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Shelf Life is back to hear from another Washington insider about his favorite books and inspirational reads.

This week, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., took us on a tour of his childhood reading life, his book-bound retirement plans and more.

Q. What was your favorite book as a child?

A. “The Little Engine That Could ” [by Watty Piper]. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it fully then, but it was a story about a really hard trip that the train made and I know my parents used it as a way to kind of talk to me about working hard and trying to achieve the things that you try, even if it’s really hard and people think you can’t do it. That stuck with me. And I still like trains.

Q. If you were to write a book, what would it be about?

A. I would write a book about my great-grandparents’ immigration to the United States. My grandmother came from Russia and my great-grandfather came from Italy. The immigrant experience of coming to America is what I would write about.

Q. Recommended reading for your colleagues?

A. I feel like there’s enough stuff in politics that’s not real that it’d be really useful to be grounded in some history. I read a lot of biography, a lot of history, which I think is actually really useful in terms of our current responsibilities, reminding people kind of where we came from as a country.

Q. What’s your take on the digital vs. print debate?

A. This is a real struggle for me because I am, you know, desperate to be young and hip and fully embrace new technology and the kind of wonders of having access to nearly every book in the world at the touch of a button — but I’m that transition generation. I still like to hold a book. So I’m struggling.

Q. Have you always been something of a reader?

A. Yes. I buy books all the time. Even ones I haven’t had a chance to read are piled up in my house. I keep saying that, when I retire, I’m going to spend the next five years reading. Of course, a lot of it will be so out of date, but I’m surrounded by books.

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