Kevin Smokler photo by Julie Michelle

KEVIN SMOKLER is the featured author at Wine for Words, a fundraiser at the El Dorado County Library, 345 Fair Lane in Placerville, on Sunday, Aug. 25. Courtesy photo


Author shares his love of classics

By From page B2 | August 19, 2013

What: Wine for Words

Who: Friends of the Library

Where: El Dorado County Library, 345 Fair Lane in Placerville

When: Sunday, Aug. 25 at 4 p.m.

Cost: $50 per person

Information: 530-621-5540 or visit

When Kevin Smokler recently went to his 20th high school class reunion, he wasn’t there just to show off the fact that he had lost 70 pounds and looked like a million.

Instead the highlight of the evening was reacquainting himself with the wonderful teachers who had, among other things, cultivated his love of books.

Smokler, the author of “Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School,” will share his passion and talk about his work during the Wine for Words fundraiser for Friends of the Library set for Sunday, Aug. 25, at the El Dorado County Library, 345 Fair Lane in Placerville.

Perhaps surprisingly, Smokler, who makes his home in the Bay Area, said he wasn’t that big a reader in high school. But when the reunion rolled around, and then he found himself peering at turning 40, he said he realized “how poorly read I actually was versus how well read I thought I was.

“Seeing how fortunate I had been to have such great teachers … I realized that I remembered few of the great books I had been assigned as a teenager and if I wanted to make room for them in adulthood, I had to just say I had the time and do it,” he said. “So I did.”

The undertaking has been rewarding, the author said, and he is gratified that he made the effort to absorb the wonders of the classics that escaped his full attention as a high school student.

“Back then, I read what I had to to get good grades but I was a pretty typical teenaged boy more interested in video games, record stores and making mischief,” he recalled. “That’s part of what’s been so great about both writing ‘Practical Classics’ and now talking with readers about it. “I feel like I discovered a great gift I neglected the first time around.”

Although Smokler has edited professionally, he said “Practical Classics” is the first book he wrote himself.

It is a humorous, clever presentation regarding the classics, focusing on turning the mind to the marvelous lessons and sheer entertainment contained in the writings.

And even though Smokler as a high school student didn’t fully appreciate their still-relevant gifts, he said he has faith that today’s youth will find their way inside the rich pages of the past.

“Readers have found books as long as the two have existed,” he said. “I’ve no doubt that will continue on forever, just as it should. My hope then is for the act of reading itself, in our attempt to advocate for reading and books, that we do not smother the infant in the crib and give future generations the message that ‘books are good for you’ like spinach, instead of delicious, like chocolate.

“I have never had more fun than I have had reading. We must always remember that nothing will marginalize reading faster than framing it as a trip to the dentist instead of the amusement park.”

Asked whether the Internet and online offerings are seen as a threat by authors of printed books, Smokler isn’t worried.

“I don’t make such distinctions,” he explained. “Reading is reading. The words to Shakespeare’s plays are exactly the same, whether you read them in a printed book, on a screen, spray-painted on a brick wall or decorated on a sheet cake.”

Smokler said he prefers to read old-fashioned books, however, because of his absent-mindedness.
“I read print books because I have a terrible habit of losing things, and I fear if I carried a reading device around, I’d forget my house keys, wallet, cell phone or head. Losing a $12 paperback is less risky than a $150 device.”

Now that he has cracked the classics that he shunned in high school, is there a book that Smokler yearns to read before he dies?

“If I only had time for one, I couldn’t choose,” he conceded. “Hopefully by then I will have read widely and freely, and that will be more than enough to hold me over until I reach the shores on the other side of the river.”

Wine for Words will feature Smokler talking about his book and signing copies, along with wine and beer tasting, a silent auction and raffle. Music by Singin’ 4 Supper will fill the room, and participants will enjoy a scrumptious dinner by Diane Wilkinson Catering.

Sponsored by El Dorado Savings Bank and Face in a Book bookstore, the program begins at 4 p.m. and runs until 8. Tickets are $50 per person, with limited seating. They are available at the Placerville library or from Face in a Book bookstore in Town Center, El Dorado Hills. For more information, call the library at 530-621-5540 or visit

For readers, books, and the joy they bring.

Pat Lakey

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