Countdown to Smugglivus – John Marco

Day 10 – (16 days to Smugglivus and Counting)

Who: John Marco, writer of Epic Fantasy novels. So far he has published 2 trilogies: Tyrants and Kings and the Lukien Trilogy. You can check the author’s website here

Recent Work: to be published in May 2009 his new novel Starfinder: Book One of the Skylords.

Ladies and gentlemen, John Marco and an article on why books are great:


Hello, everyone! I am delighted to be here to celebrate books and reading with other lovers of the written word. When Ana and Thea first invited me to participate in Smugglivus, I wasn’t sure what I should talk about. I considered a list of favorite books or an excerpt from one of my own, but rather than talk about myself I wanted to discuss something communal—something that we who love books can all appreciate. And then it hit me.

We live in a time when books are under siege. Electronic media seems to have supplanted the simple love of reading almost everywhere. In our homes, we have televisions in every room. And in our long train commutes we can fire up our iPods to watch those shows we somehow missed in our 40+ hours of TV viewing last week. So maybe it’s time to remind ourselves why books are great. Sure, I love television and movies, but there are things that books still do better than electrons. Here are just a few to keep in mind.

Books have no commercials. Believe it or not, this is the first thing that came to me. Sure, some paperbacks have advertisements at the end for other books, but no ones screaming at you to buy toilet paper or try a new phone service. Everywhere I go I’m bombarded by commercials. I look down in a parking lot and I see ads written in the yellow lines where I’m supposed to park. And what are they advertising? The new season of Desperate Housewives. (True story.)

Books are quiet. Remember quiet? Tie this one in with the commercials and you’ll see that we live in an echo chamber of talk radio, 24 hr cable news, iPods, iPhones, bleeping/zapping video games and computers that say “you’ve got mail.” Thanks to satellite radio, we can hear the same incessant voice from coast to coast. Isn’t it nice just to be alone for awhile, lost in a book? Sometimes the only voice I want to hear is my own, silently in my own mind.

Books pump up your imagination. The mind doesn’t just have a voice, of course. It also has an eye. How did you picture that character you loved so much, the one that looked so different when they made the book into a movie? Maybe you were disappointed when Tom Cruise played Lestat. Book authors use words to conjure images and feelings in the minds of readers, but the other part of that equation is up to you. You can give their characters and worlds the traits you want, even if the author never intended them.

Books are a bargain. It costs ten bucks at least to see a film these days. For two hours of enjoyment (or none at all if the movie stinks). Books can be had for pennies online or at used book stores, and if they’re anything like the books I write they’ll definitely take you longer than two hours to read! Sure, TV is free, but most of what’s on isn’t worth your time anyway. And think about this—Books aren’t just less money than movies, but they cost less calories too. I don’t know anyone who reads a book with a bucket of popcorn and a box of butterfingers.

There are, of course, lots of reasons to read. I’m sure you can come up with your own. Reading books improves your vocabulary, and some say it staves off Alzheimer’s. Maybe it does or doesn’t, but let me leave you with one more thought, something I heard a writer say many years ago—Books are a covenant. Inherently, they are a promise to the reader that something special is inside. Both sides participate in this covenant, because reading takes times. It’s not the passive, so-called “activity” of TV watching. Books demand a commitment from the reader. And for that commitment, they are richer.

Happy Smugglivus, friends.

Next on Smugglivus: Mike Stone

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  • Aaron E M
    December 10, 2008 at 7:45 am

    Great reasons – especially the lack of commercials. Growing up, I’d always read a book while watching TV precisely in order to miss commercials.

    I’d add one other reason. You can (and do) read at your own speed. Some read faster and some slower, but it’s tailor-made for each person. That serves to further render it a uniquely individualized experience.

  • Carolyn Jean
    December 10, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Hey, great article! I totally agree, and it’s nice to see something about the greatness of books instead of another books-are-dying thing.

    Aaron, good point.

    Also, I’d add that books are more like a friend than other media, because a book involves a person in an intimate way. Maybe that’s a subpoint to the imagination point.

  • kmont
    December 10, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Loved this post and I can’t argue with any of those points. 😀 I will especially hang onto the “books are a bargain” logic when I’ve left the store with books for the fifth time that week. Suze Orman might see my habit a little differently, lol. Of course, that wouldn’t stop me.

  • Carolyn Jean
    December 10, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Can I further say that I am loving your smugglivus sprouts?

  • orannia
    December 10, 2008 at 11:07 am

    HI John 🙂

    Great points, especially Books pump up your imagination Books are definitely my escape – TV/movies just don’t have the same feel.

  • Tiah
    December 10, 2008 at 11:16 am

    “Books are quiet”. Boy did you hit the nail on the head with this one. I have two little boys and my house is a circus all day. When the boys are in bed, I turn the lights low, turn off anything that makes noise and get into a book. LOVE IT! You would think I would use that time with my hubby, but no, he is just as loud as the rest of them! ;0)

    Great post, I look forward to picking up your books.

  • Kate
    December 10, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Here, here! Digital may be the “way forward” but I can’t help but loving my books in their paper form. I can’t curl up with a Kindle. I can curl up with a book, preferably with my red downy blanket while it’s snowing outside (which it’s supposed to do this weekend! so rare for Portland.)

    John, your point about a covenant is particularly meaningful. I just started reading a book that hasn’t impressed me much, but I find myself carrying on anyway since there are so many more pages to go, and obviously the author had something to say with those pages and those words. What might they be? I see that promise, that covenant. Thanks for your wise words.

  • Kris
    December 10, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    One of the things I love most about books is how the reading of them is so individual and how our imaginations can give us different experiences, which we can in turn share with or be influenced by others.

    The idea of books as a promise between author and reader and vice versa also really resonates with me.

    Sometimes readers (and I’ve done it myself) can be dismissive of an author and their work without taking any responsibility for why we might not have ‘liked’ a story. I think exploring such issues as well as the reasons why you enjoyed a book is (should be) part of our commitment to writing and reading process.

    A great post.

  • Karin
    December 10, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    I love your post, John. Books are my preferred media. Whenever I travel, no matter what method, I make sure I always have a few books that go with me so I can spend my time somewhere other than the terminal I’m sitting in waiting for my flight or in the uncomfortable airplane chair I’m sitting on during that flight. No matter what I’m reading, it takes me away from that, which is nice when delays happen and the wait stretches.

    The individuality of books also appeals to me. No two people’s experiences are the same, even when they’re reading the same book. Something may resonate with one person that doesn’t resonate with another.

  • Jooky
    December 11, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Books are my favorite form of media for exactly the reasons described by John.

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