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Last May, I moved my family into several tents on 35 wooded acres near Black River, N.S., and spent summer and fall clearing land and building a house in the hours after work. Late on summer nights, propped up in my sleeping bag, I drowsily read Canadian Wood-Frame House Construction and H. Pearson Gundy's Letters of Bliss Carman by lantern light.

Now that I have a roof over my head again, I've started to unpack some of my library and discover a new place to read.

I've always tried to read in the open, either at the kitchen table or in a living-room chair. I feel it's important to be visible and accessible to my kids when I'm at home, even if the mayhem sometimes agitates me. I want to live from the middle of my life, not hidden in a corner with my head down.

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I have a twisted habit of reading tragedies through the bleak midwinter, and I've just started Euripides's Medea. I have a four-volume set of The Complete Greek Tragedies, published by the University of Chicago Press in the 1950s, three volumes of which once belonged to the poet Miriam Waddington.

I started this reading project expecting these old plays to try my patience and generosity; in fact, I found them by and large to be astonishing works, still able to cut to the quick of human affairs all these centuries later.

I'm also re-reading Jeffery Cramer's annotated edition of Thoreau's The Maine Woods, John Leroux's new architectural history of the University of New Brunswick, Building a University, and a book on 16th-century type design.

Andrew Steeves is the publisher of Gaspereau Press.

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