The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

October 22, 2012

Carol Stark: A book tells more than just one story

JOPLIN, Mo. — They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but can you judge the owner by

the books they read?

OK, "judge" is too strong of a word unless all you read are books about

making bombs and meth. But, I do think that books are a window into the

soul.

I"ve been spending my Sunday afternoons going through my late father"s book

collection, thus the introspective nature of today"s column. Daddy always

said that if he had a good book, then he never had to worry about being

lonely or having something to do. Up until the day he died, he always had a

book by the side of his recliner.

No matter how much my sisters and I want to keep every single one of his

hundreds and hundreds of books, we know we can"t. But, I have taken great

pleasure in charting the life of an obsessive reader.

A cattleman, Dad kept volumes and volumes of the magazine Shorthorn World. A deacon in the church, he has a shelf of Bibles. Because they are full of his

hand-written notes, they will not leave our family.

I always knew Dad loved Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey, but I was suprised to

see more than 50 Western paperbacks by an author named Luke Short. I used my phone to Google the author and was confused, because at first it looked like

Luke Short was a gunslinger who could write. Later, I discovered that the

author"s real name was Frederick Dilley Glidden. He loved reading Western

pulp magazines and escaped unemployment by writing Western fiction.

Apparently he assumed the real Luke Short"s moniker as a pen name. Well, you

learn something new every day.

After retirement, my parents traveled to the Old West, so there are lots of

travel guides. Dad also liked to buy books from Bob Wolfe, who operates a

used book on North Main Street. Actually, I think Dad rather enjoyed the

horse trading part of bargaining with Bob for a good price on a used book.

In the last years of his life, Dad was always in search of a new Jack

Higgins or James Lee Burke novel. I introduced him to Lee Childs. I've just

completed "A Wanted Man," and am sorry that I can't pass it on to my father.

I made another discovery about books this past week when I met with a group

of young professionals whom I mentor. I assumed, wrongly, that they read

all their books on electronic devices. Not at all. They view books as being

something special in their lives.

Christina Williams loves books on architecture and design. Niki Corcorran

collects textbooks — a smart move as digital textbooks will soon replace the

traditional volumes. Garen McMillian is a voracious reader of management and

leadership books. No surprise there.  What did surprise us was that banker

Emily Tubaugh loves detective novels.

I asked them if they thought electronic books would replace books. I put the

same question out to my Facebook friends. Some of their favorite memories,

like mine, are of times when their parents read to them, or they read to

their own children. A Nook or a Kindle, they say, are great for convenience

but will never replace the smell and feel of paper.

As Joplin looks to the future of its main caretaker of books — its public

library — I asked for input about the need for a new library. During the

past week, the Joplin City Council heard more about a proposal to locate a

new, more spacious library on land along 20th Street. The library would

include a movie theater complex. Funding from the federal Economic

Development would be used to build a $20 mllion library/theater project as

part of the tornado recovery efforts.

Some closer to my age doubted the need for a larger library because of the

popularity of electronic books. Again, it was the younger residents of

Joplin offered up the surprises.

Williams told me she thought in an era of disappearing book stores that

maintaining a well-stocked public library was more important than ever.

"Going to the library in the future is going to become more and more

special. It's a place we will want to spend more time visiting, not less,"

she said.

I hope Christina is correct in her predictions. I hope we continue to

treasure and protect books. And, to that end, our public libraries, no

matter where they are.

I am placing my confidence in readers who will demand access to printed

books. But, just in case, I'm holding onto Dad's collection of Robert

Parker's novels.                                                                                               Carol Stark is editor of The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to her, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email cstark@joplinglobe.com. Follow Carol Stark on Twitter @carolstark30.

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