21 August 2008

"People Who Watch TV Don't Read A Lot of Books!"

Apparently this is supposed to be a truism from educators and psychiatrists, and it does seem via reports that children—and adults!—spend large amounts of time lolling in front of the television and don't care to read books.

On the other hand, I've found that television and movies have "turned me on" to books. When I was seven years old, my parents bought me a World Book encyclopedia. If we watched television and I asked about something, whether it was on a reality series like Wild Kingdom or a fact presented on Lassie, my mother would always suggest, "Why don't you look it up in the encyclopedia?" I therefore grew up knowing that books could provide a wide horizon beyond television and always loved what they offered.

I have been trying to make a list of literature, novels, and short stories I have read due to having seen programs on television about the individual or subject. I'm sure this is incomplete, but this is what I have finally come up with:

• My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, Green Grass of Wyoming, Wyoming Summer and Flicka's Friend by Mary O'Hara (via the Flicka TV series; I didn't see the movies until I was an adult)
• Lord Peter Wimsey stories/novels by Dorothy L. Sayers (via the Ian Carmichael versions which were on Masterpiece Theatre)
• National Velvet by Enid Bagnold (via the television series, not the movie, which I didn't see until I was in my twenties)
• James Michener's books (via Centennial)
• Spencer's Mountain/The Homecoming/You Can't Get There From Here by Earl Hamner (via The Homecoming and subsequently The Waltons)
• Thomasina and The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico (via both films, also Gallico's The Abandoned)
• Airport, Hotel and other Arthur Hailey books (via Airport--yes, Hailey wrote potboilers; they're still books <g>--also Hailey's bio by his wife Sheila)
• Christy by Catherine Marshall (via the TV movie)
• Margaret by Janette Sebring Lowrey (via the original MMC serial "Annette," somewhat different from the serial)
• By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman (via Bullwhip Griffin)
• The Moon Spinners and other Mary Stewart thrillers like My Brother Michael, Airs Above the Ground, and Nine Coaches Waiting (via the Disney film)
• Ivanhoe (via Anthony Andrews/Sam Neill version)
• The Anne Shirley books by L.M. Montgomery (I didn't read them as a kid, but post-Kevin Sullivan's Anne of Green Gables)--also all the "Emily" books, the "Golden Road" books, Magic for Marigold, the Pat books and Jane of Lantern Hill after I saw the film
• The Railway Children by E. Nesbit (via the Jenny Agutter film)
• Cross Creek (via The Yearling, both film and book, and before the film)
• The Fox and the Hound by Daniel P. Mannix (via Disney, and, as you can imagine, much more serious than the film)
• The Taran books by Lloyd Alexander (via The Black Cauldron)
• The Narnia books by C.S. Lewis (via the BBC production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe)
• Big Red and other Jim Kjelgaard books (Irish Red, Outlaw Red, etc., via the Disney film)
• Mother Carey's Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggin (via Summer Magic; I'd already loved Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm from childhood)
• Sherlock Holmes (via The Seven-Per-Cent Solution with Nicol Williamson)
• Captain Grant's Children, Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (via In Search of the Castaways and the other two films)
• The Little House books of Laura Ingalls Wilder (via the television series; we had only Little House in the Big Woods in our elementary school library, but I never withdrew it)
• The Flambards series by KM Peyton (via the TV series, though most times I'm sorry I even read Flambards Divided )
• Mister Roberts by Thomas Heggin (via the movie)
• James Thurber (via My World and Welcome to It)

Plus multiple books about:
• Queen Victoria and her family (via Edward the King)
• Old Time Radio (partially via parents' old radio stories and some radio tapes, but also Remember WENN, The Night That Panicked America, 1940s set movies and TV series)
• World War II (partially via parents' stories, but also Remember WENN, Goodtime Girls, Remember When [WWII-set TV movie with Jack Warden], PBS documentaries, etc.)
• History of television and old-time radio (somewhat due to being a TV watcher, but also via documentaries like Television, films like The Night That Panicked America, and Remember WENN)
• Space program (via televised launches; my first were Appointment on the Moon by Richard Lewis and We Reach the Moon by John Noble Wilford, both purchased when I was twelve years old)
• Sidney Reilly and spies (via Reilly: Ace of Spies)

Of course, there were also books I was into long before they appeared in the media: anthropology/archaeology long before Indiana Jones, the Harry Dresden books many years before The Dresden Files, and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials/Sally Lockhart novels long before The Golden Compass and Billie Piper in The Ruby in the Smoke.

