Confessions of a 21st century bookworm

I have a few ground rules regarding books:

  1. If possible, all books I own in a series must match. That’s why I didn’t own all of Steig Larsson’s Milennium series until just recently; I couldn’t find The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest in the same edition as my other two.
  2. Cracking the spine is not allowed unless it’s a well-loved book and the page I’m on contains such wonderful language that I know I’ll want to go back to it. In which case, crack away.
  3. The only way to buy a Stephen King book is from a used bookstore. The more dog-ears and yellowed pages, the better.
  4. Never, NEVER buy books with the movie poster as the cover.

Most importantly, the best books are the ones that physically exist.

There’s something about the smell dust, ink and adventure that meets the nose when fingers open a book. Whether they’re fresh off the presses or a sitting on a library shelf since 1985, all books have the same basic scent with small variations of musk and age.

As an avid reader, the smell is like a perfume, and I’m convinced that Chanel or Calvin Klein or Gucci or whoever would profit enormously if they made a perfume and cologne that smelled like the pages of a book. Brad Pitt could do the ads, and SNL and Conan O’Brien could spoof it.

PittPerfume
“It’s not a book. Every book ends, but we go on. The pages turn, and we turn with them. Plans, characters and plots take over. But wherever I go, there it is. My adventure, my romance, my mystery. Dewey N°823.914 R797. Literature.” (And yes, that is a word-for-word spoof on the original commercial. Also, 823.914 R797 is the Dewey catalogue number for Harry Potter.)

Because I’m sure someone somewhere is going to tell me that I’m “just like Rory Gilmore,” I’ll save you the time. First, you’re not the first person to say that, so 0 points for creativity. Second, you’re right. For those unaware of Rory Gilmore’s (or my) reading habits, this montage can fill you in:

Which makes me wonder in my best Carrie Bradshaw voice-over: “If Gilmore Girls had continued, would Rory have owned an e-reader?”

As we’ve moved into the digital age, we’ve moved on from the bliss of cracking a spine or lining walls with the trophies of our tome-ventures. Today Amazon announced the introduction of the Kindle Paperwhite, they’re attempt to sooth the page-sick e-reader owner’s woes. Meanwhile, my sister has a Kindle, and while it has drastically increased how much she reads (yay!), I can’t help but look at her single bookshelf and feel sorry for how few physical books fill it. It’s like a reverse housing crisis: all of these bookshelves are being built, but there are no books to live on them.

I feel like this scene in Beauty and the Beast would be far less climactic if Beast just handed Belle a Kindle Fire.
I feel like this scene in Beauty and the Beast would be far less climactic if Beast just handed Belle a Kindle Fire.

There are definitely pro-digital reader arguments that are valid; Kindles and Nooks are far easier to carry around (have you ever tried toting Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth in your bag?) and downloading books saves both money and trees. But I get this feeling that a tree is far happier dying to become a reprint of Dracula than being pressed into a cardboard box to hold an iPad. I’ll nod to the consumer price issue — after a recent trip to the local Barnes & Noble I did some calculation and realized I’d have to make a hell of a lot each year to pay for my literature addiction. It’s like I’m a smoker paying $15 for each pack of cigarettes, but instead of killing my lungs with carcinogens, I’m growing my brain with stories.

*Instead of a “smoker’s lung versus healthy lung” graphic, they should create a “non-reader’s brain versus reader’s brain” poster. I’ll volunteer as a model.

As much as readers in 2013 seem to be missing out on the magic of holding physical books in their hands, there’s one fantastic update to the literature culture thanks to the Internet. No longer are we left to walk the endless shelves at the library or bookstore, hoping to find our next read; now, we can go to a single site that knows our book tastes better than our own library check-out records.

I’m referring to Goodreads.com.

My friend Hannah kept telling me to join, and I finally did. I’ve found that it’s more addictive than Facebook and Twitter combined. Readers can log which books they’ve read, what books they’re reading and what books they want to read — and, because we’re in a digital age of sharing everything, they can see what their lit-hungry friends have been devouring, too. It’s like Netflix for books; there’s a whole page of suggestions based on ratings you’ve given as well as links straight to Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com so you can load up.

My “To Read” list is 27 titles long as of right now, and still growing. To somewhat quote Jaws, “I’m going to need a bigger bookcase.”

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4 Comments

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  1. Definitely in agreement about specifically number 1 and 4 on your list… Same reason I have refused, so far, to read “The Host”. *shivers*

  2. Megan Stroup won me to both my Kindle and Goodreads. This reader will embrace technologies changes, although I still have 9 physical copies of books checked out from the university library right now.

  3. “Most importantly, the best books are the ones that physically exist.”
    I couldn’t agree with you more! I have a kindle, but I will often buy the physical book of a title that I really enjoyed via eBook. I just wrote a post about that very thing earlier this week! Here is the link if you’re interested in my take on it:

    http://bookmammalmusings.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/musing-mondays-when-the-ebook-version-just-isnt-enough/

    I’m also with you on the “cracking the spine” thing. :-)

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