After a year's break as a columnist (erstwhile for Current Biology), I had decided to resume writing several months ago, but my natural tendency to procrastinate and the difficulty in choosing a title for the column have delayed me until now. The title had to reflect interests in reading, writing, and biology. An early choice, The Fifth Column, was rejected on the grounds that it had nothing to do with the purposes of the column and also, as somebody was quick to point out, it was only the third (after Loose Ends and False Starts) and not the fifth title I have employed.

So I resorted to word origins to help me with a title, and I discovered that 'reading' was not about books but originally meant to discern or to advise; when used as in "reading a riddle" or "reading the future," it meant to explain and...

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