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Chuck Brooks: When you finish reading, pick up a book

Are you a reader of books? I thought I'd return to one item from my list of simple pleasures I shared with you two weeks ago and explore one of them a bit more this week. Books.

I'm hoping this triggers memories for you as we move through this week's chat. For the sake of the topic, I am going to assume you're a reader and move forward from that premise. OK? OK.

Were you an adolescent or an adult when reading became a part of your recreational world? Do you have a preference as to whether you read hardcovers or paperbacks or online books? Do you treat your books like each one is a fragile infant or do you put them through hell and back by the time you've finished?

I've said it here numerous times; I have a love affair with books. Actual books. I can't begin to tell you how many I have in my home and how I will never get to read them all. The thing is, however, I love owning them. I love looking at them sitting on the shelves. I love opening them and paging through them.

A couple of weeks ago, they were high on my list of small pleasures in my world. It wasn't always the case, however.

I've also shared how the love affair with the book began. Fourth grade, sitting in front of the nun reading to our class in the intimately small library. Without a doubt, I know that's when I "saw the light!" From there, I became one of Scholastic books best customers, only of course, when Mom would provide the money.

As I moved from parochial school into high school, I sort of put my book obsession on the back burner. It didn't return until the year after high school. I stayed in town three and a half years before heading to college, my friends had moved on, and I was working full time and bored. It was time to read again.

The book that began my return to the reading road was "All Creatures Great And Small." And then the whole series. They were superb. I loved animals, and these were sensitively written. Sometimes sad, always heartwarming. I was hooked. I don't remember who in my hometown suggested it, but I owe that person a thank you, at the very least.

I also remember reading "The Thorn Birds" during those three years. It was the first book that ever made me cry. I hadn't known it was possible. Then a good buddy I was working with told me about author John Saul. I was an instant fan and Saul paved the way for Stephen King novels. Boo!

In college, I didn't read much for recreation because I was busy with classes and doing other co-curricular activities with my dorm and the campus television station. It would be once I landed a career when I would return to reading regularly.

Do you remember Odegard's bookstore on Grand in St. Paul? It was a bookstore with character. At the time, Waldenbooks was the bookstore in all the shopping malls along with B. Dalton and Borders Books. Barnes and Noble eventually made a splash, and the rest of the stores slowly disappeared.

Years later, when the electronic book entered the choices, I grappled with ignoring the Nook and the Kindle because I loved holding a book. It was late November of 2010 when my love of toys became victorious over my devotion to the hardcover. I was also going through a rough time and buying the Nook simply made me feel better.

I have to admit I used it for a while, but I quickly stashed it away and returned to what made me happy: the actual book.

In my final years of teaching, students would bring in their electronic readers and use them for whatever it was we were reading at the time in the class. What drove me crazy were kids who were reading from their phones. Reading "A Tale Of Two Cities" on one's phone? How fun could that be?

I was always encouraged when students would bring in a hard copy and tell me it's the only way they want to read a book. I wanted to hug them and run to the whiteboard ... US-1, ELECTRONICS-0! Everyone has their preference, but I hate the idea that some day books may not exist in hardcover form. Glad I won't be around to see that.

I do like an occasional paperback. I am a little less careful with them than I am with my hardcovers. And if I never told you, I can't read used books. Don't know when or where that came from, but libraries and Half-Priced Books aren't graced by my presence. Weird, I know. By

admitting it, however, perhaps it's less weird? Maybe not. Whatever.

Go read a book. A real book!