Tag Archives: Nero Wolfe

The Joy Of Reading More Than One Book At A Time – The Confessions Of Culture Critic Julia Keller

At any given moment, I have at least six half-finished books sitting within easy reach. But which six? How do I choose? Ah, that’s where the magic happens.
A wonderful literary synergy is created by the accidental juxtaposition of reading materials.
Julia Keller, CULTURAL CRITIC, Chicago Tribune — Why need read many books at once?


So I really meant that it’s something I think is kind of part of the human species, to always be kind of looking over the horizon to the next thing. And I think that when you break off your reading to go read something else, the first thing is enhanced. It’s enhanced by that contrast by realizing all the different varieties of voices that there are out there.
The Joys Of Reading Many Books At Once (from an interview conducted by Jennifer Ludeen, for NPR’s Talk of the Nation)


You are either a reader or you are not.  That’s my theory, anyway.  I have always loved reading. I started with comic books (if only I still had my original collection!).  I used to hide a book propped up in an open textbook during class as far back as junior high school.  (I think the first books I propped up in such manner were the Nero Wolfe mysteries, which I still re-read every few years).    It probably (ok – definitely) hurt my grades – but I loved my reading.

Anyway, I got the link to this NPR interview in an e-mail, sent by another book lover.  Here’s Jennifer Ludden’s introduction to the interview:

Many people are serial readers — they pick up one book and read it cover-to-cover before putting it down.
And then there are poly-readers like Julia Keller.
The Chicago Tribune cultural critic juggles four, five, or even six books at any given time, never able — or willing — to choose just one.
Some have frowned when Keller mentions how many books she’s reading…
But she’s nurtured her habit not because she’s flighty or easily bored — or even because it’s her job to read many books at a time. It’s just because she finds life is simply better when lived among multiple books.

If you love to read more than one book at the same time, then you know the joy of this approach.  If you don’t – well, I just feel sorry for you…

Developing a Love of Reading

Books to love

Books to love

I have a confession.  I love to read.  It started with comic books, then progressed to the Hardy Boys, and then really took hold with all of the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout (I own the entire collection, and re-read them every few years).  I admit that I took a brief trip into Mickey Spillane for awhile (no, I didn’t tell tell my mother).  But for as long as I can remember, I have loved to read.

I speak to residents of retirement communities, and recently one such resident had to move from independent living to assisted living.  He is quite a man, and has read all of his life.  In World War II, he was among those who liberated Flossenbürg concentration camp just a short time after Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed at the camp.  (If only they had gotten there a little earlier).  Well, this man moved into assisted living because he has lost his sight.  His greatest loss, in his own words:  “I can’t read any longer.”

My bias is clear.  We need a new generation of folks who love to read.  So I read with enthusiasm this article, A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like, in a recent New York Times.  The approach is simple.  The teachers let the students pick their own books, rather than assigning every one the same book to read.  It’s a middle school inititative, sweeping across the country.  Here’s the key paragraph:

But fans of the reading workshop say that assigning books leaves many children bored or unable to understand the texts. Letting students choose their own books, they say, can help to build a lifelong love of reading.

One Book at a Time

One Book at a Time

“I feel like almost every kid in my classroom is engaged in a novel that they’re actually interacting with,” Ms. McNeill said, several months into her experiment. “Whereas when I do ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,” I know that I have some kids that just don’t get into it.”

Is it working?  Not for every student, but it is for some.  Here is a letter that every teacher longs for:

In the final week of school Helen Arnold, Jennae’s mother, sent Ms. McNeill an e-mail message thanking her. “She never really just read herself for enjoyment until she took your class,” Ms. Arnold wrote.

This is a primarily a business book blog, usually dealing with business issues.  Here’s a business issue worth pondering – how do we build a generation of people who love to read?  Because if we succeed at this, more will read all types of books – including good business books.


Personal note — a suggested place to start:  with either Some Buried Caesar, an early volume, or The Doorbell Rang, a later volume, and maybe his best.  These present Nero Wolfe and his Watson, Archie Goodwin, at their best.