I would be interested in hearing from anyone else who read certain books or became interested in certain subjects due to their being presented as a television series/movie/documentary or a film/documentary. Please note that I am not talking about "TV tie-in novels" like those based on Monk, CSI or Doctor Who! Did you start reading Elizabeth George because you caught an Inspector Lynley episode? Did you become interested in "debunking" literature by watching Mythbusters or James Randi on the Tonight Show? Did catching The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man on TCM start you reading Dashiell Hammett novels?


Anonymous said...

Well, I read "I, Claudius" and "Claudius the God" because of the BBC series. And Colleen McCullough's entire 7(?)-volume series on Rome as a result, as well.

- Boris

Emma said...

My mother would often yell at me for watching too much TV as a child, but considering I read books just as often, I sometimes wondered what all the fuss was about. To this day, whenever I become really interested interested in a show, especially when it has historical context (like "Remember WENN") or a complicated back story (like the anime series "Sailor Moon"), I instantly hit the libraries or the Internet to do research. The Sailor Soldiers have taught me about what other planets are like; doing research on the era and media WENN is involved in got me into both old-time radio and the late 30s-early 40s.

niferjen said...

My interest in the military, and therefore literally dozens of history and biography books, was sparked by watching F Troop on old time Nick At Night when I was small.
My first step was looking at the "Army" section in our encyclopedia, but by 1997, I had started reading 500-page books about WWII.

Others: A Quick List:

Lord of the Rings (via the movies)
Anne of Green Gables (same as you)
Sharpe's Sword (Sharpe's Rifles miniseries with Sean Bean)
Mary Poppins (via Julie Andrews)
Black Stallion (1980's movie)
101 Dalmatians (via Disney - the book is way cooler!)
Good Night, Mr. Tom (via the movie)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Gregory Peck)
Peter Pan (via Disney)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Gene Wilder - although since reading the book I've seen the Johnny Depp one too, and I think I like it better than the Wilder one.)
The Importance of Being Ernest
Little Women (both movies)
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (a 1940's movie?)
The Notebook
Patriot Games
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930 best picture)
Biography of Jimmy Stewart

The Battle of Gettysburg (by Bruce Catton, another by Frank Haskell, because of the 1993 movie - and that was for the paper I wrote about Little Round Top - again, because of the movie)

Like you, lots of things because of Remember WENN. (I've read histories, biographies and certain parts of Shakespeare because of it - now how many shows can claim that?)

I bought a biography of Sacajawea after watching 'A Night at the Museum'. Also purchased was 'The Pianist' - after the 2003 movie, and a book called 'With Lawrence in Arabia'- after watching Peter O'Toole. These are in my "yet to read stack".

I'm also going to read Horatio Hornblower sometime soon, because of the magnificent A&E series a few years ago.

Long live books.

Linda said...

Jen, I'd completely forgotten about 101 Dalmatians--yes, I saw the movie first and then found the book. Have you read the sequel?

niferjen said...

no... 102 dalmatians? I have no idea what it's called. Any good?

niferjen said...

BTW, thanks for the very interesting topic.

My sister Meggan goes against everything "they" say as well... she loves tv shows, especially ones such as Mission: Impossible and Star Trek: Next Generation, and yet has read probably 3 or 4 times as many books as I have.

Speaking of Star Trek, it was because of Captain Picard's quote of Moby Dick in 'Contact' that lit a fire under me to read the thing. It's huge!

Linda said...

No, no, 102 Dalmatians is that bastardized Disney sequel. Dodie Smith's sequel is called The Starlight Barking, and one of the main characters is Cadpig, the runt of the litter.

Boris--all I can say is "Wow."

I just remembered another one: Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, which I read because, of all things, the episode "The King Lives" on Get Smart.

Anonymous said...

I recall watching an episode of "Ironside" where Raymond Burr was searching for something while talking, then suddenly seized a small paperback book and cried with relish: "Ah, an old Agatha Christie!"

I remembered that remark when I spotted the first of many Agatha Christie books I've since enjoyed. I was on vacation with my parents in Florida and saw a copy of "Halloween Party" by Agatha Christie, the Pocketbooks edition with the white cover with a block of orange and a pumpkin stabbed with a dagger bleeding red. Cool!

Linda said...

I've remembered another Get Smart inspired read: "The Most Dangerous Game," which was the basis for the GS episode "Island of the Darned." I didn't know the short story existed until I saw a couple of "example sentences" from it in an English grammar book in junior high school.