At the Library: Books enlarge experience in a way movies can't

Have you seen the movie “The Mountain Between Us”? I haven’t. And I’m not sure I want to.

The movie, which stars Kate Winslet and Idris Elba (and is available for checkout from the library) is based on a novel by Charles Martin. Described as a “page-turning story of love and survival,” the book follows the harrowing story of Ben Payne and Ashley Knox, two strangers who charter a plane after an impending blizzard strands them at the Salt Lake City airport.

However, just as they think they’re headed home — Ben to his job as a surgeon, and Ashley to her wedding — their pilot has a heart attack mid-flight, the plane crashes, and they end up truly stranded, in the middle of a vast, remote Utah wilderness, badly injured, with no food or shelter.

As I was reading “The Mountain Between Us,” I put it down several times, clenching my teeth, wondering, “Are they going to die, or just be severely injured?”

As they struggled to survive, I entered the winter world of their plane crash from the safety of my recliner. I sat with them in their shelters with my blanket around my shoulders.

Sometimes it is strangely peaceful to turn off the TV, sit back and enter into dangerous, adventurous places. When it comes to thrillers, or drama-filled stories of adventure or survival, I can put down the book for a while and come back to it when I can breathe again, taking weeks to read the story a movie tells in less than two hours.

I usually watch movies or TV shows that make me laugh, but I read murder mysteries and suspense novels like the Vera Stanhope series by Ann Cleeves, Craig Johnson’s Longmire mysteries, and Louise Penney’s Chief Inspector Gamache series.

In contrast, one of my favorite movies is “Alice in Wonderland.” The movie is a charming classic, but I read the book as an adult and laughed out loud at the wordplay. In fact, I liked it so much that I re-read it and found even more to enjoy.

Reading can fill in the places inside of us at which movies only hint.

Take “The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy, for example. The visual effects used to create the hideous, goblin-like orcs still make me cringe, and the battles tired me.

But when I read “The Lord of the Rings” series, Tolkien’s words enlarged the experience of Middle-earth. I have the read the entire series six or seven times. I watched the movies once. I will read the books again.

Reading allows us to play with the story and the characters, considering what we might do in their shoes — or, when the tension mounts too high, lets us simply walk away to go wash the dinner dishes.

Have you seen these movies? Try the books!

“The Mountain Between Us” by Charles Martin.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.

The “Longmire” series by Craig Johnson.

The “Vera” and “Shetland” series by Ann Cleeves.

“Pet Sematary” by Stephen King.

“The Best of Enemies” by Osha Gray Davidson.

“The Woman in the Window” by A. J. Finn.

Rondi Downs is managing librarian for Yakima Valley Libraries. Learn more at

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