Reggiegram: Are you a real book lover? How do you show your love?
I tore up my books. I confess that in medical school, I tore up my textbooks. Even though I loved books, I hated the massive size of medical textbooks. I think I subconsciously loved the persona of being a scholar, always going about carrying one or more books in one hand. But I couldn’t carry all those huge heavy ones! So, I just tore them all up into sections and rebound them, often from one huge book into about ten sensibly sized books.
My idea of good books definitely included the warm comfortable feel of being able to wrap my fingers around them! And when I began publishing my own medical books, I insisted they be a sensible size, at least most of the time.
Plane-ride size. Later on, for my non-medical books I made them even smaller. Since they were bilingual, which doubled the book size, I decided on a maximum size of 200 pages in total. I figured readers could nearly finish one of my books on a medium plane ride or even a one- to two-hour train commute.
Ornamental sizes. Actually, in today’s world, massive books now seem mostly impressively ornamental on a reference bookshelf, mostly to signal that the owner is well read. They’re also great as background scenery for modern -day internet meetings! These kinds of books now seem rarely consulted even for reference, since there’s easy access to reference information on the internet. Indeed, I confess that I never read these kinds of books anymore, though they are still impressive on my bookshelves.
Are you homeless, sir? I read everywhere I go, which I’ve done since childhood! When my family goes grocery shopping in Seattle, I often stand in a corner and read, leaning against some wall. One day it was great sunny weather outdoors, a rarity in my city culture’s elites try to normalize the grotesque, so I was leaning on the wall outside the grocery store. Essentially loitering there in the comforting sunshine, waiting for my family. A young kid came by and watched me. Because Seattle has a lot of homeless people, I imagine he thought I was homeless and just reading out of sheer boredom.He came by and graciously handed me a nutrient bar, which was really very kind of him. I declined, smiled and thanked him for it. His good parents must have been proud of his instincts to help people leaning on walls.
I can’t shop, but… I practically do no general shopping at all. Not even really for Christmas or birthdays. For this, I blame my super-efficient wife of 56 years who does everything. And since I’m a total nerd, it fits my personality perfectly. But I do love to give away books as gifts. It’s about the only physical gift I know how to give away.
When our kids were young, it was predictable what I might give family and friends for Christmas or birthdays: books. Later on, I gave away lots of different books to young people I met for my usual “Uncle Reggie” coffees or lunches. In fact, a young lady missionary now in Indonesia “blamed me” for giving her too many touching missionary story books, which she felt inspired her, for life.
What’s in your CRV trunk? In our many years in Cincinnati, I always used my car trunk as a library. When I opened it up, there was a stack of books ready to give away. It was a great way to encourage young people, to take a book home after a good chat. An extension of real coffee with Uncle Reggie! Before my “Coffee with Uncle Reggie” books were published, there might also have been handout sheets of stories that I wrote.
What are you carrying around in your tote bag? In the last few years I even carried around a tote bag of my trilogy of “Coffee Books”. I easily continued my lifelong book gifting habit, now with my own writings, which seems like a great personalized way to communicate, and even to make friends. With people I meet in our huge church lobby, condominium neighbors, restaurant workers and even my personal doctors and health care staff.
One of the best reactions to this book-giving was a former elementary school principal who read Book One, and began to attach many tabs on its pages. When we went out for lunch, she quizzed me on specific details that she had tagged! She had definitely read the book thoroughly. Books are just amazing in their potential impact. Much better than a calling card.
Who doesn’t like a free book? In my academic life, many of my books about nutrition in infancy and childhood were acquired by industry to give away to physicians in the USA, and then around the world. A really great way to basically give away books on my behalf!
It was fun to work with industry on these efforts, but I soon discovered there were peculiar hazards. At times there might be tantalizing invitations to also lecture at much too beautiful vacation spots, say in Tahiti, which should be officially suspect or taboo. For the record, I never took these offers, and never got to Tahiti! And I don’t know of my books going there either.
Even in China. Our medical books, translated into Chinese, were even purchased by industry to give out in large numbers to physicians in major hospitals in China! This occurred at a perfect time, just as China was entering the modern era of Neonatology, the care of sick newborn infants. So the books were enthusiastically received, and became immediately useful in the urgent care of babies.
What about royalties? Some people might be surprised, but I never wrote books to earn royalties. Without focusing on royalties, I could more effectively focus on disseminating my books to those who truly could use them.
Plus it also solved any tax problem! Next to nothing in royalties, but lots of untaxable “royal” pleasure. By estimate, we disseminated about 25,000 medical books altogether (five main books), so it was quite a good result for such a specialized field! My Coffee with Uncle Reggie books are catching up in numbers!
