Sometimes, you just gotta step away, and as much as I like movies, which is to say a lot, I like books even better.
(Just like sometimes, I have to step away from the doom and gloom of the political and social landscapes, so I alternate between dad jokes, puns and other forms of digression.)
So let me tell you a story.
For a large part of my formative years, I lived in an area without television. As a dependent of a military father living in Spain during the Franco Regime, I didn’t have my mind mushened by early 70s television. There was a theater on the base, but at only one or two offerings a week or more, plus the cost, I couldn’t really live in a theater.
Plus, I played baseball and had school, but that’s a different matter.
So what’s a feller to do when he is trapped inside on a blustery, cold day with nothing to do and nowhere to go? He reads, especially if that feller was taught to read very early on and always read above grade level.
(My mother, God bless her, gave me this gift. Today, Feb. 3, would have been her 81st birthday.)
Turns out that a good book and an active imagination was a great form of escapism.
I tried all the genres, but I really fell hard for the science fiction/fantasy element (my favorite writer is Harlan Ellison). So to help you get through some of the chilly winter days, grab a blanket, your favorite hot beverage, and one or six of these tomes to warm you through and spur your imagination.
• “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series (there’s five books in the trilogy) by Douglas Adams. You want a serious dose of comedy with your travels to other worlds, this is by far the best I’ve read. For me, the books elicited guffaws, which is a tough thing to do.
• “Dune” et al, meaning the six books in the original Frank Herbert batch, as well as the 14 written by his son Brian and all the compendiums. Rich in depth, lavish in description and a great discussion on both government, religion and how we interpret both.
• Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Whether you prefer the original release or the expanded and updated re-release, I liked the good vs. evil story that has such a detailed world. (Don’t cheat with either of the two TV shows. They’re … not well done.)
• The Dresden Files (17 books and counting) by Jim Butcher. This contemporarily set series about an honest-to-God wizard plying his trade in Chicago, and his ham-fisted answers to problems normal, paranormal and supernatural are some of the most entertaining books I’ve read ever. For me, real page-turners.
• The Lord of the Rings saga by J.R.R. Tolkien. Much like the late Christopher Lee, I had read these books pretty much annually for many years, along with “The Silmarillion.” Has to be something there since they made such amazing movies, right?
•“Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury. This book I attribute to my love of this genre, since once I read it, I searched for anything I could find that was similar.
• “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke. How it started gave me no idea or foreshadowing about the ending, and I was pretty floored.
• “Born of the Sun” by Jack Williamson (who used to teach at my former alma mater). A short story, to be sure, but one who’s impact on me still remains.
• Either the numerous short stories (not much into novels, this one) or his collection of essays and columns on television by Harlan Ellison. He hated the term sci-fi, called all of it speculative fiction, and was a bombastic, boastful and combative soul. Even so, everything I read made me think, made me wonder, and made me mad that I couldn’t come close to that level of genius.
(Many of you have probably seen television shows penned by Ellison; he was a prolific contributor to “The Twilight Zone,” “Night Gallery,” “The Outer Limits” and even “Star Trek.” Look up the episode “Soldier from Tomorrow” and “Paladin of the Lost Hour” on youTube. His most famous, or rather notorious, Trek episode was “City on the Edge of Forever.”)
Buy, borrow or rent, books are comfort, and what’s better than comfort during winter?
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