What Are You Reading?

Hey, thanks for coming over to catch up. How are you? Actually, let me stop you right there, because I have a more important question.

Let’s dim the lights. I’ll recline on this lush, velvet daybed, and you can rest on that one. I’m lowering my eyelids, tilting my head a little bit, and settling into my deep Kathleen Turner voice.

What are you reading?

I didn’t need to ask, “Have you read any good books lately?” or, “What was the last book you read?” or, “Have you read anything on paper in the last year or so?”

Because we’re in a special class of people who always have a book going—I know it. We’re people who really think about the big ideas.

I mean, I certainly hope so. Let’s not consider the possibility that you’re not currently deep into a book. Turn that ship around and let me know which Pulitzer finalist you’ve been engaging with lately.

Whenever you’re ready. Hold on, I’m getting a milk refill. O.K., now—cheers to the life of the mind. And, go.

If you need a minute to think, I can share what I’ve been reading. Ugh, my giant book pile! It has two really heavy books in it—heavy as in powerful. An advance copy of Billy Collins’s forthcoming poetry collection and “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.” Actually, “Sapiens” is both powerful and physically heavy—it’s printed on this extra-thick paper stock reserved for rigorous work. Reading it each night in my wing chair allows me to exert not only my brain but also my deltoids and, I’ve found, some muscles in my back, as well.

Mmm, the mental engagement I’ve been feeling! Foraging, biology, wheat—as it turns out, those things are connected, and Yuval Noah Harari talks about them all in “Sapiens.” Apparently, humans are born in their body development, which has to do with evolution on property inside the agricultural resolution. The text is teaching me so much.

Did you know that Bill Gates loved “Sapiens”? So did Obama. If you want to borrow my copy, let me know. After you finish, we can get together and talk about what struck us. I wish we could invite Harari to join us, but maybe we can find a clip of him on YouTube. If only he’d been on C-SPAN’s “Q&A”—I find that its theme music really gets me going, don’t you?

But enough about “Sapiens.” Which six-hundred-and-fifty-page tome is helping you develop your mental aptitude these days?

You can say it. I’m sure I’ll know the author. Or authors, if it’s a co-authored title. Maybe one of them has a Ph.D. and the other is an expert practitioner in the field, and they wrote a serious, explanatory text on a hidden aspect of our world today, maybe something about milk, the milk industry, or these new flavored milks I saw last week at the grocer? I read that they were bad. Plain milk for me only!

Or maybe you’re reading a big novel? I also read those! Next to where I keep “Sapiens” and the Collins collection, I have a stack of books by the tremendous Per Petterson of Norway, plus a romance novel that was recommended by the Times. I can’t help it—whenever I walk past a bookstore, I have to go in, browse the Nordic authors area, and ask for help locating the Nordic authors area if I can’t seem to find it.

If the store doesn’t have such an area at all, well, I’m not quite sure what’s going on. Nevertheless, I want to support the literary arts, so I’ll settle for whatever they have by Michael Chabon, even if I’ve already read it. I love stories and learning, so I make time for them. I’m assuming you also make time for learning, and stories, since we know one another?

I’ve loved this conversation! I’ve been reading so much and you were listening to me talk about that. What did you say you were reading again? Never mind, I’m looking at my watch and, according to my daily schedule, I should be reading for engagement in fifteen minutes, so I’d better let you go and start settling into my wing chair. Please, take a cup of milk for the road, and let me know what you think about “Sapiens.” Mmm, I can’t wait to stimulate my mind once again! ♦

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