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What I Read – Mark Parman

by on June 6th, 2011

Mark Parman teaches English and journalism at the UWMC.  A Town of Mainer, he lives north of Aspirus Hospital with Susan and Fergus, his English setter.

Perhaps it’s the steady diet and influence of Wendell Berry, but I find myself still an old-fashioned, handheld print guy.  The first thing I do in the morning (after letting Fergus our dog out so he can read his version of the newspaper and then making my first cup of coffee) is read a book for a half an hour or so.  After well over 20 years, this has become habit, broken only by special circumstances, like guests in the house who want to chat in the morning.

I usually alternate a couple of books, typically fiction and non-fiction.  Right now I’m reading the Chinese novelist Ha Jin’s A Free Life and Diane Ackerman’s Deep Play. Both of these books, by the way, came from the Marathon County Public Library’s book sale, part of a $5 per grocery bag haul.  It amazes me how cheap books can be considering all the joy and wonder they give us.  I try to keep my to-read pile over by the stereo at least ten books high, and when it gets below that I get nervous and go shopping for more.  Right now Richard Russo, Naiguib Mahfouz, Ursula Hegi, Don Delilo, Kathleen Norris, Henning Mankel and others are waiting there for me.  And sometimes I read for purely utilitarian information – Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening and the Haynes BMW 2-Valve Twins manual.

We also get several print magazines.  Every Christmas, my mom still signs us up for a National Geographic subscription, and I probably read about half of each issue.  I also get Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times, which I faithfully read cover to cover, including ads.  And finally, I always pick up our local newspapers, City Pages and the UWMC Forum.

Since I am a backsliding neo-Luddite, I cannot claim to avoid all electronic media, after all it is immediate and pervasive.  My first three hits are madison.com, jsonline.com and wausaudailyherald.com.  A few days ago, I read on madison.com (Cap Times)) a long and complex piece by Mike Ivey about the New Urbanism movement.  I also regularly check cnn.com and truth-out.org, a clearinghouse for progressive journalism.  If I have time, I usually look at some sports journalism to feed my addictions there.  I go to cyclingnews.com and velonews.com for cycling, skinnyski.com for cross country ski news and packernews.com for the latest on the Green and Gold.

As long as books survive, and as long as they continue to give me the pleasure and insight that they do, I will continue to turn their pages before I switch on my computer.  Now I do sound like Wendell Berry.

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