Meet January Reader of the Month: Ben Eagle
Ben Eagle is an adult services librarian at Carnegie-Stout Public Library. He enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids and sharing interests with them. Ben also enjoys playing and learning musical instruments, listening to music, exploring new food and drink (and sometimes making them), playing the handful of card or board games he likes, traveling, and reading.
Q & A:
Q. What can you tell us about your reading interests in general?
A. I tend to go back and forth from fiction and non-fiction. For fiction, I’ll read any style or genre, but have my favorites. I like to read “classics” and try to figure out what kind of themes they have that helped them stand the test of time. I also tend to gravitate to sci-fi, horror, and thrillers for faster-paced reads. The psychological and philosophical aspect of these stories appeal to me—putting yourself in extreme situations and seeing how one might react, or in the case of horror and thrillers, seeing people fight against terrible threats or circumstances, natural or otherworldly. A dose or two of humor is an added bonus for any story.
For non-fiction, I try to look for anything engaging. I like popular history, science, and political books, philosophy, psychology, cookbooks, music instruction and history, and anything else that piques my interest at the time.
Q. What is the best book you have read within the last year (or ever)?
A. It’s difficult to pick a favorite story ever. I’ll read and have strong feelings during and after reading, but several years on, it’s mainly the feeling that remains—the plot, characters, etc. become vague. I was somewhat of a reluctant reader early on, I tended to (and often still do) get lost in my thoughts and forget what it is I’m reading.
When I was 16, I started working at the library, and during that time got a large number of paperbacks of the 60s and 70s from the Friends of the Library after someone donated a large collection. Something about the artwork from that era pulled me in and I read quite a few classics that way. I really got into Hermann Hesse after that purchase and read, in this order, “Siddhartha,” “Steppenwolf,” and “Demian.” As an anxious teen overly stuck in his mind, these novels resonated with me. They introduced me to Carl Jung and other philosophical/spiritual ideas. And the stories, particularly “Steppenwolf,” were strange and beautiful, and full of literary allusion. Having been so long since I read them, I can’t say they’re my favorite, but they were influential and I look back on them fondly.
My favorite story I read in the past year was “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. It was wild, epic, and unlike anything I’ve read. I loved the flow of it after I worked hard to get into it. It’s told in a unique style reminiscent of the oral traditions Garcia-Marquez grew up with in Colombia. This matter-of-fact style of portraying events can make things move briskly and you can miss a lot if your mind starts wandering. I looked up chapter by chapter summaries after I read the book, which enhanced my appreciation. This was also the book I picked to lead my first book club at the library and had someone from Colombia attend. I enjoyed discussing the symbolism, and hearing their perspective on the uniquely Colombian cultural traditions and historic events in the book. It was also fun to watch the Disney film “Encanto” after reading the book and see the Garcia-Marquez influence throughout.
Q. What is your ideal reading environment (location, sound, snacks, etc.)?
A. My ideal reading environment would be anywhere I’m comfortable, but have several hours cut out to read. I love reading, but inevitably I fall asleep right away. I like to read a bit, fall asleep a bit, read a bit, fall asleep a bit, etc. It’s relaxing. If I don’t have time to squeeze in a couple cat naps, I enjoy reading earlier in the day, with lots of sunshine and a cup of coffee. Most often, I read from a physical book after we get the kids to sleep and I’m in bed (I typically last 10 to 15 minutes) and I listen to an audiobook throughout the day when I commute back and forth to work and on my lunch break.
Q. What book are you most excited about reading next, and what about it is most exciting?
A. I started reading James Baldwin’s “Another Country” earlier in 2022, but didn’t finish it. The book requires a bit more of my concentration then I’m able to give it at night. The half that I read is incredible. The book was written in the early 60s and takes place in Harlem and France, among other locales. Baldwin writes believable and flawed characters, the atmosphere in the book is transportive, and his social commentary is on point and eye-opening. My wife gave me the book for a Christmas present, so now I’m more motivated to get back into it.
Q. What book has been the most challenging for you to read? How did it challenge you?
A. I received my undergraduate degree in Philosophy. There were many notoriously difficult philosophers we read. We read selections from “Being and Time” by Martin Heidegger. He’s one of these philosophers that basically invented his own language in order to make it more exact. I remember reading page after page, being pulled in by the text, but then having no idea what I just read. I had the same experience with Immanuel Kant, but when what he was saying did click, while reading him between naps, my mind. was. blown.
Q. When do you decide to stop reading a book? In other words, do you read every book to the last page or is there a moment when you decide to stop?
A. I’m pretty open to most things, but usually don’t start a book unless the reviews are decent or a friend recommended it. I only have so much time so I want to make sure I pick something worth my while. I try to give most books a fair shot, but sometimes one will sit on my shelf for a long time and then, slowly, make its way back to where it came from.
Q. Do you remember when your love for reading began?
A. It was a gradual process. My mom and brothers used to read to me before I could and I enjoyed that. I had a small collection of picture books I loved, but didn’t read all the time. Later, I began to enjoy chapter books when I got into horror and sci-fi themes with the Goosebumps series and my mom’s Stephen King books. I really enjoyed the classics we had to read in high school, especially “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens and “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. Also, in high school, I began to read more after I started my job as a shelving clerk at Carnegie-Stout. I was in charge of shelving fiction for a while and got to know the collection well. The days before I felt compelled to read online reviews, certain titles or book covers pulled me in.