A few of my favorites


By David Lindeman

Contributing columnist

Every once in a while I’ll get a call from a civic group of some kind. The group’s representative will tell me they had a speaker lined up for their meeting and he got hit by a bus or she came down with a rare form of dengue fever and am I busy on Wednesday? I look at these situations as opportunities to find out what other people are thinking. Besides, there’s usually a free lunch.

There’s one question I often get: Who are your favorite writers?

I’ve never really been a Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald kind of guy. If I want to get depressed I can just read the newspaper. Mark Twain and Dickens both are great, but not at the top of my list.

My first choice is Luke – you know, the guy who wrote the gospel and Book of Acts. First of all, what stories! Second, he was a reporter – everything he wrote in the Gospel of Luke had to be from interviews since he wasn’t there for that part of the story. Then he was a participant during Acts. Plus, he’s a really good writer. Knows how to get to the point and tell a story.

My second choice probably gives away what generation I’m from. J.R.R. Tolkien. I know, I know, he was writing about elves and trolls and how can you take that seriously? But few writers have a mastery of the English language (not to mention a few made-up languages of his own) like Tolkien. Plus his characters are heroic but so human. The Hobbits and even the big-shot future king have doubts. Gollum, the despicable little character who causes so much harm, has an important role to play in saving the world. It’s just great writing.

I read a lot of history, so third on my list is Bruce Catton. He was the editor of American Heritage magazine back in the 1960s and wrote extensively about the Civil War, a subject I was obsessed with as a kid. He wrote like a historian should write: clear and concise. I’m actually re-reading one of his books right now. You can’t go wrong with a Bruce Catton book.

I’m an old newspaper guy so I have a soft spot for reporters turned authors. I have to say, though, that my favorite newspaper writers were people I worked with over the years. My old pal Howard Wilkinson, who eventually went to work at the Cincinnati Enquirer and then for Cincinnati Public Radio, always managed to pull a story out of his hat. We used to say Howard could make chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what. He just has the touch.

Many of you reading this know Nancy Bowman, who writes for various publications around the Miami Valley. If you want someone to dig out the facts and write it in a way everyone can understand (which, after all, is the definition of a reporter), then Nancy would be the best choice. And she always got the story finished on time, which always scores points with editors.

While I’m at it, for no extra charge I’ll give you a few of my recent favorite books not by my favorite authors. Midnight at Chernobyl, by Adam Higginbotham. Man, those Russians are crazy. Prisoners of Geography, by Tim Marshall. Even if you don’t like history, this one will keep you spellbound. The best science fiction book ever is Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard. And you can’t go wrong with It Happened on Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss. Well, anything by Dr. Seuss, actually.

That should give you something to think about … and maybe something to read. The next time you ask, I might have a few new favorites.

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected].

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