I Already Liked To Read, But That Day I Became an Avid Reader: The Weekly Mentor by Oliver DeMille

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by Oliver DeMille

The Beginning

libraryThis was the turning point. Always before, I picked a book here or there, I dabbled, I started a book and then let it sit for months. But that day changed everything.

It was summer. It was hot outside. In fact, it was hot enough that even my Dad took a break from our farm work in the midafternoons. And that’s saying something! He woke us up early and kept us working late. We hauled hay, fixed fences, cleaned ditches, picked fruit, and did a bunch of other things to keep the farm running, day in and day out. In summer hours, it didn’t get dark until nearly 10 p.m., and we’d come home from the barns and fields sweaty and exhausted.

Knowing we’d be up before the sun, we usually went straight to bed. Both of my brothers and I knew that if we wanted to do something fun, we needed to do it during the heat of the afternoon.

On that day, I showered after morning work and rode my bicycle to the city library. I’d done this many times before, returning my latest reading conquest and looking for a new one. Like other times, I perused a lot of titles—not quite excited about any of them.

That’s when it happened.

Mrs. Mayer, the librarian, noticed me—like many times before—but this time she stood up from behind her desk and walked over to where I was looking through the youth section.

beware the anti-readers DeMille-Great Minds read, read, read“I notice you spend a lot of time trying to find the right book,” she said.

I nodded.

“I’ve also been watching the titles you check out. It’s quite a broad selection.” She paused, and I said nothing. “Do you read them all?” she asked.

“Uh…no. I start reading them all. But I don’t like some of them, so I just bring those back and look for something better.”

She nodded. “That’s what I thought. Well, I’ve been watching the ones you keep for the full two weeks, versus those you return in just a day or two, and I have an idea for you.”

She walked back to her desk and beckoned me to follow. She picked up a book from her desk and handed it to me. A piece of torn notepaper was inserted inside the front cover, and it stuck out at the top just enough to read the name written on it in flowing cursive letters. The name was mine.

“If You Let It”

Obviously she had thought of me before I arrived that day and selected this book for me—then written my name and kept it on her desk. Okay, that was impressive.

“I think you’ll like it,” she said. “It has a lot of action. It’s fun to read. And it also teaches important life lessons. Some people might tell you that it’s just a brainless novel, but this author always fills his books with big ideas. It will make you think deeply. And if you let it, it will teach you what it means to be a good man.”

I looked at the cover of the book. The title was The Daybreakers, and the author was Louis L’Amour. I had no idea what a “daybreaker” was, and I had never heard of Lewis Lamoor, as I pronounced it that first day, but the afternoon was passing and I only had a few hours left to read before our farm work resumed—so I grinned, thanked her, and checked out the book.

It was life-changing.

When I took it back to the library just a few days later, she looked up from her desk, and her face turned disappointed.

“You didn’t like it?” she asked.

“I loved it,” I told her. “I couldn’t stop reading. I finished it already.”

DeMille-Great ReadingyShe brightened, then stood and said, “Follow me.”

She led me to a long shelf of books and said, “These are all by the same author, Louis L’Amour. I’ve read them all, and each one has its own lessons and ideas. This shelf will keep you busy all summer.”

I stared at the long shelf in awe. Mrs. Mayer smiled, and she quietly went back to her desk.

I couldn’t decide which book to choose, so I picked three.

Becoming

It was a great summer. I didn’t just read, I became a reader. A dedicated reader. An avid seeker of knowledge and wisdom. And the lessons and great ideas just kept coming. In fact, as L’Amour and his characters talked about other books, great classics like Plutarch’s Lives, Walden by Thoreau, Juvenal’s Satires, the writings of John Locke, and many others. When I read of these books in L’Amour, I found myself yearning to go read those that his characters mentioned and read as well.

L’Amour also included deep philosophical principles like the proper role of government and good citizenship, along with an on-going debate about what makes a good man and a good woman; I found myself entirely enthralled.

What makes a nation strong? Or weak? L’Amour taught it. What makes a society free? Or not? He taught this, too. What makes a good marriage? Or a good leader? His words addressed many topics. But in a way that kept a young boy turning the pages, pondering, thinking. I kept reading…

Of course, at the time my focus was on the excellent stories, the fascinating characters, and the lands they lived in. Their choices, their challenges, their romances, their work and life-missions. I was moved, touched, and inspired. I was taught. I learned. With each chapter, I yearned to read more. I quickly realized that I wanted a truly great education, just like his leading characters.

