BOOKS VS. READING

January 18, 2012 at 3:54 pm (Uncategorized)

I have noticed the monthly circulation figures for my local library have been declining for the past eighteen months or so. I bought a Kindle around eighteen months ago. Coincidence? Hmm . . .

A lot of people tell me they won’t buy an e-reader. They love books – the feel of them, the heft of them, the smell of them, the whole gestalt of them. I love books, too, as the eleven floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in our study, one in each boy’s bedroom, two in the second floor hallway, three in our bedroom, and one in the family room, plus the books piled on the floor on the study, on the bed-side tables in the bedroom, under the boys’ beds, on (and under) the family room table, and in all three bathrooms will attest. But I recently realized something important: it’s not books I love. It’s reading.

I bought the Kindle a few weeks before we left on a two-week trip to LA and Wisconsin (you can read about it further down on this site). I have a pathological fear of being stuck in an airport, or, worse, on a plane, with nothing to read. Needing to pack for what we had expected to be two entirely different weather conditions, our suitcases were just under the weight limit. Even one book would have tipped it over. And putting the dozen or so books I’d have needed for a two-week trip into my carry-on was just not practical, unless I had started pumping iron six months earlier. The Kindle was the answer to a reader’s prayers. Light weight. Easy to put in my purse. Holds the virtual equivalent of tons of books.

My biggest problem with the Kindle is its ease of use. Or, rather, its ease of downloading books. I have to remind myself not to buy a book unless I would buy it in hard copy; if it’s a book I would normally borrow from the library, I should still borrow it from the library. I haven’t listened to myself.

I’ve always loved to read. Anything. Anywhere. Any time. I remember being thoroughly bored on some car trip or other with my parents when I was quite young. I had nothing to read. So I picked up the telephone book (remember those?) on the floor of the back seat of the car (I’ve no idea why it was there) and read it.

I never minded being sent to my room. To me, it wasn’t punishment, because it meant I could read. It’s not that I couldn’t have gone to my room and read without misbehaving first, but chances are I would have been watching TV or talking to my friends on the phone instead. I wonder sometimes if the need to read overcame my common sense when it came to doing things like talking back. I never told my mother the punishments didn’t work.

What is it about reading that I love so much? I could go into a whole psychoanalytic mode and talk about being a lonely only child and finding companionship in books, except I always seem to understand that being alone did not equal being lonely.

There’s something about a book that transports me, not just into a world of imagination (cue song from “Willy Wonka” – the Gene Wilder version), but into other people’s lives. Call it curiosity, call it escapism, call it laziness. I call it heaven.

 

 

 

 

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7 Comments

  1. jennymilch said,

    I agree that it’s about reading, it’s about story–but I have to say, I really love the smell, look, weight, and feel of a book :) I also love the whole bookstore experience. For me they are a part of that heaven you describe. I’m glad for the many readers who find their joy with e readers as well, though. The more people reading, the better, right?

  2. Mary Ellen Jankosky Hill said,

    Ilene, do you ever re-read the books you have at home?

    • Rabbi Ilene Schneider said,

      Not too often, which is why I really should clear out some of the bookcases before the next “gently read” book sale at the library.

      • Radine Trees Nehring said,

        Hi Ilene,
        I am with you completely on e-readers. (Mine is a NOOK.) A great convenience at times, but 98% of the time I’ll still be holding a print book. (Currently Margaret Maron’s THREE DAY TOWN. As to Mary Ellen’s question to you — yes I do re-read books and that’s why my shelves are overflowing. Recently I’ve been up to my pipical in work, with a new book in the offing plus preparing for book events plus online publicity so my big gripe as an author is: NOT. ENOUGH. TIME. TO. READ!!! However I would sure grab a next book in your series ASAP.

  3. Augie Hicks said,

    Rabbi Ilene, thank you for the memory. I too was one who read all the time. Actually we came from a home of readers, one of my sister could not wash dishes or cook without reading, sure there were some burned meals as well as under-washed dishes,. I would read under the covers late at night with a flash light knowing that I had to get up early for school the next morning with bags under my eyes…it did not matter. The love to read I think is what most kids are missing today. So if notebooks like Kindles, Sony etc. will bring back that love I say okay. But I still love the touch, smell and look of the real thing. Augie Hicks

  4. Tim Desmond said,

    Cool topic. I used to read late under the covers with a flashlight. I suppose kids now still can, but probably only need e-reader or e-notepad.

  5. John Bohnert said,

    I’ve loved to read books since childhood. My one-bedroom apartment living room looks like a library. When I was an elementary teacher, my classroom was often mistaken for the school library by visitors. I wanted my students to love reading as much as I did. I read to them everyday from children’s literature. We had fifteen minutes of silent reading every day. Our school invited children’s authors to our campus. I hope I encouraged my students to become lifelong readers.

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