A Book By Its Cover

by Nik Bartunek

Once in a while, we all get the hankering to read a book. Some of us read entire libraries. Some of us read a shelf of books. Some, a row. Reading isn’t really everybody’s thing these days. Saying that in the company of our grandparents may get a “Tsk Tsk”. It’s funny to think, from our age of the future, where media runs like water, that about 90-100 years ago, people waited in line for the release of the new Sir Arthur Conan Doyle adventure, or a P.G. Wodehouse aristocratic romp. Now people wait in line for the newest Blizzard video game.

When I was in Highschool I spent an insane amount of time reading. Most of my class periods were spent secretly reading instead of doing what I was supposed to do. Not completely to blame for this, among other things, I didn’t do so well in Highschool. I had a hell of a time though. It didn’t seem to me that anyone in my classes cared to read much. There were the twin sisters who read romance novels all the time, but that’s an entirely different universe to explore.

Over time, I felt like I couldn’t stop reading. When we moved onto another book in English, I looked forward to that. As long as I kept pretty regular with reading a book, a whole world was opened up, and I got an awesome mental picture (sometimes) of what the author was trying to convey. Don’t take this for my subtle way of saying that I read Jack London, Oscar Wilde, and any other big-brain author. Most of my books were D&D novelizations or Arthur C. Clarke science fiction. I’m not a mental giant when it comes to my books.

Time went on, and I read less and less. Life consumed my mental energy, and my idea of a relaxing time was catching a quick movie. I read, but I didn’t read nearly as much as I had. Somewhere in the back of my head, I got a little sad. So much of my experience in Highschool (a rather important time for anyone) was really backed up by my reading. In some ways, I think reading so much, and seeing other places in my head (real or imagined) made me realize I didn’t want to finish Highschool, only to head to college and then a Cubicle job, like most of the kids planned to. At that point, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted it to be something I loved. Maybe I’m realizing what reading did for me now, in retrospect. It still does have a profound effect on me.

My sister is 17, and her and my mother love to read together. Through hearing snippets of them reading in the living room together, or in the car, I started to say “Geez…where did the time go? They’re even reading some books that I love!” Maybe out of subconscious goading, I slowly started to pick up reading in larger volume again. One particular book that I’m enjoying for the second time is Dune, by Frank Herbert. I’m seriously wondering why I never started reading it sooner.

So many people now enjoy Movies more than books, and I’ve heard an old guard saying things like “Books are better than movies! You’re using your mind and expanding your thoughts!” I’m not going to say that’s not true, but I’ve also realized that what it comes down to is that they are like comparing apples and oranges. Movies can’t compare to good books, and books can’t compare to a good Movie. I will say though, that it saddens me at how easy our culture forgets our imagination. A book paints for you in a unique way. It hands you the colors and says “This character has brown hair!” It doesn’t say where the lines are though. That is left up to you.

Maybe this article is less about convincing you all to read, and the power of imagination, as it is my thoughts on something I see to be very beautiful. Maybe I fear for the day when we use books solely as coasters, and the silver screen reigns entirely supreme. But then again, as my old pal, Frank Herbert says “Fear is the mind killer….”.

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