Am I the only one put off by the phrase “must-read”? I receive five or six such messages a day with mounting irritation. Nine out of ten I have already noted in my morning reading.

A “must-read” sounds like a parent speaking to a child or a teacher to a student, and I am neither.

‘Must-read’ is a command. What I read I read by choice. The only books I consider absolutely necessary to my being are the great ones. The news does not command my attention unless the event is historic.

I don’t want to live in a ‘must-read’ world and all that pertains to it: the bossiness, the hurry, the impatience, the waste of time, and, especially, the self-importance.

In my world, reading is ‘suggested’ or ‘recommended’ or ‘of interest’ or offered, ‘for your consideration.’ This is a world where manners count, where communication is respectful, and the news is recognized for what it is, twigs floating towards down a river towards the ocean.

I’m shocked at the extent people have succumbed to this bullying. After all, in a world where so much become a ‘must-read,’ what actually should be known by the citizenry get buried beneath wild zig-zag of ‘must-read’ commands.

I’ll reach my 70th birthday in November. And now, more than ever, I realize each day is a gift. Whether it’s a game of golf with friends or trying to tame the puppy with my wife and son, there is no guarantee such joyful moments await me in this world.

Mine is a ‘must-live’ world. And I think the reader knows that to ‘live’ bears a connotation much deeper than to merely exist. The playwright Christopher Fry best described what it is to live:

 What is deep, as love is deep. I’ll have

  Deeply. What is good, as love is good,

I’ll have well. Then if time and space

   Have any purpose, I shall belong to it.*

‘Must-reads’ have no place in this world where plumbing the depths is the measure of a life well-lived. I won’t be held responsible for attending to flotsam and jetsam of Twitter or Facebook, especially if it’s intended to evoke outrage of some kind.

Once again, I will choose what I care about and what I don’t and who. Giving attention is a gift of your whole self, a moment in time that will never be returned to you.

If the above sounds too harsh, too grumpy, please know that I regard deep and hearty laughter among the most precious of life’s moments. But I can well do without the everyday outrages shared daily on social media. I couldn’t agree more with Christopher Fry who, in the same play, endorses laughter as, “The surest touch of genius in creation.”

There is little laughter in the world of ‘must-reads.’  That world is obsessed with anger and outrage. In what I propose as the ‘must-live’ world, outrage is saved for what matters most.


*Christopher Fry, The Lady’s Not for Burning, 1948.