The Cracker Barrel: Reading season

Musings from Pequot Lakes resident Craig Nagel about the joy of hunkering down with a good book during winter

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It’s that time of year again: reading season.

Now that the holidays are over, the Christmas tree taken outside or put away till next year, the furniture moved back where it belongs, and all the decorations put away, the pressure’s off.

Unless you’re heading soon for points south, now is the perfect time to start catching up on your reading.

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OK. I know. Snow happens. But what’s the big deal?

Shoveling snow doesn’t take that much of the day. And you know darn well the weather will do what it wants. Always has, always will. In the meantime, opportunity is banging at the storm door.


You can, of course, read anything you want to, all year around. But there’s something about shivery winter nights that makes the prospect of curling up with a book extra fun. It’s dark after supper, so you can’t do much outside anyway.

Now’s the time to succumb to temptation. Snuggle into something comfortable, brew up a pot of hot chocolate or a cup of hot apple cider, arrange the light next to your favorite chair, and let the good times roll.

As a reader of books, you have the world at your command. Instead of a mere couple hundred TV channels, you can pick and choose from thousands and thousands of titles. If your bookshelves are bare, you can go to the library or the bookstore or Amazon, or borrow from a friend.

And the choice of subject matter is nearly infinite.

Through the magic of reading, you can commune with people of every possible background. Books surmount the barriers of gender, age, race, religion, nationality, geography and even death.

You can relive the adventures of Odysseus some 3,000 years after they first occurred. You can enter the mind of the motherless Scout in Harper Lee’s "To Kill A Mockingbird," share the joy and heartache of a plucky young woman who adopts a homeless child in Barbara Kingsolver’s "The Bean Trees," relive the dreams and disappointments of the Dust Bowl Okies in John Steinbeck’s classic "The Grapes of Wrath."

Thanks to Alex Haley’s "Roots," you can experience the gut-wrenching terror of being chained into slavery and shipped across the ocean to a place called America. In Frederick Manfred’s "Conquering Horse," you can see the world through the eyes of a Yankton Sioux.

In Daniel Brown’s "The Boys in the Boat," you can share the struggle and triumph of nine young working-class Americans beating the odds to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics against Hitler’s vaunted rowing team.


“Reading,” said Mortimer Adler, “is a basic tool in the living of a good life.”

Books allow us the chance to grow beyond the constraints of our particular upbringing. In a sense, books permit us to live many lives instead of just one.

And as we experience the world through other viewpoints, our tolerance and open-heartedness can’t help but expand.

So blow the dust off the top of that book you’ve been meaning to read for the past couple of years, hunker down in your armchair, and go for it.

Reading season’s underway.

And you don’t even have to buy a license.

Collections of Craig Nagel’s columns are available at

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Craig Nagel, Columnist

Opinion by Craig Nagel
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