NEVER read what will make you look good if you die in the middle of it

“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. ~P.J. O’Rourke”

With all due respect to Mr. O’Rourke…

 I love to read and encourage everyone to read what makes you feel (happy/sad/angry/scared), read what challenges your beliefs and what pushes the boundaries of your imagination. If I have the misfortune of becoming deceased in the middle of a book (I say misfortune because while reading is the best way to go I would much rather have just finished the last page than still be in the middle) I would like to think I would not give a flying flip what anyone thought of my chosen material. There will probably be lots better things going on at the moment. You know, streets of gold and all. “Oh,” but you say..”what about the legacy you are leaving behind? What about your loved ones who have found your body hunched over a rather embarrassing copy of a pre-teen vampire romance thriller?” Again, who cares? You are dead. And I doubt those that have known you all of your life will be swayed in their opinions of you because of your final choice in reading material.

When my children were first learning to read I encouraged them to read what they were interested in. That meant a lot of different books for my daughter as she explored different subjects, and a lot of dinosaurs and Jacques Cousteau for my son who loved exploration.  For myself, I go by the 90/10 rule. 90% of what I read is what I know I will like. And the other 10% are books that I try out. Either a genre I’m not typically attracted to or a subject I’ve never explored before. Sometimes I am surprised, other times I don’t go past the 3rd chapter. But at least I’ve reached past my comfort level. If I only read books that would impress someone upon the event of my literary history would be severely lacking. For what impresses one person, may not impress the one standing next to him. Okay, so only read award-winning books, only read New York Time’s Bestsellers..only read “Oprah’s choice” books..(please don’t). How about…”Never read something only because it will make you look good if you die in the middle of it” .

 Read what you love, read what you hate. Read authors who agree with your political/sociological/religious beliefs, read those that adamantly do not agree. Read the books that are easy to read, providing you a brief respite into another realm. Read the books that are hard to read, and take a bit longer to get through. Challenge yourself. But please, do not care what anyone will think if you die in the middle of whatever it is you have chosen.

 If I were to die today I would be caught 2/3 of the way through The Autobiography of Charles Darwin on my Kindle (to the shock, I’m sure of my pastor. What is a Sunday School teacher doing reading Darwin?), 3/4 of the way through the “Reader’s Digest” I keep on the back of my toilet and at the beginning of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on my nightstand. And this weekend I am certain to pick up another novel, an easy-reading non-fiction whatever..probably a crime thriller. Because sometimes my mind needs a break from the seriousness of Darwin’s mental struggles and in-depth research. Sometimes I need a break from the HeLa cells. Sometimes I want to read just to relax and let my mind drift into another world. Even if I am not challenged at the time by anything. Any of these 4 bits of reading material would be judged quite differently if they were in my hands the moment I passed (please Lord, don’t let it be the “Reader’s Digest” for that would mean my passing would occur on the toilet).  Feel free to judge me. 🙂


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