Avid readers Sixty-six years (of reading) and going strong

‘Avid readers’ is a new feature in The Leader, suggested by the Rotary Club of Slave Lake Library. This is the second in the series.

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

What is an ‘avid’ reader? That’s the first thing Graham McCullough says, usurping the role of questioner from the interviewer.

He doesn’t get a satisfactory answer so gives it a try himself.

“I’d rather read than watch television,” he says.

And then this example, courtesy of his late wife Spike, another avid reader:

“You can’t get a word out of Graham at breakfast, because he’s reading the cereal box!”

McCullough is on the Regional Library Board, which recently came up with the idea for this ‘avid reader’ series of articles and tapped him for the ‘guinea pig’ role. Apparently it’s well known in that group and among library staff that this fellow does a lot of reading. How much reading, exactly?

“The last 15 years or so I’ve been keeping track,” McCullough says. “One year I hit 75 books. A mix of everything.”

That’s an average of more than one per week, most of which he borrows from the library.

“The best thing is the inter-library loan system,” he says. “If it’s not in there (the combined collections of member libraries in the Peace Library System), they’ll go outside for it.”

A good example of what the library can do in that regard, McCullough says, is how it tracked down a book he’d requested. He’d watched a series on PBS (so he does watch TV!) and found that it was based on a book. He asked the library if they could find it for him, and then more or less forgot about it.

“Six months later I got a phone call. ‘Your book’s here.’ It was from some university library in Ontario! Quite impressive!”

Does he buy books?

“Rarely,” he says. “But that doesn’t keep me out of used book stores.”

However, the library, with its vast reach and – let’s face it – easy terms, is pretty hard to resist. For the cost of a membership – all those riches at your fingertips.

So, Mr. McCullough, can you give us some examples of what you enjoy reading?

“Mysteries of a certain kind. Historical stuff. C.S. Forrester, for example. Right now I’m trying to read my way through Patrick O’Brian.”

McCullough says he’s been through various phases in his 66 years of reading. He read a lot of science fiction when he was in school. He had a fantasy period and a western period. More recently it’s been the mystery/crime stuff; Peter Robinson, Reginald Hill, Ian Rankin and Robert Goddard are four he recommends. Another is Stuart MacBride, with his series of crime stories set in Aberdeen Scotland.

Anything else?

“Joseph Wambaugh. He’s got one of the finest-tuned senses of black humour. He finds the same things funny that I would.”

As for audio books, McCullough says they come in very handy “as a way to kill time on a long drive,” but advises not to try more complicated stuff in that format. He also recommends not trying to listen to a story while negotiating city traffic.

Reading is obviously a big part of McCullough’s life and lifestyle, but he hesitates when asked about intellectual enrichment.

“It sure has made it (life) more bearable,” he says. “You get lost in a book; you forget about the day-to-day cares and problems.”

Avid reader and public library supporter Graham McCullough, reaching for another book.

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