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Reading Books, People, and Numbers!

As a college and graduate student, I took many psychology classes to learn to read people. Then at the University of Virginia, I took organizational behavior classes to learn to read organizations. For most of my life, I earned my living reading people, organizations, and numbers. Reading numbers was more important than just correctly adding them up. Reading numbers and figuring out what they said enabled me to help my school district clients. Then one day, the superintendent in one large urban district asked me to serve as his interim chief financial officer. I found that I had lots of accountants to count the numbers so I could spend my time reading and making sense out of them! I just finished a bowl of soup for lunch. While slurping my soup, I started “Lords of all the World – Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France c. 1500 - c. 1800 by Anthony Pagden. I will read every page, including the one with the ISBN and Library of Congress number. I can't help it. I am an inveterate reader.

As a boy, when I wasn’t at school, I was often alone. Well, not really; I was with my thousands of friends – all of the books, magazines, and encyclopedias that co-habited our home. I have attached a photo of twenty of my best friends. They were a set of encyclopedias named Collier, edited by a guy named Couch. Why do I remember that? I have no idea. Many times as a child, my books were my hiding-in-plain-sight-places.

Almost every day I sat on the floor in the living room, opened one, and started to read. I read on the floor, outside, in the tub, while eating, watching TV, mowing the grass, and hiding in my room when my folks would fuss at each other. There was a time when I was in 7th grade, we didn’t have much money. My dad had surgery on some nerves. For a period of time, he could not work. Folks would bring big bags of food to us. That was the nice part about a small town of 5,289 people. But we always had books, National Geographics, Life magazines, and Biblical Archaeology magazines. Those were my favorites—big color photos of far-off places with many important-sounding words.

I liked important-sounding words; they made me feel important when I memorized them. When I got to college, I took tests on different subjects and skipped about 20 hours of required courses. That’s because I seemed to have a good ability to remember what I read. I may not remember your name, but, at 74 years of age, I still have the ability to remember what I read. Today, we don’t have any encyclopedias in the house, but we do have Google, Bing, and Duck-Duck-something, all search engines that bring important sounding words to my monitor. I still read everywhere. When we built our house here in Chihuahua, I made sure they put a tub in one of the bathrooms, so I had a familiar place to read.

My wife might disagree with some of this. I think she wishes I could read her better! After fifty-three years of marriage, I am still trying to learn how to do that! There is great value in accurately reading people, organizations, spreadsheets, signs along side the road, cereal boxes, and anything else with words. G. K. Chesterton once said, "The sincere love of books has nothing to do with cleverness or stupidity any more than any other sincere love. It is a quality of character, a freshness, a power of pleasure, a power of faith."Ambrose Bierce said, Life is a spiritual pickle preserving life from decay." I agree. I would say the same thing about reading.

In the words of that famous credit card commercial . . . "What’s in your bookcase?"

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