Monday, August 22, 2011

Free Entertainment for Life

You may have seen this article by Bob Greene on CNN.com - Free Entertainment for Life. If not, go back and read it. There's nothing like a bit of good news on a Monday.

Mr Greene reminds us that, in spite of all the bad economic news around us and the falling-domino demise of large bookstore chains, we'll never run out of books to read ... for free, no less. That source of free and endless entertainment is the local library.

We sometimes forget, in this era of flashy displays of the newest novel by the latest hot author, that people have been writing books ... good books ... for centuries. They're all out there, waiting for us to find and enjoy them, and many (if not most) of them are available from our local libraries.

It will be argued, of course, that many libraries aren't really free ... that we pay for them with our taxes. I would argue in response that I can't think of a much more worthwhile use of those tax dollars. The vast selection of books available from even the smallest local library gives us a measure of escape from the steady drumbeat of bad news. You don't need 3-D glasses or a grossly overpriced ticket to enjoy them, and if the power goes out, so what? - the ink is still there on the page, ready to be read and savored at any time, again and again.

There are older books that I have enjoyed so much that I've read them over and over again. Here are just a few I could recommend to you:

The Kapillan of Malta, by Nicholas Monsarrat - the wonderful and intriguing history of the island of Malta, told by a humble country priest as a series of stories to entertain and encourage people cowering in bomb shelters during the dark days of World War II;

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien - liked the movies? Read the books. The writing style is a bit heavy, but the imagery makes the story come to life in your mind;

Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens - a great novel by a great author nowadays often denigrated as one of those "dead white males" who should be ignored in favor of newer, more "representative" writers; and,

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle - terrific "law and order" entertainment without the least need for DNA analysis, forensic anthropology, or any of the other hallmarks of modern detective fiction.

All of these books and millions more are available at or through your local library. As we look at ways to cut government spending, wouldn't it be a tragedy to ruthlessly slash the funding for one of our greatest treasures for public education, learning, and entertainment?

What are your favorite books, new or old? Uncle Bilbo wants to know. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail, and we'll share the recommendations in this space.

Reading - it's the last of the simple, free pleasures of life. Protect and enjoy it.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

8 comments:

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

I read all the time. I read fiction, non fiction, business etc. As my roommate after college said, You'd sit and read a pamphlet if you had no book. For some reason my reading annoyed the s-t out of her. Yep,I love to read.

But the books that has stuck with me through the years is Little Women. It was a book way ahead of it's time. Last year I read a wonderful biography of the author. It was so thorough and eye opening.
Last week i read a biography of Sammy Hagar - okay they aren't all great pieces of literature but it was very interesting. Who knew he was such an entreprenuar. (sp?) I found him to be a great business man - c'mon who knew? I knew I loved his tequila but how it started and the deal he made were very impressive!

I currently have a book on hold for me at my local library. There are still some of us old relics out there that love to hold an old fashioned book.

Amanda said...

I like The Lord of the Rings too.

My other favourites are the books from the Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I also love LOTR. And the classics, such as Jane Austen and Emily Bronté and Alexandre Dumas. And Jennifer Crusie for a modern change into fun, witty books.

And they're free! And accessible at a university library. Students and faculty mostly read work-oriented material.

Bilbo said...

Peg - I'm the same way. I usually have three books in progress at any one time: one for my commute; one for the dinner table (yes, Agnes has one, too!); and one for the nightstand/bathroom. My mother used to say that I'd read the label on the milk bottle (remember milk in bottles?) if nothing else was available.

Amanda - The Riftwar Saga has been recommended to me, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

eViL pOp TaRt - I was never able to get into Austen or any of the Bronte, but loved Alexandre Dumas almost as much as Charles Dickens.

Banister said...

I fell in love with books as little boy when mom would take us to the local library branch for story times. My three brothers and I have so many books between us that it's become difficult to move around in our space on the third floor.

Having spent every summer of my life (up to this one) on the Magothy River, and having cut my teeth on sheets and halyards, I suppose it was inevitable that my favorite books all had a nautical bent.

I started with the wonderful C. S. Forester "Horatio Hornblower" series, and then discovered Alexander Kent and his truly magnificent "Richard Bolitho" series, and then the "Aubrey–Maturin" series by Patrick O'Brian. There are other authors of course, but I find myself returning to these more often than to any others.

My brothers and I were lucky in having had parents who read to us and encouraged us to stretch our minds and read "ahead of ourselves." I can still remember the feeling of total awe that overcame me the first time I walked into the great central room of the Pratt Library downtown. I think I could more readily give up my driver's license than my library card!

Want a great laugh? Read the now-nearly-forgotten Booth Tarkington novels "Penrod" and "Penrod and Sam." Dated? Maybe. A bit racist in places? Maybe. But still hilarious.

Three more days and I'm off to sophomore year of chemical engineering. Whoo-hoo!

Big Sky Heidi said...

Yay for Booth Tarkington in "Seventeen."

chrissy said...

Well said. I love our local library. I bring the kids there weekly for books, dvds (for friday night movie night) and also TOYS! Our library system here is so amazing that you can rent toys! Really nice ones too. I love love love it.

Plus, the library here offers classes for kids (for free). Both of my kids have been through the music classes and the mommy & me reading classes.

Can you tell, I like the library??

Mike said...

Well I commented right after Banister but in true blogger fashion... IT'S GONE!!!!