By Richard Gammill
Special to The PREVIEW
The workers in Cuba’s cigar factories loved to read, even on the job. During the 19th century, those workers chipped in and hired a lector who for hours at a time would read aloud while the workers rolled their cigars in silence. They so enjoyed Alexander Dumas’ writings they wrote the novelist shortly before his death in 1870 and asked if they could name a cigar after “Monte Cristo.” That brand of cigars is still available around the world today.
That story is told in the book “Indelible Ink,” edited by Scott Larson. Each chapter of this inspiring book is written by a prominent Christian personality giving a personal account of two or three books that made a significant impact upon his or her life. The titles range from familiar classics to little-known children’s books.
Despite all the digital and electronic alternatives, the love of reading is making a comeback in our country. Some may occasionally read an entire book, while others (like my sister) will read 50 or more books a year.
I approached my retirement with two ambitions: occasionally sleeping in and having time for a wide diversity of reading and writing. Forget sleeping in. Since moving to Pagosa Springs five years ago, I have developed a delightful early morning routine.
I brew a fresh cup of coffee, spread butter and jam on a slice of toast and settle into my recliner for an hour or more of prayerful devotions and reading.
The edge of Village Lake is only 50 feet from my window and beyond it to the east is the rising sun. On a morning with broken clouds, the sun appears above the horizon and starts the day by transforming the sky into brilliant colors.
Flocks of noisy geese landing on and ascending from the lake’s surface distract my thoughts. Near the edge of the water, pairs of ducks swim idly by or dive tails up for food. From springtime through the weeks of summer, I watched two families of ducklings grow from tiny balls of fur into adulthood.
I love the setting. I love my cup of coffee. I love reading. It just doesn’t get any better than this.
My greatest pleasure derives from new insights and assurances I gain from God’s Word, as fresh and new as the dawning day. Devotional writers — such as Oswald Chambers and William Barclay — give me understanding and application. While my body ages my mind and spirit are constantly revived and renewed. Sharing with my wife adds to the meaning and pleasure.
If I have time, I turn then, or later in the evening, to one of several books I am currently reading or listening to. Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard gave me vivid history lessons in their “Killing” series. Their detailed revelations of the atrocities of the German Nazis and the Japanese military during the murderous years of World War II enthrall and sicken me. John Grisham’s latest novel, “The Reckoning,” a gripping murder mystery, takes the reader to the Japanese WWII occupation of the Philippines and puts us on the Bataan death march. Ken Follett’s masterful (and super-long) series of novels of the medieval era and of World War I and WWII immerse the reader in histories both ancient and recent.
Books such as these expand and enlarge our knowledge and experience of places and times otherwise not well known by us. Those who do not read miss the benefits. I have the privilege of frequent travel to India and other international destinations, such as my five-week trip this summer with my son and two grandsons to southeast Asia, Tokyo, and India. Even so, I don’t want to miss out on the places my reading takes me.
The book “Indelible Ink” reminded me of the enduring influence of certain well-written classic books. Open one of the recommended books, begin to read, return to it again and again — and a life is changed. “Indelible Ink” gave me a list of titles that I have known about but have never read, such as “The Brothers Karamazov” by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. Now I must get it. And I must read. And write.