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Book City: Jean Enersen is 'more of a doer than a reader'

The news anchor has been on air with King5 for nearly 50 years. What keeps her limber?

By Valerie Easton

February 06, 2013.

Jean Enersen co-anchors the 5 and 6:30 p.m. weeknight news for KING 5, where she’s been on-air for 45 years. Yes, really, since 1968. She led the first news crew into China after Richard Nixon opened it up, and has traveled to Africa with the Gates Foundation on a mission to eradicate malaria. No wonder Jean says she’s “more a doer than a reader”, yet she loves books, especially when it comes to the topics of health and fitness.

Valerie Easton: What book is lying open on your nightstand right now?

Jean Enersen: “Sweet Tooth” by Ian McEwan, a spy novel set in London in the 70s. A young, female Cambridge graduate joins MI5. It’s part spy, part literary criticism and enough sex to heat up our cold winters. For readers who watch the TV show “Homeland,” there are some similarities.

Have you read any truly great books lately?

“Passage of Power” by Robert Caro. LBJ finally ascends to the presidency in this volume, and works to pass the civil rights bill. It poses an important current question: Just what is it that a president should accomplish? Johnson was a master arm twister, so in this day and age of hyper-partisanship in Congress it’s useful to see how he got the seemingly impossible done.  

What do you read to keep current for your job?

My bookshelves are filled with books I love about health, fitness, nutrition, medicine and science.  These are useful for my work on KING5’s Healthlink, but it also happens to be the stuff I’m personally really interested in. This grew out of my own experience. When my Dad was sick, I was really involved with his care.

Which health books are your favorites?

“Strong Women Stay Young” by Dr. Miriam Nelson, “YOU The Owner’s Manual” by Dr. Oz, “Prostate Cancer for Dummies” by Dr. Lange, and “Our Bodies, Ourselves” is a bible for health care. These are all books I go back to frequently and loan out. But I’m more of a doer than a reader. My pattern is to try stuff out in the gym or kitchen, then go research and read about it.

You must interview authors….any standouts lately?

Yes. Sidney Rittenberg, who wrote a book called “The Man who Stayed Behind.” As a young man he served in China as Mao’s translator, then was imprisoned by Mao for 16 years — some of the time in dark solitary confinement. He explained why he harbors no ill will to China or Mao.

”Forgiveness,” Rittenberg says, “is not only for the perpetrator, it’s for me, so I don’t carry around that negative weight the rest of my life.” He’s now 90, lives on Fox Island, and runs a business helping the U.S. and China do business. As an author and as an interviewee he is spellbinding.

Can you recall a book or author that inspired you to become a reporter?  

More than any particular book, it was my work in the U.S. Senate right after grad school. The inside workings of congress made for fascinating story telling. James David Barber wrote “Presidential Character,” which colors how I look at politics. Politics and political positions can change — and they should, as candidates and we voters read and learn about issues — but character doesn’t.

When and where do you settle down to read?

My desk at work….my couch at home…my bed……my kitchen table….my hammock. That’s where last summer I buzzed thru “And When She was Good,” a fun fast yarn by Laura Lippmann about a nice little soccer mom with a secret life as a prostitute.

Are you a fast or slow reader? Do you underline, take notes, dog-ear pages?

I am a fairly fast reader. I usually have a notepad with me to jot down words I want to look up ... or passages I want to remember forever. Sometimes I underline if it’s a book I love and I want to return to it. But usually I don’t like to spoil the book, so the next person can have the same great discovery I did.

Kindle, download, e-reader, paper?

I like books rather that reading on my iPad. But I read papers and magazines online: The New York Times, Economist, the Seattle Times, Huff Post. I’m lucky because much of my job IS reading, or ”aggregating” as one friend calls it. I prefer to think of it as assembling, then advocating.

Can you think of a particularly powerful passage from a book that’s stuck with you?

From “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (by John Fowles). ”At last she looked up at him her eyes full of tears, her look unbearably naked. Such looks we have all once or twice in our lives received and shared; they are those in which worlds melt, pasts dissolve, moments when we know, in the resolution of profoundest need, that the rock of ages can never be anything else but love.”

What book do you plan to read next?

“Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. And Oliver Sacks’ “Hallucinations” about how the mind works. He’s a neuro-scientist and fabulous storyteller of strange incidents that happen to his patients and friends.  In one chapter in “Hallucinations,” Sacks tells about the fantastic pictures a migraine aura sufferer sees. If you’ve ever had a monstrous migraine, you might know what he means. I already peeked at the book.

What Val’s Reading This Week: A big, beautiful book detailing the remodel of an old lakeside home, “American Beauty: Renovating and Decorating a Beloved Retreat”. From paint colors to hardware and art, Thom Filicia (he was the interiors guy on the TV show ”Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”) gives all the satisfying details of transformation.

Valerie Easton started her career as a librarian shelving books at Lake City Library when she was in high school. Now she writes full time, and has authored five books, including The New Low Maintenance Garden and her newest title Petal & Twig. She writes a weekly column and feature stories for Pacific Northwest magazine in the Seattle Times.

View this story online at: http://crosscut.com/2013/02/06/books/112844/book-city-jean-enerson-more-doer-reader/

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Printed on October 30, 2014