I haven’t been to the library in three years. The last time I went was to print a picture out for my manuscript. I didn’t even check out any books as I don’t have a library card. In fact, I haven’t checked out books since I left Germany some five years ago and the thought saddens me.
Reading has held a certain type of magic for me ever since I unlocked its secrets, secrets I had to earn for myself. I remember walking into the library and feeling what I imagine some folks feel when they walk into a church. There was a spiritual connection there as I entered these halls of knowledge. While the New Haven public or the Yale University libraries are by no means small, they might as well have been towering cathedrals to me for surely I had entered some semblance of the Sistine Chapel. I remember smelling the essence of books and fantasizing myself hunched over some ancient text like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft.
These experiences live in memory, probably never to be replicated again because convenience is king when you are an adult. When I first came back home, one of the things I was most excited about was reclaiming the many books I had left behind. However, the truth is that I had outgrown most of those books and so the number of books that actually line my shelves is much smaller than the number I had imagined.
Most of my collection is digital because of flexibility and convenience. I can access those books through my E-Reader, my phone, or my laptop. I share a digital library with my father, vastly expanding my already impressive collection. I bought a case for my E-reader that makes it look like an antique book. It sits on my shelf among the assembled paperbacks and hardcovers, at once a great pretender and mimic, yet it is this false “tome” that is most often pulled from the rank and file. I can highlight passages and mark locations without destroying my book. With a swipe or a touch of the screen, I can bring any of those up. There has been so much gained with the rise of digital media, but I can’t help but feel all the poorer for it sometimes.
When I make the rare trip to my local bookstore, I get an ounce of the feelings I had as a kid. The smell of paper is reinvigorating, the sound of pages turning is soul cleansing, the texture of a page is the reassuring touch of an old friend, and gathered around is a community of people who feel the same way as I do, to various degrees. It brings a measure of joy to see the written word still being enjoyed in this manner, despite the obvious temptations of convenience.
How do you guys prefer to do your reading? Sound off in the comments below.