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Senior Correspondent

Retirees clearly have more discretionary time than those still active in the work-a-day world. And certainly, retirees have the choice of how they spend their discretionary time. Reading is one beneficial use of that discretionary time.

Reading offers many benefits. For one, it’s completely “portable.” That is, a person can read anytime, anywhere. I especially enjoy reading during the evening hours—in my green, easy chair by the window. And as I suffer from insomnia, I often read for an hour or so during the wee hours of the morning. As for portability, it’s easy enough to pack a book or two while traveling. And the new digital readers make packing even more books far easier. Thanks to this new technology, packing fifty books adds no more volume or weight to a suitcase than packing one or two.

Another benefit of reading—and this is especially important to seniors—is that it helps keep the brain exercised and the mind sharp. It challenges the reader to think and therefore stimulates creativity. And it provides the fodder for stimulating conversation. Reading fiction stimulates conversation about plot and character while reading non-fiction stimulates conversation about new ideas, new ways of thinking.

Regarding stimulating conversation, book clubs are based on this exact premise. Members select books to read, generally one per month, then follow up with a lively discussion during a monthly meeting. While I recognize the benefits of belonging to a book club, I’ve never considered joining one. That’s because I’m kind of an independent cuss—I really don’t want a group of people deciding what I should read.

While I generally don’t let others decide what I read, I’ve lately done exactly that. My friend Gary recently loaned me a fly fishing book. It’s on my “books to read” pile. That pile, by the way, is growing pretty tall. That’s because my friend Mike gave me a copy of James Michener’s “Centennial.” Yes, I am enjoying reading that book, but the darn thing is over a thousand pages long! Quite a commitment. Michener’s books, by the way, lie in the category of historical fiction. I like that. For I’m enjoying the story while, at the same time, learning about history.

As I’m more interested in learning than in being entertained, I generally read non-fiction. My subjects of interest are mainly economics and sociology. I guess I’m looking for insight into, “Where are we headed as a society?” And I also read about my hobbies and pastimes—fly fishing and travel. Occasionally, I simply browse around the bookstore looking for “whatever.” I suppose I’m then searching for some new experience. On those occasions, I might find myself in the business or the psychology section of the bookstore.

A number of years ago, my friend Virgil paid me a wonderful compliment. I had been explaining to him that I was spending quite a lot of money buying books. I told him, “I guess I’m a sucker for books.” Virgil replied, “You’re not a sucker for books. You’re a sucker for knowledge.”

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