Who says you need to read the book first?

The Harry Potter Series is my favorite book series. I thoroughly enjoy the movies as well. In fact, I can admit without shame that I saw a majority of the movies before finally deciding to read the books.

It seems that most movies hitting theaters today are adaptations of popular novels, stories, and fairy tales. Even Marvel and DC movies come from comic books.

Honestly, I’m not complaining. I think it makes sense to use the popular stories that so many people are captivated by for film. It’s proof that books and reading can never truly go out of style.

If a young adult novel turns into a movie, you can be sure that people will be rushing to stores to buy the book. But you will also have those uninterested in reading the book, who decide that they  just want to see the movie. And here’s why: Seeing a movie is easy and fast. If you hate it, at least you’ve only wasted two hours of your time.

Personally, I don’t like to harp on people to “Read the book first!” Yes, I will often suggest they read the book, but only if I believe that reading the book will be even more enjoyable than watching the movie—which in most circumstances is true. With the Harry Potter books, I discovered them because I loved the movies so much. Once I started the first book, I couldn’t stop. I read them all and was enthralled by the details in the books that weren’t in the movies. Soon enough, I had finished all of the books and was waiting for the newest movie to come out.

Whatever you decide to do (read the book first, see the movie, or both) just enjoy it for what it is: a story to be experienced.


Seek Joy in Literature

A few years ago, I had to choose my major between my two favorite subjects: physics and literature, and despite the clear monetary advantage in studying physics, I choose to study literature. Reading simply gave me more joy and I felt that I had a calling in the humanities. My story is fairly uncommon, but we all make that same kind of choice between utility and imagination every day.  Every time we pick up a book (or watch a new movie or show), we’re investing our time and energy in an imaginative work that could be spent somewhere else. So why do we do it?

Often our motivation is for simple entertainment, but my best advice to Christian readers is to do it for more than that and read for the joy of literature. In his essay “Different Tastes in Literature” C. S. Lewis described his own discovery of the “joy in the arts,” by writing that “[it was] as if a food one had enjoyed for the taste proved one day to enable you (like dragon’s blood) to understand the speech of birds: as if water, besides quenching your thirst, suddenly became an intoxicant.”

Christians have unique hope in regards to literature because they can recognize that they are a dim reflection of God’s redemptive plan for the world—that Jesus Christ has overcome death will come again in the final conclusion that all readers of stories ultimately long for. J. R. R. Tolkien, in his essay “On Fairy-Stories,” states that “[the joy of the happy ending] is a sudden and miraculous grace. . . it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” We have more choices today than ever before, and choosing to read comes the cost of a hundred other uses of our time, but if we can catch a glimpse of God’s glory and experience the joy of stories, then we can gain so much more than just entertainment.

-Emily D.

Reading to Beat the Winter Blues

black-and-white-woman-girl-sitting-largeGuess what? It’s almost the end of February. I think that no matter where you live, this can be such a difficult time of year. Whether it’s feeling caught in your mundane routine, dealing with large amounts of homework, dreary weather, or all three, feeling down and depressed can sometimes be nearly inevitable. So where are some places you can turn when you need to take a break and refuel? Most of the time, Netflix and social media can become our escape. Both are fine in moderation, but do those things really help refuel us?

One thing that I have found helps me get through the winter blues is doing more reading, even if it is something light and easy. Unlike Facebook or watching TV, it engages your mind and imagination. It requires focus and attention. A recent article from Metro discusses some books that may be worth reading during this time of year, especially ones with themes of hope and inspiration in showing how others overcome their obstacles. Stepping into the mind of another character can even give us a new perspective on issues we are dealing with in our own lives. It can be so tempting to spend all of our free time binge watching TV shows, especially those of us who do a lot of reading for school, but what if we read for fun more often? Would it help us to get in the minds of others so we can better understand them? Would our reading comprehension improve? Would we feel more productive than if we had spent our time browsing Pinterest or Instagram? Why not give it a try?






Kindness: Les Misérables and the Royal Hospital in Edinburgh

Kindness connects people, kindness connects cultures and eras, and kindness connects us to God.

Les Misérables was written by Victor Hugo in 1862, and it is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century.

Hugh Jackman played the role of Jean Valjean in the 2012 film of Les Misérables.

Les Misérables follows the life of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who is given a chance to live an honest life by a kind bishop. Valjean becomes mayor of a town, employer of many, savior of a prostitute, father to an orphan, and restorer of persons. Although Valjean must spend his life running from authorities who want to punish him for breaking parole, he shows that redemption is possible and mercy overcomes.

Kindness and a life lived for others are some of the main themes of the book, and this emphasis on living for social good continues today.

A few days ago, Mairi Holden and her son Oscar had to stay in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh for his asthma-related breathing issues. Holden was not expecting to stay overnight, so she parked on a single yellow line outside the hospital. In the morning, she found two parking tickets on her windshield.

However, along with the tickets, she also found the money to pay for both and a note that said, “Pay it then forget it happened.”

