Forget the Flick, Read the Book! 

Tomes for summer

In the old days, folks would sit down and read a book to be entertained. Imagine! Words created images in their heads, narrative produced moments of fanciful pleasure. Then celluloid came along and put flickering lights on a wall and people turned their eyes from the page and lifted them toward the light. The only skill needed to receive stories was the ability to remain conscious. How simple. Still, anyone hankering for real stories understands that books will beat out movies every time. Here is a list of summertime reads whose movie counterparts offer only truncated versions of the real thing.

The Stepford Wives

by Ira Levin

Joanna and Walter and the kids leave the big city for the simpler life in the little burg of Stepford. Soon enough, though, Joanna notices that all of the female neighbors are drop dead gorgeous and completely brainless. All the women who moved there just before Joanna begin to transform into swimsuit models—and Joanna is next! Part male fantasy, part feminist satire, The Stepford Wives is a sometimes frightening, always fun, page-turning read.

The Bourne Identity

(and The Bourne Supremacy)

by Robert Ludlum

Two great spy novels, hopelessly compressed and condensed into less cerebral movies starring big-toothed Matt Damon. In Identity, spy Jason Bourne wakes up in a doctor's office with amnesia and is immediately set upon by various nefarious factions out to kill him before he discovers who he is. A total page-turner. In Supremacy, the Chinese vice-premier is killed by someone posing as Jason Bourne—who never really existed, anyway. Sound confusing? Well, it is; but it's also a thrill ride from page one to the explosive finish.

The Amazing Adventures

of Kavalier and Clay

by Michael Chabon

OK, the movie hasn't even been released yet, and Chabon has written the screenplay himself, but even he admits it has been hard to compress this big (600+ pages) book into a two-hour flick. The story of two budding comic book creators during the time just before and after World War II, Chabon's book chronicles the ups and downs of a new art form, the price of fame, friendship and the culture shock brought on by war. Funny, poignant and ultimately full of hope, this is a great, great read.

All the Pretty Horses

by Cormac McCarthy

The first volume in his acclaimed "Border Trilogy," All the Pretty Horses tells the tale of John Grady Cole, who finds himself, at 16, at the raw end of a line of Texas ranchers. With two compadres, he sets off for Mexico on a journey that takes him (and the reader) through every condition of the human spirit. McCarthy's sparse and poetic prose will haunt the reader.

The Iliad

by Homer

Homer would not just roll over in his grave he would leap from it and put a spear through Wolfgang Petersen's neck if the Greek poet caught a glimpse of the new movie Troy. The epic poem of the Trojan War has survived nearly 3,000 years because of its universal portrayal of man's humanity in the midst of war, duty, honor and revenge. Set in the last year of the 10-year war, the Iliad chronicles the anger of Achilles—the greatest warrior of all time—and his quest for fame. The Gods wreak their immortal, whimsical havoc and we are ultimately reminded of the struggle that is every human's life.

High Fidelity

by Nick Hornby

Rob Fleming is a 36-year-old owner of a failing London record store. His latest love Laura has fled the relationship causing Rob to revisit—and perhaps even revamp—his Top 5 list of breakups. This quirky, hip novel stays satisfyingly shallow and irreverent, as the reader suffers along with Rob all the indignities placed on an aloof, misanthropic but ultimately likable guy. Full of hilarious characters and Top 5 lists, High Fidelity is great, easy reading.

Cold Mountain

by Charles Frazier

A book set during the Civil War, and based—once again—on Homer's Odyssey, Cold Mountain tells the story of Inman, physically and spiritually wounded, who abandons the battlefield and starts for home. Through trials and tribulations, he makes his way back to Cold Mountain, North Carolina, where Ada waits for him. Frazier's literary debut is a mesmerizing and thoroughly satisfying read.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

by Hunter S. Thompson

The freewheeling, drug-crazed '70s are examined—primarily through firsthand experience—by perhaps the best of the "new," "Gonzo" journalists. This is the tantalizing, white-knuckled story of Dr. Raoul Duke (a barely contrived version of Thompson) and Dr. Gonzo, his Samoan attorney, as they cruise to Las Vegas to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race. Packing nearly every illegal substance known to mankind, the two turn themselves over to hedonistic abandon, forgetting why they came from California in the first place. A hilarious, though somewhat uncomfortable read. P.S.: The movie was horrible.

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