My book club friend Janet answered another member in an apologetic tone, “No, I’ve been reading a Louise Penny book.” At our Mississippi book club, we have set ourselves a goal of reading from the state’s writers. They are abundant with a lot of variety. Mississippi may lag in many areas, but we have a disproportionate number of excellent writers. We’ve done the well-known classics and the rising young authors who’ve won recognition in the literary world – Eudora Welty, Margaret Walker, and Jesmyn Ward – and a few men who measured up.
The discussions have been lively since most of the authors have drawn heavily on their Mississippi roots for their stories and have given clear, but not always flattering, pictures of the state and its characters. The questioner was asking about a book written by one of these lights in our literary sky. Since Janet has read all our previous choices, I likened her Louise Penny book to eating healthy nearly all the time but occasionally having a need for some M & M’s.
Janet’s answer took me back to another conversation long ago with the chaplain’s wife for whom Al worked. Knowing we shared a love of books, she asked me what I was reading. I was enjoying a biography of a woman doctor pioneering in a place of great need. She responded by saying she didn’t read anything that counted and introduced me to Agatha Christie.
Just as I would hate to be confined to a steady diet of roast and potatoes, or even catfish, I enjoy a variety of books that by turns make me think, pull at my soul, or furnish a relaxing interlude. You may also enjoy an assortment, or you want to be like Mrs. Coleman and never read anything that counts. If so, go right ahead and read your M & M’s. Even if you only read Agatha and Louise, I don’t think you can become a book diabetic.