Sunday, June 21, 2015

For the Love of Reading

When I was a child, we had a single bookshelf in the hallway where the entrances to all of the bedrooms met. It was all my parents could afford, but it was stocked with tattered paperbacks, a complete set of Nancy Drew and the odds and ends mom would pick up at garage sales. Once a week, we would also visit the local Book-Mobile, where I was permitted to take out as many books as I could read in a week. I would devour them well before the week was up, and it was always with a heavy heart that I would return them. Sure I got to take out new ones, but parting with those I had read seemed a betrayal--I wanted to covet them; protect the characters within and revisit them on occasion. Instead, however, I would see the ones I had read previously sitting lonely on the shelves. I would go home and look at our single bookshelf which housed my most precious possessions--the books that BELONGED to me. I swore that one day I could own a huge library and cover the walls with the books I read. I would provide a safe place for the settings and characters who had befriended me through the pages.  

As time moved on and I grew up, my love affair with books grew more passionate. Perhaps it was the childhood memory of the characters I left on those shelves, but that feeling of some sense of betrayal at returning a book remained. Rationally, I knew it was a ridiculous and a wholly immature view of the world, but I still longed to be surrounded with the comfort with which those books had provided me. My first apartment was furnished on a shoe-string, but the thing I initially sought was a huge bookshelf. I adorned it with dad's tattered paperbacks and the Nancy Drew series from my childhood. From there, I searched garage sales and flea markets for other books I remembered having read as a child and added those. In college, I was loathe to sell back my textbooks, and instead made them a part of the collection. By the time I left college, I had acquired a plethora of books I couldn't possibly afford to move with me. At that same time, I went through a reverse-renaissance of sorts and tried to convince myself that I needed to minimize the clutter in my life. The books went into boxes and off to Goodwill--including those old paperbacks and the precious set of Nancy Drew mysteries. It wasn't until months later that I realized, with great horror, that I had parted with things that meant more to me than I could have ever realized at the time. My reversal of self had a devastating effect that left me feeling lonely, sad and ultimately depressed.

Eventually, I married (a couple of times in fact) and settled into my career as an English teacher. My longing to be surrounded by books resurfaced, though with it came a wholly limiting environ--no room for much beyond, again, a single bookshelf for myself. At school, I had the pleasure of being able to line my classroom with literature, but at home, with the empty spaces ever filling with "needed" things, the single bookshelf sufficed. When I finally had my own children, I showered them with books. My 13 year old now has a collection that rivals any Book Mobile in the country, and both my 18 and 21 year old boys are avid readers with somewhat smaller collections of their own.  

When I was first introduced to the Kindle, I rebelled. I wanted the feel of a book in my hands--I wanted to SMELL the pages. That quickly dissipated, however, shortly after I downloaded my first book. When I finished it, I purchased my second--then a third, fourth, etc. I realized that I was suddenly able to have the comfort of being again surrounded by familiarity while at the same time I now had no limitations as far as space! I looked back at the ten or so books I had read on my Kindle and felt, as others have said, RICH! I had the characters and stories with me. I could glance at the titles and remember being immersed in those worlds. It was liberating. I had the opportunity to create the library of my childhood dreams and finally make good on my promise to those characters I had abandoned on the shelves of that Book Mobile so many years ago.

And so, my Kindle carries on it every book I have read since it was purchased--a library that has been transferred from my K2i to my K3 to my Paperwhite to my Voyage. I buy them one at a time, read them voraciously, then allow them to assume their rightful place on the virtual shelf. I see them every time I open my Kindle, and I will often browse the pages, smiling as I recall the stories those titles hold. They haven't been relegated to collections or archives; they haven't been deleted or held in someone else's library--they are mine and stand at the ready to, at any given moment, again reveal to me the treasures within their covers.

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