Why you need to read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Last year, around the winter Reading Week, I embarked on a literary journey through Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy of Five. I expected to love the series and ended up with far more than a few good books.

Everyone has their own copy of “The LIST” right? The list of movies, books, T.V. shows, albums and whatever else that they want to go through before they die? It’s like an artistic bucket list, but you start compiling it basically as soon as you become conscious of the world around you and presumably, you don’t stop until you die.A1HGWCA36hL

The heartbreaking reality of “The LIST,” is that there are more good movies, music, literature, T.V. Shows etc. than any of us could possibly consume in one lifetime, let alone actually give the time to digest and think about.

On top of this annoying conundrum is that new and beautiful works are being created every day and if there is a rough ordering of your list, there’s a pretty high entry that will never get consumed because it’s just far enough down to get nudged one spot every time something new gets released.

This is why I have still only seen the first Godfather movie and am still waiting for an opportune moment to finally get to play through Wolfenstein.

Now, back to those books I read. I started the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, and read the “Trilogy of Five” through into July when I finished Mostly Harmless.

I’m going to just come out and say it. You should read these books: not just because they’re well written, not just because Douglas Adams, within the first half of the first book, became one of my favorite writers of all time and not just because they have so deeply permeated culture and art that one of Radiohead’s best songs is written about one of the characters. No, you should read these books because of the perspectives they will give you.

The series had me laughing so hard I cried, and crying so hard I laughed. I contemplated life, death, politics, truth, science, religion, war, meaning – literally everything there is to contemplate – while reading them. I genuinely feel that I am a better person than I was before I read these novels. For this reason, I encourage you to bump it up to the number one or two spots on the “to read” section of the list.

For those of you who don’t know, the series follows Arthur Dent and company throughout the universe as he ends up getting duped in every situation.

These novels are important for you to read, dear millennial (and younger) student peers, because they will remind you time and time again that whatever is stressing you out is generally meaningless. Lots of people seem to think that the point of life is finding meaning but in reality, the universe doesn’t seem to care. While that may seem kinda sad, and it is – it’s also utterly hilarious.

Douglas Adams and Arthur Dent can teach us that the assignments, student debt, climate change, war, death, cancer, politics is all equally as horrific as we think it is, but such is life and what’s the alternative? Death?

If you’re thinking: “Jesus, this guy sounds like he’s lost it, no way I am reading these depressing books,” you’ve missed something. This perspective has made me happier than I think I’ve ever been. I’m not being cynical, pessimistic, morbid or any of the opposites of those descriptors either. I genuinely feel more one with the universe, because I’m not. That might sound sort of hippie-dippy, new-agey, whatever but I am being totally sincere, and as a critical-thinking academic, I think that’s gotta count for something right?

You should read these books because they will show you that no matter how hard things get, someone out there has it worse off than you. Even Arthur Dent, a man whose life goes wrong at every turn, is not doing as bad as many of the other beings he encounters.

Try to be a good person and the universe might spit in your face. You might fail at every turn, you might be one of the best writers of all time and suddenly die of a heart-attack at 49 in the middle of writing a new book like Douglas Adams did, but all of that is okay because what else would it be? All of our opinions on everything are subjective so why think the Universe sucks? Why not say it’s all-in-all pretty okay and leave it at that?

So many of my friends and peers who I talked to throughout the time I spent reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy either had not heard of the series, kinda knew what it was or just hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet. Given the excellence of the series, and it’s timelessness, I don’t think the books need any sort of renaissance but they do seriously need to be read.

And if you’ve already read the books? Do it again. Download the old BBC radioplay versions from Audible, watch the old TV show, watch that 2005 movie with Martin Freeman and Zooey Deschanel in it, and really digest it. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy should be read by just about everyone.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series can teach us to make the best of what we’ve got. People, feel what you’ve got to feel, and recognize that lots of stuff is terrible and unpleasant. Try to make this experience of existence as not terrible and as pleasant as possible for you and everybody else. Above all else, ‘DON’T PANIC.”

 

Kostyn Petrunick, Arts & Culture Editor 

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