A friend was visiting this weekend and we talked about her Kindle. She swore she’d never buy another paper book again (with the exception of Evenfall, of course) — she likes her device that much. She can read almost any book she wants, any time, and usually for less than the price of a regular book. Plus, she said, (and was she really eyeing the books stacked in my living room?) there’s no clutter — just a sleek black case that fits neatly away.
I have a Kindle too, and I find it very handy. When I’m stuck at home and unable to run out to the bookstore, for example, I can download and read almost whatever I want within a matter of minutes. There’s no need to pack a stack of books on vacation, either — I can take as many as I want without weighing the suitcase down and annoying my husband. And for books that I know I’ll only read once, it’s nice not to have them taking up space on my shelves.
But secretly, I’m a romantic at heart. And much as I love technology — you’ll pry my iphone from my cold, dead body — electronic readers aren’t romantic, at least not for me. Opening up the pages of a book isn’t just about the book itself — it’s about the person I was when I last read it, and about the people who have read it before me.
My daughter’s hit a stage where she loves Nancy Drew. My mom saved all of mine from when I was a child, so she’s reading the same books, and there’s something bittersweet about sitting with her and remembering the nine-year-old I was, lost in the shadows with Nancy and Bess and the gang, and watching her find her way through the same mysterious paths.
My great-aunt was an avid reader as well, and she read every Nancy Drew along with me. In the corner of each book, in discreet cursive script, are her initials. Each time I see them, I smile, and there’s something comforting about having those letters in my daughter’s hands.
My son isn’t reading on his own yet, and going through our stack of chapter and board books is an exercise in the future and the past at once – the future, because looking at Emma I can see how quickly this phase passes — and the past because, as I read The Going To Bed Book for the 20 millionth time, I remember the first time I read it, to a sleepy baby nine years ago, and how as a new mom I thought nothing could ever be better than that moment.
Then there are the books I’ve ‘borrowed’ from friends or been given over the years. The copy of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a friend’s older sister gave me in high school.
Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night a college roommate left behind. The Gone With the Wind copy my great aunt gave her mother back in 1936.
When I touch one of these books — or any number of others – the people connected to it can reach out through time and space and be a part of my life again, if only for an instant. So I’ll be keeping my clutter. It’s more romantic that way.