s. Michael Jecks has written a series of Medieval mysteries that begins with The Last Templar. Dorothy Dunnett’s characters lived during the Renaissance.
Purchased or borrowed, make the book new to you. Get up from your easy chair, get out, and get a book - or two! Then, perhaps on a nasty afternoon, get back into your easy chair and get into a good read.
(originally posted January 10, 2011)