Monday, January 14, 2013

In Defence of Books

I have a collection, or a library.  Call it what you will, I have a lot of books, and I take a lot of pride in that.  I have a knack for choosing good ones in a number of genres.  (My reference collection is particularly eclectic and interesting.)  I've managed to get my hands on a number of unedited pre-release books, a few of which are now worth a fair bit of money.  I have a book by one of my favorite poets, signed just a few weeks before the man passed away.  I have books from friends that we use as an excuse to keep in touch, and I have books I've reread so often pages are falling out.

I recently got my first smart phone, and one of the first apps I downloaded was an e-reader.  It's fantastic, but there are reasons I will always love the "real thing" better...

A new book smells fresh and crisp, like possibility--and nothing can compare to the feeling of cracking a hardcover spine for the first time, and opening the book and yourself to a new world.  An old book smells a little musty and comfortable, like a well-broken-in couch.  It's familiar and cozy, and the plot and characters greet you like old friends.

A book finds a space in your home and settles in.  It never demands attention (until you actually start reading it, if it's a good one), and it never "helpfully suggests" you should be doing something better with your time.  It never gives you a hard time for what you do or how you do it or who you are--books provide a shelter against a world of people who all think you ought to be fundamentally different than you are.  A book never thinks you're too fat.  It never tells you that you're weird, or that you're bad at all the things you should be good at. A book never points out your perceived flaws, and it never makes you feel bad about who you are.

Instead, it gives you adventure, even though you're stuck in a cubicle all day.  It gives you characteristics to aspire to, even in a world where reality TV actors are considered role-models.  It gives you hope in happy endings and in the possiblity that the loose ends will all tie themselves up and that there will somehow be meaning, even though the news tells you all about how everything is going to hell and we're all doomed.

I've got a lot of books.  I've also got a lot of adventure, aspirations, and hope in my life.  And those are all Very Good Things.

(True:  You'll notice that when I do book reviews here, I only give positive reviews.  That's because I'm not going to waste my time reviewing a book I didn't like, and I'm not going to waste your time reading a review I don't think is worth your time.)


  1. I still prefer real books, but I have to admit, an ereader or tablet is sure convenient for throwing in the tote bag and taking to work or on travel. But if I read an ebook and really love it - I still go out and buy the print copy. There's something satisfying about having a book right there on the shelf whenever I want it - even in a power outage.

    And also, I confess I'm one of those people who underlines favorite quotes and dog-ears pages and otherwise marks my territory in my favorite books. You just can't do that with an ebook!

    1. Exactly! I love my little ereader app, but it won't fall open to my favorite page because I've flipped to that part so often.

  2. I couldn't have said this better myself. I love the feel, smell and texture of a real book. Books hold some of my fondest memories from childhood - reading about the March girls for the first time; following Dorothy down the yellow brick road even when they weren't airing The Wizard of Oz; learning that science could be fun from Danny Dunn.

    I have a Kindle and do most of my reading on it these days or on my phone when the Kindle needs charging. I don't have an extensive library of real books any more; I've moved too many times and lost a lot. But I still have some favorites on the shelf and after this I may have to go on my favorite type of shopping trip - the used book store!

    Thanks Dana, I enjoyed this post a lot!

    P.S. I just finished reading 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter. Great read! I'm hoping to put up a review soon but your post seemed like a good reason to share it with you. :)