Ever since I was little, even before I could read, I’ve been in love with books. There’s something about them that has always said “home” to me – the feel of the pages, that particular musty papery smell, that comforting “whoopf” as you let the covers fall closed. The characters and storylines that could transport you into the future, the past, the real and the imagined. Perhaps it was the realization that infinite possibilities lay waiting within those pages that struck a chord in my infinitely curious young mind. Whatever it was, I was hooked.
Throughout my life, some of my best friends have been books. As sad as that may seem to some, it’s really not – they’ve been my happy companions on lonely days, providers of an incredible wealth of knowledge when I needed or desired it, great career coaches, and the openers of thoughtful doors I probably wouldn’t have chosen to walk through myself. Books have been both my escape and salvation on many a day.
Have book, will travel.
For a great span of my existence, I almost always had a book either in hand or at hand. When I was in college you’d usually find me sitting in the hall outside my next class catching up on either assigned or pleasure reading (sometimes they were one in the same). When I started working I would sit in the parking lot of the eatery-du-jour at noon wolfing down my lunch while devouring a chapter or two. I always kept a book in my car or my bag for waiting rooms and traffic jams. In my single days I couldn’t wait until the end of the day when I could go back to my apartment and settle into my comfy sofa with my latest find, and I plowed through at least 2 or 3 books a week. (Well okay, maybe that’s why my “single days” lasted so long, but that’s another story for another day.).
I was on a first-name basis with the local Barnes and Noble folks, and I hoarded books like nobody’s business. I had books EVERYWHERE – bookshelves full of those that I’d already read, and stacks of my latest finds to read in due course. While I was always happy to lend my books out to other avid reader friends, I also assumed that they’d come back, eventually. I was slightly appalled when I ran into the “read and pass on crowd” – those that read books only once and then sent them out into the world to be enjoyed by others. While this is a noble gesture in its own right, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad and slightly betrayed that my “printed friend” was gone forever…
Case in point: As a former anthropologist and lover of a good story, “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorites. I’ve owned 4 copies so far. The first one I lent to one of my friends, who just couldn’t get past one emotionally charged passage. She loved the book, but just couldn’t bear to read what she knew would happen next – so she flipped it upside down at that page in her garage until she could steel herself enough to get through it. (After all these years I’m pretty sure it’s still sitting in her garage.) So I bought another copy. This one I lent to a work colleague, not realizing she was from a family of “passers on.” She read it, and then her dad read it, and then he gave it to her aunt, and lord knows where it’s gone from there. So I bought another copy. I lent it to another work colleague, and I’m not sure if he’s even read it or not, but that one never came back, either. So I bought ANOTHER copy, and this one enjoys permanent residency on my bookshelf. No, you can’t borrow it.
After years of collecting tons of books (probably literally), I decided it was time to give away or get rid of all but my very favorites that I couldn’t bear to part with. I was moving into a very small condo where space was at a premium, and my friends had all boycotted any moving help if it involved endless heavy boxes of printed material. At this point in my life I also became enamored with all things digital, and the Kindle seemed to be the perfect solution. A small device I could easily carry with me, and I could store more digital books than I could imagine on my hard drive. For years now I’ve been downloading and reading, and it’s been a passable solution, but the experience is just not the same…
There’s something about the feel of a book in your hand, the palpable passing of pages as you go, that makes reading a REAL book a completely different experience, and one that I’ve sorely missed. A couple of weeks ago I had a free night and decided to go wandering around the local Barnes and Noble, something I haven’t done in ages. While poking through the shelves I stumbled on a book that a colleague and I had just been talking about the day before – and I took it as a sign. I purchased it, along with a coffee, and settled myself at a table in the café to dive into it. A mere three pages in, and I knew I was hooked again.
As a full-time parent with a full-time job, there’s not a whole lot of extra time in my day (or so I thought). With the Kindle I would usually read a little before going to bed, but never made it past a couple of pages; finishing a book was pretty slow going. But now that I had a REAL book in my hand, suddenly the game changed – I was looking for any excuse to get back into it. I’d read a few pages while dinner was cooking, and a few more while the kiddo was brushing his teeth, and then a couple of chapters each night before I really had to turn the light out and get some sleep. When the weekend rolled around I grabbed a beverage and my book and headed out to the deck for an hour or two in the late afternoons until the mosquitos chased me in. And I blew through that baby in no time flat.
So I’ve come to the realization that I’m an analog book girl at heart. I’ve decided that the enjoyment a printed book gives me is well worth the expense and the storage space, and I’m ready to make room in my life for them again. Old loves die hard. I’m choosing to keep this one alive.
If you’re looking for me, I’ll be at the bookstore.