Holden was so touched by the kindness of a stranger that she created an online charity to raise money for the hospital that treated her son. She started the charity with a £50 donation of her own, which is double the amount she was given to pay her tickets.

Kindness is a quality that transcends all cultures and every era. Also, it gives us a glimpse into something much bigger than ourselves.

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”—Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.

– Megan R.

7 Practical Steps to Choosing a Gripping and Engaging, Good Book

Books HD

If you love to read, then you know the agony of trying to read through a dull book. You may also have spent countless hours roaming the library or bookstore to find that perfect book. As Christians, we want to fill our minds with uplifting media, but that does not mean we must only read Christian books. In fact, there are numerous good books that are thought provoking and well written and are also good for the soul.

Maybe you have a vacation quickly approaching, a free Saturday, or you simply always need to have a book by your bed. Whatever your reason, here are # steps to help you never go good-book hungry again.

  1. Start broad. Identify a general topic or genre that interests you. Fiction or non-fiction? Romance or Sci-fi?
  2. Check websites and reviews. See what others are saying about the particular books in your desired category. Amazon.com is great for browsing and finding good reviews.
  3. Put in you two cents. Now that you have a list of popular books, it’s time for you to decide what actually looks good. You know what kind of stories you enjoy most. Read plot summaries and/or descriptions.
  4. Make a list. As you narrow down what books are most popular to you, keep a running list of titles and authors.
  5. Head to the nearest library or bookstore. You may have a larger list than you can possibly buy or checkout, but you are covered in case a book is unavailable.
  6. Read. Yes, that may be obvious, but I know I have brought home countless books that I’ve never opened, or never finished. If the book is a dud, yes, it’s okay to move on. But sometimes a little perseverance can be very rewarding.
  7. Find a winner? If you end up loving the book, look up the author and see of he or she has written others. This is a great way to quickly add books to your list that you know you’ll love.

-Megan W

Kamala Khan: Ms. Marvel Represents

Kamala Khan is shaking up mainstream comics. She’s one of the first leading female teenage in the Marvel-verse and the first Muslim hero with her own series.

kamala khanInstead of falling into stereotypes, Ms. Marvel presents Kamala and her family as living, breathing people. Different from some readers maybe, but people with dignity and challenges. She faces bigotry from villains and kids at school. Her parents are strict because they want the best for her, and she learns from their wisdom. Her family and faith are part of her identity and help her develop as a hero.

Kamala’s story might be different from mine, but she’s a normal teenager too. She’s plays online games, writes X-Men fanfiction, and takes selfies with her heroes. Kamala is in the minority in comics, but that makes her even more inspiring.

As she comes to grips with her newfound powers, Kamala becomes a voice of her generation. When The Inventor calls teenagers parasites and uses them as batteries, she rallies the teens. She reminds them not to buy into the stereotypes other make about them. They have futures and purpose.kamala khan and wolverine.jpg

Kamala’s also learning about herself as she learns about her heroes. She accepts that she isn’t a tall, blonde, TV beauty. She finds friends and mentors to support her and figures out how to be super without double-crossing her faith.

Ms. Marvel is about superheroes, giant robots, and teleporting dogs, but it’s also about being a teenager. Kamala encourages us to see past stereotypes to love our neighbors even when other media tells us otherwise.

-Josie K.

The Innocence of Father Brown and An Evangelical Cynic

My professor called me a cynic yesterday. We were talking about Christian books and movies and how disappointing I and my classmates often find them. They mean well but often feel trite.

I’m often cynical about secular media too. To wonder which of these beloved characters’ sudden but inevitable betrayal I’ll be cursing. To predict how many episodes it will take before it’s just too dirty.

Even when you’re looking for beauty, it can be hard to find. Christian media is too easy. Secular media is too dark. If you don’t expect anything from media, it can’t disappoint you.

father brown
Alec Guinness in The Detective (1954)

Good thing Father Brown is as uncynical as they come.

He’s a Catholic priest/Sherlock Holmes who finds mysteries everywhere he goes. The Innocence of Father Brown is a short story about him, but Father Brown isn’t innocent. Not really.

“I assure you, my ‘innocent’ ears encounter every day stories of a horror that would make your sophisticated hair stand on end. Although I wear funny clothes, and have taken certain vows, I live far more in the world than you do.”

But he isn’t jaded. He hasn’t written humanity off.

His experience makes him an ace detective, but he’s more worried about the souls of the criminals than what they steal. His “innocence” is really a heart attentive to good. It makes me a little less jaded.

Father Brown began in a short story collection by G.K. Chesterton. Now it’s several movies, a miniseries, and a BBC TV show. The earnest, sleuthing priest that keeps people coming back.

For me, it’s the reminder that faith and skill don’t have to be separated. Cynicism might protect me from disappointment, but it makes me less kind and less sensitive to beauty and truth.

I want to be more like Father Brown, who sees goodness even the worst of life.

-Josie K.