Meet a Reader: Todd Volker

“Meet a Reader” appears on the monthly book page of The Catholic Post, and it features someone within the diocese of Peoria who enjoys reading.  Here are the four questions I ask “readers” to answer: how you (meaning Post readers) know me, why I love reading, what I’m reading now, and my favorite book.  This month, I feature author and reader Todd Volker from Ottowa. Todd, thanks for being a “Reader” here.


How you know me: I grew up in Princeton, went to school in Galesburg and Urbana, and have lived in Chillicothe, Peru and Ottawa. I’ve recently been helping with the local Theology on Tap program in Ottowa.  My wife, Linda, and I have a nine year old son, Leo, who goes to Marquette Academy grade school, and we are members of St. Columba parish.  I’m a lay Dominican.

I’m also a published author, having written two outdoor guides with history and geography in them:  The Starved Rock Almanac and The Complete Grand Illinois Trail Guidebook. The Starved Rock Almanac focuses on Starved Rock State Park and the Grand Illinois Trail Guidebook is a thorough guide to a 575-mile trail loop through the top part of Illinois.

Why I love reading: Reading is liberation. You get to go everywhere and get into everything, and it’s also addictive: the more you read, the more you want to know and learn. I get into nonfiction a lot more than fiction.

What I’m reading now:  This is pretty heady stuff, but I’m reading a book on contemporary physics and theology, New Proofs for the Existence of God, Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy by Robert Spitzer.

I’ve been scanning the Phaidon volume on Gustav Stickley. We recently bought a nice Morris chair.

Before picking these up, I finished a new book on intellectual history, The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution and the Twentieth Century by Peter Watson. It’s a look at specifically German contributions to areas like chemistry, physics, psychology, biology, sociology, jurisprudence. These advances were based on certain education ideals.

My favorite book: Nancy, this is your toughest question! I’ve been thinking recently about the ten most important books in my life, so it’s tough to sort out just one. There’s a lot of good stuff out there. For nonfiction, I can recommend The Last Fine Time by Verlyn Klinkenborg, which is a micro-history of a family bar in Buffalo, New York. For fiction, you have to find a way, and some time, to wrap yourself up in Moby Dick, which can be forbidding, but which is really a masterwork of language and plot. It’s really something that can be enjoyed if you prepare for it.