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DEAR READER: Spending 'beach reading' afternoon with Justin Bieber, really

Saturday, June 14, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:12 p.m. CDT, Friday, September 12, 2014

COLUMBIA — "Beach reading" conjures up images of whiling away long sun-dappled afternoons engrossed in a thick book with a not-so-complicated plot. Waves dance on the edge of consciousness; seagulls squawk overhead. Naps are likely. 

While growing up on a farm in southern Indiana, I often heard of such an idyllic way to spend a summer afternoon. But the reality was I barely had a concept of a beach, and, please, what is leisure? If the sun was shining, there was work to be done. Always.

Evening hours, however, were reserved for reading. It wouldn't be unusual to see a cluster of readers jostling for space on the living room couch.

But, for three glorious years while I lived in Maine, I did indeed experience the wonders of beach reading. I could see the Atlantic Ocean from my apartment, and after a four-block walk, I could be on the beach, lost in a book.

Today, my version of beach reading is lying in the backyard hammock ignoring the mosquitoes and smelling the lilies and making my way, ever so slowly so as to savor its fine writing, through "Team of Rivals."

There are plenty of other candidates to be next up as my bookshelves strain under the weight of books and other stacks tumble across the floor, looking like fanned out decks of playing cards.

First up, though, will be "Justin Bieber: Just Getting Started." Seriously. I recently bought it at a yard sale for $1, intending it be a sort of "joke" door prize in an editing workshop. Those plans fell though, so why not just read it?

Now 20, this cute boy-wonder singer is fading fast from his younger, more charming days when he was just 13, thanks to various and questionable shenanigans. With 16,856,039 followers on Instagram, he probably still has a long way to go, and as a news editor, it's time to find out what "Bieber Fever" is all about before he cools off completely.

"Just Getting Started" certainly fulfills that "not-so-complicated plot" requirement for a beach read, as it's filled with photos and short essays. 

If you're looking for a summer read with more heft, please consider reading "The Boys in the Boat" by Daniel James Brown. It's the community's One Read selection, and the Columbia Public Library has a lot of copies of the book. And, yes, there will be tears of sorrow but also many moments of joy.


I'll be bringing along "The Giant Book of Essential Knowledge" to "Dictionaries and the Words We Love Most" at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

The presentation, part of its Potpourri of the Arts, will be from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Friday at the Moss Building on Hillcrest Drive. It's about one-third mile south the intersection of Stadium Boulevard and Old 63. For more information, email learnforlife@missouri.edu or call 882-2585.

"Giant Book" is the latest acquisition in my growing collection of dictionaries. It was published in 1949 with the subtitle "The Practical Self-Educator." It lives up to its name in size, and so far, I'm amazed by the depth of its contents.

Feel free to bring along your favorite dictionary, too, as we take a look at a variety of dictionaries and talk about why not all dictionaries are created equally. And, of course, we'll talk about words, the ones we love and hate, and the ones that drive us crazy when they are misused. Hope to see you there.


There were five participants and an equal number of errors reported in the May  contest of Show Me the Errors. Marilyn Cummins won the drawing; her prizes are a Missourian T-shirt and a copy of "Yes, I Could Care Less" by Bill Walsh. We hope you join in the contest by filling out the entry form that can be found at the bottom of every article.

Maggie Walter is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and an interactive news editor at ColumbiaMissourian.com.


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