此外，这也解决了一切税收问题！虽然没有版税(英语称为 royalties)，但是有税收无法给予的“皇家 royal”乐趣。据估计，我们总共约传播了25000本医学书籍（五本主要书籍），对这个专业领域提供了帮助！我的“和曾叔叔闲聊”系列丛书的发行量也快追上来了。
Charming signatures! When I started teaching in China, I realized the charming fascination with signatures of teachers and authors. Much more than in the West, I think. It became quite a habit, to sign off on anything that students of all ages, and even doctors and scholars, gave me to sign. There often was a line of people coming up to get my signature. I usually “increased its value” by writing “God bless you” or any general blessing.
Mont Blanc signatures. When I began to give away my Coffee with Uncle Reggie books, especially in Asian settings, I was indeed often asked to sign the books, anticipating the market or emotional value in 100 years! I’m joking!
I recently realized that I had a very impressive Mont Blanc pen, given to me during my China travels, which I had just left lying around for years. I began to use this very pricey pen just for signatures! Giving further “added value” to the book signing! Thank you, whoever gave me that pen, since I’m sorry I forgot who did. (Please let me know.)
Join my free internet book club. I like to keep in touch with my “fans”. Sorry, can I call you that? I religiously collect email and WeChat addresses to enroll “new members”. That way I can have internet coffee with you all. “Just join my book club, and you will get a free monthly coffee story.” Or “like” my Facebook, We-chat, or Meipian. Or download my books and stories from reggietales.org! Or even buy the books on the internet, on Walmart and the usual places.
10,000 book bonus. I truly had a pandemic bonus because in 2020 we were stuck so much at home that I could spend “quality time” finishing off Book 3, to complete my target trilogy of “Coffee Books”, a year ahead of schedule (1). And I could spend time working on the distribution system, which remarkably generated 10,000 book orders in 2020, vastly exceeding my normal expectations.
A third bonus was that my Hong Kong publisher agreed to directly send bulk orders to 15 countries, saving us the wear and tear of our doing it ourselves.
All of this was altogether shocking for a no-name amateur like me. A funny “bonus” is also a surge of semi-scams to advertise and sell my books (sometimes for “only a $10,000 investment”) or to even make movies out of them.
Real book clubs. You never know what happens to books eventually. In three instances I heard of their use for actual book club reading! I never imagined that myself.
Coffee with Uncle Reggie Book 3 is a practical book of stories on preparing a new generation to serve the Lord, which one pastor felt was perfect for his relatively new church. So he organized his core team to read it in book club fashion, and I was even invited at the end to appear in “meet the author” fashion. In pandemic internet-zoom-conference style, to answer questions and make further suggestions. It was quite exciting for me to do that, something quite unexpected, and my first time!
Red packets for starving artists! Occasionally we meet musicians on the street, so-called “starving artists” kind of performers. We might encourage them for playing good music and livening up society by leaving a few dollars in their basket.
In China, I learnt that if you like a particular article on the internet you might put in a few RMB to encourage the writer. I was surprised to find that my articles in Meipian, a China app, generated hundreds of RMB of encouragement! A totally new and great idea to me! It was good fun, and I felt like an appreciated street musician.
Students, calm down! At one very prestigious university I was giving lectures and leaving my Coffee Stories as handouts on the front tables. I announced their availability to the young audience of medical and doctoral students, and the chairperson professor also encouraged them to pick up the articles.
However, someone started to rush for the articles and precipitated a mad scramble. I guess the audience had spotted that there were not enough handouts for the large audience. Asians are probably good at “crowd math”, so they easily figured that out! Naively, I didn’t realize this would happen, and the chairperson nearly lost his temper shouting out to stop the chaos!
Don’t cause mini-riots. I was sorry I created a mini-riot. That nearly happened when I was walking on the streets of a small town in southern China, in the very beginning of our medical mission work there. I was giving out our specially designed calling cards with my friendly good news message on the back.
Sometimes if I was not careful, I could indeed generate a “mini-riot”, with people scrambling for the cards! You just never know about the enthusiasm of crowds, I guess. My very astute security guard escort commented that, “In our country, you are free to give out your cards, we have religious freedom, but you shouldn’t create a riot.” Well said.
Lifetime book habits. I certainly cherish books and writings, and I certainly love to freely give them away. As books, handouts, or even cards. They’re a fun part of my lifetime habit and tradition. “Freely received, freely given.” Come join me in both activities!
1.As I was finishing this article I realized that the pandemic had now become over two years in duration and, surprise, surprise, because of that, I was able to finish another book, now Book 4. This pandemic is becoming a true story writing bonus!