Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read not but curiously; some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. - Francis Bacon
I suppose that this can be dismissed as one of my Luddite columns, moaning about a day gone by, unlikely to return. And even a tad hypocritical at that, since my own works are available as e-books as well as in print.
But just consider this, if you will:
Despite all the hoopla about Kindle and books on tape, and listening to the dreary bragging of folks who are eager to tell us that they now have more books in their “personal” library than ever before, thanks to our electronic age, there is something about the printed word itself that I find comforting in this day and age.
And I’m not the only one.
Despite the proselytizing on the part of those who would shove an electronic tablet into your hands, I still see people of all ages reading books all over the place.
On the bus.
Taking a break from whatever they are doing.
Or just settling in for well-deserved time alone with the writer of their choice.
I don’t think the actual book is going anywhere, not for a long time to come. And in actuality, there are a lot of cheap paperbacks from the past that probably won’t make it anywhere near an e-book factory any time soon.
Why do I like books so much? Well, I could offer up all the usual cliched answers, about binding, and the way they feel in your hand, but better writers than myself have done that so very well. I think I like them because they travel so well.
I am a great frequenter of used bookstores, and am fascinated by the stamps from bookstores around the country, and around the world. A lot of the books on my shelves traveled a long way before they get to me, from Colorado and Vermont and England and other places where people love books just as much as I do.
Over the years I have taken to underlining paragraphs or lines on pages that resonated with me, or that I felt were powerfully written. On the other hand, a few years a political “fable” I was going to review for the late Little Rock Free Press offended me so much that I wrote “RACIST TRIPE” on the last page.
I have left notes in other nooks, though it is hard to recall a time when I was in as foul a mood as that book put me in.
If you pick up that copy at a yard sale or a used bookstore, you’ll know who to blame.
I have found comments from others in books I have bought over the years. Some don’t like this sort of thing, preferring their books to be in a pristine state, but I rather like it. The book feels lived in. I may not always agree with the sentiments of the previous owner of the book, but I’m glad they left me a note.
Where do you put, “From _____, with all my love” when you give an e-book as a present? On the card?
So like a sort of eavesdropper, I listen in on the notes of lovers, friends, and relatives from years past. And each one - no matter how perfunctory - is special, because nobody ever really bought a book for somebody they didn’t like. There is a story behind each gift, and sometimes I’ll try to imagine it.
I always like it when people write their names in their books.
Some years ago I bought a science fiction novel from a used book store, only to discover that the previous owner was a woman who had shared an important part of my life with me, but who was now dead.
I will not attempt to describe my feelings upon opening the book and finding her name.
Dust in the wind we may be, but the passions others felt when holding certain books can still be felt, whether we ever knew them or not, and passed on to the next few readers down the line, if the book speaks to them.
Quote of the Day
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty and democracy?: - Mohandas Gandhi