A Short Reading List

As the popularity of downloading books on tablets has increased, many predicted the demise of bookstores

By Kellyn Brown

After a week of bizarre and often tragic news, I wanted to use this space for something other than current events. Instead, I wanted to piece together a list I often ask of others and am always eager for theirs to overlap with mine: a reading list.

“What are you reading?” is a common question of mine, especially among my colleagues. Convincing someone of the value of a good book is a small reward. And discussing a book you have both read is even better.

I annually browse used titles at the Friends of the Library book sale, which ran for three days last month at the Kalispell Center Mall. Thousands of books are lined up on dozens of tables and browsing takes patience. It’s always worth it, though, and the cost is minimal, paid in bulk at a rate of $1.50 per inch.

Here’s what I picked up this year:

  • “The Billionaire’s Vinegar” by Benjamin Wallace (I know very little about wine, but the mystery of the “world’s most expensive bottle” must be a good read.)
  • “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen (I’m way late to this novel, which was recommended by coworkers, by the author of “The Corrections.”)
  • “Collapse” by Jared Diamond (A Pulitzer Prize winner for his book “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” the scientist author explains why societies fail or succeed.)
  • “Don’t Know Much About History” by Kenneth C. Davis (I’m about halfway through this bestseller on American history, which has helped remedy some of my ignorance on the founding and growth of this country.)

The therapeutic act of searching for new and used books has lost some of its appeal. As the popularity of downloading books on tablets has increased, many predicted the demise of bookstores. It hasn’t happened.

Sure, the largest booksellers in the country have either closed, such as Borders, or are struggling to hang on, such as Barnes & Noble, which has failed to keep pace with the likes of Amazon and Apple. But the meteoric rise of e-books, at least those bought from traditional publishers, has ebbed, and many traditional bookstores are regaining their respective footing.

According to a recent New York Times story, “Independent bookstores … are showing strong signs of resurgence. The American Booksellers Association counted 1,712 member stores in 2,227 locations in 2015, up from 1,410 in 1,660 locations five years ago.”

I refuse to read a book on anything other than printed pages. I write in the margins, bookmark important sections, and place them in a specific order on the bookshelf. Even after they’re read, the good ones stick around like an old friend you plan on revisiting some day.

Here are a few good books to start this fall, a season with less daylight but more time read.

  • “The Brothers K” by David James Duncan (Perhaps my favorite novel of my youth about the importance of family and love, intertwined with baseball.)
  • “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis (Another great book by the author of “Moneyball,” this time on how high-frequency traders have rigged the financial markets.)
  • “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand (This true story of survival and perseverance during World II surpassed even my lofty expectations.)

Here are a couple books I have on my wish list.

  • “Creativity Inc.” by Ed Catmull (Recommended by a friend, this is a business management book by the president of Pixar.)
  • “Daily Rituals” (I’ve always been fascinated with routine, and this book maps out typical days of bright minds such as Benjamin Franklin and Beethoven.)

Most of those routines, I suspect, included a lot of reading.

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