By Carol Stark
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
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,"
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 email@example.com. Follow Carol Stark on Twitter @carolstark30.