Book reading and the common man

Once upon a time, not so long ago, when you visited someone’s house, you would be able to look at the books they had on display and make some assumptions about the person just from what was on their book shelves. This is going to be a whole lot more difficult now with digital books. I think I am going to miss the good old paperback.

I didn’t read much when I was in school. It is a little ironic that the three passions in my life today, in school just didn’t work for me. I dropped music which I regret, I only pass English on the second attempt, probably my inability to write well and I dropped English Literature. I dropped English Lit because as much as I enjoyed reading Animal Farm, I didn’t enjoy stopping every so often to discuss what exactly the author meant, what the subtext was, and so on.

You see, many people love to read a book and then read between the lines, seeing social commentary. I am not suggesting this is the wrong thing to do, it is simply not what I do. You see I enjoy a book for the story, for the characters and plot. You can actually learn a lot from a book, even a fictional novel.

I read Whiteout by Duncan Kyle and I learned about Thule Air Base and how camp in the arctic were often cut into the snow and ice and everything was underground. I learned a lot about Chesapeake Bay from Clive Cussler novels. Plum Island is the name of a animal disease center and the name of a Nelson DeMille novel. I learned a lot about it, and afterwards found out that it was recently up for sale!

It is hard to read a John Grimsham or Sheldon Siegel book without picking up some knowledge on legal procedures.Tom Clancy novels are packed with so much technical information that it is sometimes, in my humble opinion, at the detriment of the actual plot.

Yes, if you read Eion Colfer or Terry Pratchett you are likely to learn less about the real world as they write fantasy but if you read an Andy McNabb story, you pick up enough information to make up for it.

I have always read paperbacks simply because I enjoyed reading in the bath and if you drop a paperback into the water, it is a lot cheaper to replace than a hardback. I wonder what happens when you drop an electronic reader into a bath?

At one point, not so long ago, in the span of one calendar year, I read 56 books, more than one a week. While that pace has dropped off significantly as of late, the feeling of being tired and yet having to finish the chapter or book never ever gets old. It is the same when looking for books at a second hand store, be it picking up a book from a known author, or choosing a book by an unknown author based simply on the book cover and the description on the back of it.

I would have saved hundreds, if not thousands of dollars if I used the local library rather than purchasing each book but I appreciate being able to pick up a book and start reading at a moments notice. I still enjoy reading books over and over again. The plot becomes an old friend and I enjoy its company.

It is a common saying that the book is better than the movie, and in many, if not all cases, that is true. Movies tend to take part of the plot and then create something different. An example of that is Blade Runner, which bares little resemblance to the Phillip K Dick novel it is based upon, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. In this case, the movie is a classic but most of the time, the moving pictures fail to live up to the written word.

In my mind there have only ever been two novels that became movies that were as good, or even perfect companions to the original text. Strangely enough, both books are very similar in subject matter. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and John Grisham’s A Time To Kill. I cannot imagine either movie being remade and improved because both are the novels, just in moving picture form.

A good book will keep your mind running, an excellent book will leave you gasping for more. There is nothing like reading a book and then being hit with a bombshell in the last paragraph. I have read books where I was shaking at the end of the story, it is the ultimate payoff for an author. An author creates characters you like and care about. You invest time in these characters and depending on the number of books they appear in, they become like a character in a television show, the reason why you tune in every week.

Books help you forget reality for a while and let you relax while not spending time playing video games or surfing the web. You can take a book anywhere, you don’t need to plug it in, and they still look amazing lined up on shelves.

Keep reading, it’s worth it

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