Don’t judge a book by its cover


By Barb Arland-Fye

Our floor to ceiling bookcase takes up a wall in our living room and contains a variety of reading material — from novels, plays and poetry to biographies, history, theology, Bibles and prayer books. In an era of transition from print to digital, this bookcase remains sacred space in the Arland-Fye household.

Just ask our son, Colin, whose weekly visits to our house almost always begin with a visit to the bookcase. His first book of choice is “The New Jerome Biblical Commentary,” a holdover from my classes in the Master of Pastoral Theology program. The book was in pristine condition until Colin finally received permission to begin reading it. My reluctance has to do with the way in which my son with autism turns the pages in a book. He’s a notorious page curler!


I wince when I look at the Jerome Commentary, which I occasionally still use for referencing Scripture passages. But I can’t begrudge Colin the joy he gets from it. He loves reading the Bible and the Jerome Commentary because both make good use of numbers and lay the groundwork for our Catholic faith. Scriptures and numbers never change. Their permanence is very comforting to Colin’s autistic mind.


One recent weekend, he looked up from his reading and began a monologue about Old Testament prophets, throwing out an occasional question to me. I would have needed to refer to the Jerome Commentary to answer the questions!

Almost a month ago, Colin moved into a new apartment in Davenport. His most precious items to be packed were his beloved books, which filled boxes, bags and even a suitcase. Colin is bringing them to his apartment a few at a time. Some of the books are so worn out that the pages have slipped out from between the covers. My husband Steve hopes to remove the books and atlases with pages hanging by a thread from their spines, but Colin has a photographic memory and will notice if anything is missing.

A huge fan of all things presidential, he owns just about every book written about U.S. presidents collectively and individually. His personal library collection also includes Star Wars books, which I think he has memorized, and a Time-Life Library of America series, with such topics as “The U.S. Overseas.” He also owns “Charlton Heston Presents the Bible.” Who knows how Colin acquired that book!

As a lector at our parish, I receive the annual “Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word.” Colin covets this soft-covered book because, joy of joys, it includes the dates for each of the Sunday readings during the liturgical year. Calendar dates are crucial information for an individual who absolutely needs to know what’s going to happen and when. So, each year Colin gets one of the older workbooks (the past is just as important as the future to him). But I put my foot down when he wants to open the latest workbook. No curled pages while I still need to use the workbook.

Our younger son Patrick is a product of the digital age. He prefers to read on his laptop, but will occasionally read from a print publication or book — particularly if it is a textbook for a college class. Colin has been lured into the digital age with Facebook and Google Earth, but when it comes to reading, he’s got to have the printed word. The Arland-Fye library bookcase is indeed sacred space.

(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at

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