Like I said, that day changed everything. In the years since, I’ve read and re-read the L’Amour titles, learning so much from Bendigo Shafter, Johannes Verne, Lance Kilkenny, Barnabas and Jubal, and so many other characters.

I had enjoyed reading before, but on that day, without realizing what was about to happen, I rode my bicycle home, found a shady spot on the back porch, and opened the cover. I didn’t know I was going to become an avid reader and lover of the great minds, great ideas, and great classics that afternoon. I had no idea.

I wiped the sweat from my brow and sipped a large cup of water as I read. Even in the shade it was hot….

 

ACTION ITEM: Whether it’s coming summer in your area, or heading toward winter, you going to want some quiet moments to read a great book. Whether the evenings are chilly and dark, or long and balmy – there’s no better way to spend them than discussing great ideas with people you care about! 

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About the Author:

Rachel is the co-author of Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning and the audio series Core and Love of Learning: A Recipe for Success, and the author of the award-winning educational resource, This Week in History. She is an accomplished musician, writer, literary editor, public speaker, consultant and momschool organizer.

9 Comments

  1. L Thomas April 28, 2015 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    I’ve been an avid reader all my life, and often saw the L’Amour books there on the shelves of the library, but avoided them thinking they would be the western equivalents to Harlequin Romances…all fluff…I think I need to make their acquaintance…and introduce my kids, as well…

    Thank you for your articles, and insights…

  2. Glenna April 28, 2015 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    My husband and I read L’Amour books a lot! He goes to sleep while driving so guess what I do – sometimes for several hours. One of his brothers, gave my husband his entire set of L’Amour books when he passed on, and they will be on our shelves to pass on to our family.
    Each evening we read to our son with Down Syndrome. We’ve read a number of classics and are now enjoying Little House on the Prairie. I got this idea of reading the classics to him from your newsletter some time ago and we love it. Brandon, our son, never lets us forget evening reading even if we get home late. Thanks for your inspiration!

  3. Laura April 28, 2015 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Our oldest son, who is now in college, struggled with reading when he was young but eventually read every Louis L’Amour book he could get his hands on. When he went away to college that first year he took his bible & a hard bound volume of Hippocrates! Perhaps he was inspired to read Hippocrates from reading all those Louis L’Amour books! Nevertheless, we were pleasantly surprised! Now his younger brother who was never interested in reading is reading them!

  4. Brandy April 28, 2015 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    I agree with L Thomas. I had the same thoughts. Sounds like a library trip is in order. I have always been an voraciuos reader and facinated by what drew in other readers to the world of literature. I always like reading your posts, but this is my first time commenting. Thank you for your wonderful content and this truly personal insight. Also, it must be said that good librarians are pure magic! 🙂

  5. C Farr April 28, 2015 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    I’ve read The Walking Drum 3 times! Once to myself, once aloud to my husband on a road trip, and then to my family. It is a favorite here!

  6. Kimmie April 28, 2015 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    Oliver, what age were you when this happened? Trying to decide if my 12 year old son would be up for these books yet (he’s not the most confident reader yet; for instance, he found Shiloh difficult, but partially because of the way they spoke). He loves to read, but it’s been hard to find books that he feels comfortable with but that also are good stories. I suppose I could try reading a L’Amour myself!

  7. Terry Crouson April 29, 2015 at 5:09 am - Reply

    Thanks for a great article. Who knew that L’Amour books held such wisdom? Glad you discovered the joy of reading. I certainly enjoy reading what you have written. Just recommended 1913 to a friend last night.

  8. K. Cragin April 29, 2015 at 6:33 am - Reply

    I have read Louis L’Amour since I was 12. Between my sisters and I we owned every single one of his books. Now I own my own set. I always loved them and he was a favorite author but I never knew or never thought of them as great literary works. But after reading this I realize how correct it is! I have always written quotes down from him but now I want to go back and read them all again (for the umpteenth time) and delve into the philosophical thoughts presented there. A few months ago I found this site and saw reading suggestions on Louis L’Amour books I was surprised but thought great I own these already! So I read Lonesome Gods over and then y 4th grader wanted to read it and I said sure why not? So she read it and we had some good discussions about life and evolution and it really made me see what a treasure I have had my whole life and didn’t know it! I am hoping my 5th grader who doesn’t like to read as much will like these better!

  9. Beth L May 2, 2015 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    The Lonesome Gods has been my favorite book for years. Time to read it again!

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