By December 2, 2009 0 Comments Read More →

The Mind’s Eye: How Do You See Books?

reflecting-eyeMy friend and mentor David Carr (who during his years at UNC helped so many of us who now specialize in readers’ advisory learn how to think about libraries, books, and the communities and people who use them) sent me this YouTube link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_jyXJTlrH0

I don’t know the work or author in question, nor is that work my focus here. Besides showing off some astonishingly beautiful book art, this clip makes me think about how we visualize the characters, settings, and events of the books we read.

When I read, I form mental pictures. They are vague and blurry, yet somehow still active, rippling and rustling with life like the book in the video clip. Though shrouded, they are distinct enough that when the works are brought to film, I often immediately think, “Yes, that’s how that place looks,” or, “No, she isn’t right at all.” I love the films that Peter Jackson made from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, for instance, but after viewing them a dozen times, I still can’t stop myself from thinking that Merry, on film, looks more like Tolkien’s Pippin and vice versa.

But that’s my experience, and my suspicion is that this is another way in which reading differs for various readers. I’ve known readers who visualize every detail and others who claim not to visualize at all.

It might make an interesting question for your next book group: How does your inner eye see the books that you read? What does that mean for how you experience books? I suspect the answer impacts which books you choose and enjoy, which writing styles work for you and which don’t. Those, friends, are very big questions indeed.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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