Time for an open thread. I’m going to start it off by talking about reading.
To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations – such is a pleasure beyond compare. ~Kenko Yoshida
My love affair with books started before I could read. Both of my parents were avid readers. They began to read to me as soon as I was old enough to sit still long enough to hear a story. I was reading on my own before I began kindergarten. By the time I was in the 3rd or 4th grade, I had moved up to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. From that point on there was no stopping me. Reading became my favorite pastime.
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be –
I had a mother who read to me.
~Strickland Gillilan (Thanks, Laurel)
One thing I discovered quite early is that knowledge is a never-ending quest. No matter how many books I devoured, there were more yet to be discovered. No one can possibly read every book written, and yet I tried. In high school, I would skip class to go sit in the school library and read. Every spare moment found me with a book in my hands. When I entered the work force, I sought out jobs that allowed me the most reading time. When I came home from work, I would spend hours more each night reading. There were years, decades, where I read at least 8 hours per day. That’s probably a conservative estimate. This reading obsession continued for most of my life.
A house without books is like a room without windows. ~Heinrich Mann
Books were wondrous objects filled with exotic places and strange people unlike any I would meet in real life. The more I read the more I realized how little I really knew. Each discovery of a new author would open up a new front in a war on my own ignorance. I couldn’t rest until I had read everything that author had ever written. Even the most prolific authors would eventually fall to my relentless onslaught. Dumas came and went as did Burroughs and L’amour.
It didn’t matter what I read, only that I was reading. Spillane was as enjoyable as Faulkner. You might find me reading Leo Tolstoy or James Joyce one day and Agatha Christie or Dashiell Hammett the next. It reached the point where I was on a first name basis with librarians and used book store proprietors. I gave up on bookshelves and piled books everywhere. I didn’t so much have stacks of books as stacks of boxes full of books in every room of the house. Moving would have become impossible if I hadn’t thinned the herd each time I moved.
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~Francis Bacon
Sadly, from my point of view, things began to change a few years ago. I still read for hours each day, but instead of books, magazines and newspapers I now read online. While the rise of the Internet has opened up access to information unlike ever before, it has also taken away some of the pleasure of reading. Gone are the days of sitting in a recliner with a good book in my hands. I am now chained to a glaring computer monitor and an office chair. I can’t shove a paperback into a back pocket to be pulled out whenever I had a few free moments as I did for so much of my life. Reading has become less of a joy and more of a chore. My world has changed and, in my opinion, not for the better.
Now we come to today. I haven’t really lost my love of reading. It is no less today than it was when I was a child. All I have to do to prove that to myself is to pick up a book and begin reading, as I did recently. I don’t want to give up the Internet. It is wonderful, illuminating, educational. . . What I want is to spend some time each day losing myself in an author’s world. I want that break from the humdrum everyday world.
The world of books is still there. I could go back to the wonderful world of libraries and bookstores. But, this is the 21st Century. I think it’s time to take the next step. I want to get an e-reader.
When the Kindle first appeared on the scene, I had serious qualms about using one. They were too expensive, especially for a skinflint like me. They are plastic and metal. Books are paper and leather. Books have character. E-readers are cold and passionless. Used books smell of musty bookstores. Old hardcovers smell of leather, paper and ink. E-readers, if they smell at all, smell of plastic and hot circuits. E-books break our link to the purveyors of information, like Gutenberg and Franklin.
The other problem I have with e-readers is the cost of digital books. I find it outrageous that digital books cost as much as paperbacks. The infrastructure required to distribute e-books is a fraction of that for printed books and the cost of production is many orders of magnitude less. I find the pricing an insult to my intelligence.
But, as I said, this is the 21st Century. It is time I put aside my, in this case, surprising Luddite attitude towards e-readers. I have always been an early adopter of technological advances. This is the only instance I can think of where I have been reluctant to be on the cutting edge. This is not like my enthusiastic embrace of computers, networking, cellular phones and all of the other advances of the last few decades. It is grudging, resentful acceptance of a changing world. I guess I’m finally showing my age.
The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow