“A book lying idle on a shelf,” wrote Henry Miller, “is wasted ammunition.” Somewhere along the line, it would appear, I came to live by that belief, given the way that I read. Firstly, I don’t regard the act of reading as a way to flesh out a summer day or otherwise kill time. Killing time ought to be a felony. Life's too short. At the risk of sounding elitist, I limit my reading to what might generally be deemed “good books.” That means recognized literary authors over best sellers or junk novels. It means non-fiction from which I can learn something enlightening, biographies and autobiographies about well-known, successful and respected people, and thoughtful collections of essays or other writings by well-reputed writers. Secondly, when I read I always have a pen with me. I mark or underline passages that I find particular meaningful, and here’s where Miller’s quote plays in. I’m continually pulling books that I’ve read off the shelf and leafing through them, reading the parts that I’ve previously marked. Sometimes I will find a particular quote that I can use in what I’m writing. Sometimes the quote becomes a germ of an idea for something to write (this post, for example). At least, I get to enjoy and hopefully profit from a review of something thoughtful and well-written. If I’m going to spend time reading other people’s minds, I want them to be good minds.
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