When you are a child, little things make a big impression on you. One of the first things I can remember as a little girl was huge. My father was always surrounded by a great pile of books that seemed to reach all the way up the vine-covered wallpaper of our kitchen, to the ceiling, and higher. From my vantage point of maybe two and a half feet off the floor, the stack of books seemed to be if not an actual part of my father, one of the things about him that made his presence a wonderful place to be.
When he was growing up in the Great Depression, my dad's one luxury was the public library where, by the age of ten, he had devoured every offering in the little alcove that housed the children's books, and so he was granted special permission by the funereal library matrons to access the hallowed inner sanctum where adults could breach all the mysteries of the universe. He never lost his sense of wonder or gratitude that he was deemed worthy of this chance to penetrate the immortality that seemed to attach itself to the printed word.
And so I commenced a love affair with books before I could even heft one, let alone delve into its surely sacred contents. As I grew older, I loved the look, the feel and even the smell of books. I thought that the best end I could ever reach was to die in the midst of rafts of books lining the shelves of my own private library. Forget about husband, family or property; to me, to own an author's words was to own him, in a way. This, I thought, was the path to a true connection with eternity. Later on, of course, this took on a different meaning in the words of St. Mark's Gospel, where Jesus said: Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
So much faith, joy and knowledge at one's fingertips; a constant companion, always ready to teach, entertain or inspire. But in addition to these benefits, there is the very feel of a book, especially a heavy tome -- something like City of God by St. Augustine -- that imparts a particular sense of accomplishment to those valiant enough to breach its walls. Or a thin volume of poetry; its pages fanned by the smaller fingers of the hand; something that Hamlet might carry upon making an entrance. Life without these treasures would be unimaginable for me and for countless folks like me.
And so it was with trepidation that I read last week that Amazon.com announced that for the first time, sales of titles for its Kindle e-readers outpaced those of hardcover books. Now, I'm no luddite when it comes to the advance of technology, but I hope I'm not wrong in predicting that the surge in the sale of e-books is merely a fad and not a trend As we grow more and more into a technologically based society, we are losing touch with the sensible world around us. This push-button lifestyle brings us further and further away from simple pleasures; those that may be enjoyed even without electricity.
A few of my friends own Kindles and have pointed out some of their obvious advantages; primary among them the ability to be in possession of a limitless number of titles with a device weighing less than a pound. Pardon me, but I actually enjoy the bulk of books; the most difficult packing decisions for me are not those of clothes or makeup, but which books will be lugged by my husband in the over-sized suitcase that we call "the green monster." A Kindler will also tout this advantage in regards to summer reading at the beach, but it's my guess that they'll soon miss their favorite paperback when it comes to protecting the bridge of their nose as they lazily doze amidst the dunes.
As did my father when I was a little girl, I encourage children to read: read anything that catches their fancy and if Kindles are the only means to this end, then fine. But my suggestion to the young is to pick up a real book, love it, and reread it until its pages are yellow and dog-eared and then pass it on to someone else. Then none of you will have cause to pause when someone asks you that popular question: If you had three books to take with you should you ever be stranded on a deserted island, what would they be?
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