'One for the Books': 5 stories from Joe Queenan's exploration of his life as a reader

Writer Joe Queenan, a voracious reader, looks back on his life as a bibliophile in his new book 'One for the Books.' Here are five of his stories.

3. Reading projects

Queenan compiled a list of various reading projects he had undertaken over the decades. "Re-reading all the books in my collection that I had already read twice. Been there, done that. Great fun. 'Emma,' 'At-Swim-Two-Birds,' 'The Big Sleep,' and 'Beau Geste' never fail to step up to the plate.... Devoting a year to reading books by authors who burned out early. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Arthur Rimbaud, Ralph Ellison, Alfred Jarry, Harper Lee. God, was that depressing.... Devoting a year to reading all the books in my library that I had never even started. There are actually only about fifteen of them, twenty max.... They are all books I want to read. They are all books I'm sure I will enjoy. The entire operation would probably take me no more than three months. The books are all sitting right there in the middle of my office. Why, then, can I not finish them? Or even start them? I have no idea."

3 of 5

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

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