I have a long-standing love affair with books.
Bookstores put me into a peaceful, happy state as I run my fingers across the spines of classics and new favorites, touch the paper, and take in the smell of the ink on the page. I like the plots, the twists, the font and design decisions, the things you expected and didn’t expect. I love novels, English lit, and learning, either from fictional characters or real life ones. And I fell in love with books and story a long time ago, when I was just a child and my brother and I would sit on either side of my mom as she read to us from a set of Reader’s Digest classics. I devoured Gone with the Wind in sixth grade. I read Wuthering Heights in junior high and declared I’d never read it again (I haven’t). If I find a writer I like, I try to read his or her entire catalog. Writing is one of the ways I best express myself and I immerse myself in it sometimes. The bookshelves in my house are overflowing, but still I buy more books and guard them like cherished friends.
But it’s come to my attention that I’m in a minority when it comes to reading and books. At a recent focus group, a teen told me she hated the smell of ink on the page (gasp!) and another told me that no one really read books or magazines anymore; online was the way to go. I may be the one person who is kind of sad to see the invasion of Kindles and ereaders, because I treasure the weight of a book in my hand when I’m curled up next to the fireplace whiling away a weekend afternoon. I’m not saying that I don’t read things on the Internet or that I’d never use a Kindle or iPad or any such device. Chances are, that’s the way publishing is going and as an editor, I believe in providing content in the format your audience wants it. And I do see the advantages.
But my books are like old friends. When I see my volume of three of Jane Austen’s books, I remember reading Pride and Prejudice as a teen and the old hardbound copy of that same book we found in my grandma’s house after she’d passed away. I fancy it once belonged to my great aunt, who my mom says I remind her of, and I feel a kinship I really didn’t get to have before cancer took her life. I think of those family bonding moments when I see any Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I remember Anna Quindlen’s Black and Blue and falling in love with writing again. I remember emotions expressed so well in books that they brought me to tears—grief, loss, that first heartbreak, frustration, the loneliness and despair you feel when someone you love doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, says you aren’t good enough, or forgets important things about you.
And while I may one day be carrying some sort of book-reading technology onto a plane at some point in the future rather than my customary three books, I won’t be leaving my old faithful friends behind. My house will always be filled with well-worn books.