The Avid Reader
Photograph Luisa Porter
Lynn Reinschmiedt and his late wife arrived in Starkville on Christmas Eve 1977 for what they thought would be a four-to-five year stint with Mississippi State University’s Department of Agriculture Economics. He “100% retired” from MSU in June 2014.
At MSU Lynn taught and served as associate dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences from 2001 to 2010. From its inception in 2009, Lynn was an advisor to Maroon Edition, a university-wide reading program that encourages incoming freshmen to read the same book during the summer.
Born and raised in Clinton, Oklahoma, Lynn credits a strong emphasis on supplemental reading at his elementary school and his 8th grade English teacher for kindling his life-long passion for reading. Five years ago, while Lynn was visiting his mother, he learned that the teacher was at the same nursing home. He seized the opportunity to re-introduce himself after some 50 years, share his memories of her class and express his gratitude.
Lynn classifies his own reading tastes as ‘eclectic,’ actively reading four or five books at any one time.
He embraces literature’s ever-increasing methods of delivery — audio downloads, eReaders, smartphones, tablets — as a way to maximize time spent reading while exercising, working in the yard or driving; although, he admits to a major weakness for the physical possession of books.
“Going back to my professional roots in economics, you could say that I derive significant ‘utility’ in physically possessing books and will often buy hard copies of books that I read on my Kindle or listen to the Audible version … particularly histories and biographies,” he says.
For his reading picks, Lynn relies on personal recommendations and books touted by authors he admires. Among his favorite sources of fiction are Scandinavian crime/detective writers Jo Nesbø and Jussi Adler-Olsen, the British crime novelist Val McDermid, James Lee Burke, John Sandford, Edward Abbey, Nelson DeMille, Dennis Lehane, Daniel Silva, David Baldacci and Vince Flynn.
When asked for five books that everyone should read, Lynn referenced a photography workshop that he attended 10 years ago. A well-known photographer was asked to name his favorite photograph.
“The photographer responded that he had not taken it yet. I guess the same could apply to any recommendations I’d give … I have not read it yet.”
1. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson — Carson’s Silent Spring was of importance to me from a professional standpoint as an economist working on natural resource issues over the course of my career, but more importantly it helped educate the public and policy makers alike about the impact man has on the environment. Carson’s work and the book influenced the establishment of EPA by an executive order signed by then President Nixon in 1970. This one book changed the way we think about environmental issues … something foremost at this time with global warming issues in the daily news.
2. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan — A historical account of the events contributing to the ‘great American Dust Bowl’ and the human toll inflicted on those who lived through it. Again, this book interests me professionally, but more than that, I grew up on a small family farm in western Oklahoma on the eastern fringe of the Dust Bowl and heard personal accounts of the times from those who lived through it.
One reading area of particular interest to me relates to presidential biographies. I’m slowly working my way through all of the presidents. More recently I’ve concentrated on some 20th century figures — Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.
3. For Teddy Roosevelt, I recommend the trilogy The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Rex, and Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris.
4. While volumes have been written on FDR, Traitor to His Class by H.W. Brands and No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin are my top picks.
5. I have been fascinated by The Years of Lyndon Johnson, the four-volume biography of the man and his times, Means of Ascent, The Path to Power, Master of the Senate and The Passage of Power by Robert Caro (a fifth installment is being written now).
Collectively these three presidents and key aspects of their lives and their administrations (Panama Canal, national park system, national forest system, the Great Depression, the New Deal, WWII, civil rights and Viet Nam, etc.) have truly shaped the society we live in today.