At the library with bin Laden and Garfunkel

BY BILL HORNER III, News + Record Publisher & Editor
Posted 12/27/18

I actually started AND finished a book last week while on vacation, and as we move into 2019 I’m once again adding “read more books” to my list of resolutions for the New Year.

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At the library with bin Laden and Garfunkel

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I actually started AND finished a book last week while on vacation, and as we move into 2019 I’m once again adding “read more books” to my list of resolutions for the New Year.Actually, my resolution should be “finish more books.”

I start plenty of them; when I finished my last book (“Hunting Eichmann,” by Neal Bascomb, the story of the pursuit, capture and trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann) I perused my Kindle for a “next” read. There were a dozen or so books I’ve started but never finished, lacking the interest or inspiration to get through them. And when you add to that the number of books by my bedside bookshelf that are half-read, get the point.

Thinking about reading always reminds me of the Osama bin Laden and Art Garfunkel book lists.

You may recall the U.S. government’s release of “Bin Laden’s Bookshelf,” the books discovered at Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan hideout after he was killed there in 2011. It was a treasure trove of reading material.

In addition to books, Navy SEALs also found publications from think tanks, treatises on international relations, news clippings and religious texts – as well as some smut (an “extensive” collection of pornography, plus some herbal Viagra) and guides to some military-style video games.

It was a curious list. The books found were what you might expect an evil international terrorist mastermind to read – tomes with titles like “America’s Strategic Blunders,” “Bounding the Global War on Terrorism,” “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II,” “New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11,” and “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower.”

No Tom Clancy or John Grisham as far as I can tell, or Harry Potter, for that matter, but no real surprises.

Our reading choices say a lot about us, which brings me to singer Art Garfunkel’s collection of every book he’s read since June 1968.

Garfunkel is the taller, curly-headed half of the legendary singing duo Simon & Garfunkel, and he’s posted on his website a complete list of those books – 1,281 of them to date. Few of us can match an uninterrupted 50-year run of two or more weighty books a month, and the diary of his literary conquests is full of the kind of classical, scholarly stuff that intellectual people read.

I counted among Garfunkel’s list only 25 or books that I’ve read and hundreds of classics I’m familiar with, but feel guilty having never read.

I felt pretty shallow the first time I saw the Garfunkel collection and compared it with my bookshelf. I’m an avid reader, but I never developed a taste for the classics during my high school days. High brow I definitely wasn’t.

While my wife Lee Ann read classic after classic in her rural Kentucky classroom, the lone literary experience I remember from high school was reading “Catch-22” – which, ironically, was adapted into a film in which Garfunkel made his acting debut. (To this day, Garfunkel blames the film for the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel; Paul Simon also had a role, but his part never made it into the final version of the film, and it helped sour their relationship.)

When it came to books, I was more into Stephen King. For sophistication, I would read the dust jacket of one of the Leon Uris historical novels my brainy sister Belinda regularly checked out of the high school library.

If bin Laden, Garfunkel and I somehow found our way into the same library together, we still wouldn’t have bumped into each other.

A cursory glance on my Kindle at what I’ve finished or am reading now goes like this: bicycle book, celebrity memoir, cyclist autobiography, leadership book, bike adventure book, true crime book, tornado chaser book, golf history book, meditation instruction book, cycling fitness book, UFO book, end times book, tornado book, China history book, civil rights history book. I pretty much abandoned fiction 25 or so years ago, and the Civil War is the only war I read about, so there’s not much there that would appeal to Osama or Art.

I don’t know what Garfunkel is reading this month – his running list stopped at August – but re-thinking his list has me re-examining mine. I don’t know if I’ll dive into the classics – which Mark Twain described “a book people praise and don’t read” – but I know I’ll keep reading. I love it too much.

Like Groucho Marx said, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

Bill Horner III can be reached at, or by calling (919) 663-3250.


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