I’ve been going back and forth over whether to get an iPad or a Kindle. I even polled my Twitter and Facebook friends. Pros and cons for both were offered with heartfelt enthusiasm. After carefully weighing my options, I’ve made a decision:
Books. Sticking with books.
1) Pages. Open a book that’s been sitting on your shelf for a while, and there’s no telling what you might find tucked inside: ticket stubs from the play you went to see with your mother on her 65th birthday, or petals from the bouquet your husband brought you the day after you told him you were pregnant. Maybe you’ll come across an inscription from someone who was once a stranger, and then a lover, and is now a fond memory. There is no happiness quite like that of wandering in a used bookstore, being seduced by that old paper smell, and finding treasures from other people’s lives secreted away between the covers.
2) Water. Many of my books are watermarked on the bottom, from where I accidentally dipped them into the tub while reading in the bath. I’m pretty sure either the Kindle/iPad or I wouldn’t survive bathing together. Also, I have some books that are swollen from when they got dropped in a pool or caught in an ocean wave. They smell like adventure, like the sea and sun.
3) Collecting. I have five copies of the red-cover Catcher in the Rye. They are among my few prized possessions. One digital copy on the Kindle/iPad can’t begin to compare with the beauty of them lined up, one next to the other.
4) Bookcases. Want to know who someone really is? Their dreams and passions, what they hold dear? Look at their bookcases. Holden Caulfield is sitting on mine, brooding and smoking. The March family is hanging out with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Multiple collections of Greek and Roman mythology stand next to the works of Shakespeare, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, along with a couple of translations of The Odyssey and The Iliad. A freaking lot of books about dogs — non-fiction accounts of living with dogs, a guide to dog breeds, training manuals. Some books of poems, dating back to my brief flirtation with wearing a beret and going to poetry readings. All my literary girlfriends are there — Jennifer Weiner, Ann Patchett and her best friend, Lucy Grealy (I always make sure to keep Ann and Lucy’s books next to each other), Lorrie Moore, Jane Smiley, my beloved Margaret Atwood, Susan Shapiro (who is brilliant, generous, and the world’s best writing teacher), Anne Lamott (whose Traveling Mercies convinced me I could be a writer). The kind of men who have always been my undoing hold court too — Michael Chabon, John Steinbeck, David Wroblewski, John Irving, soulful Wally Lamb. There are travel guides for places I’ve been and places I want to go. Several volumes about Buddhism. A few different guides to world religions, two copies of the bible (both annotated, from the classes where I studied them — The Bible as History, The Bible as Literature), books about the historical Jesus and Judaism for Dummies (just to cover all my bases). There’s also the illustrated Kama Sutra and a guide to sacred tantric sex (everything you’ve heard about us bookish girls is true). Try peering into someone’s heart and soul that way by glancing at their Kindle/iPad.
5) Ancillary uses. A book can prop open a window or keep a door from blowing shut. It can be a desk for a scribbling toddler, or an impromptu manicure station. You can use a book to even out a wobbly table, and a stack of them can be a table. A book can press flowers and preserve autumn leaves. It can shade your eyes from the sun, and you can safely rest your glass of wine on it during a picnic. No way you’d do any of that with your Kindle/iPad.
Don’t get me wrong, your Kindle is marvelous and your iPad is so revolutionary and magical it makes you 100% more sexually attractive. And if you have a Nook, well huzzah for you too, you adorable thing! But for me, with my well-worn leather backpack and sexy librarian specs, with my messy, romantic, chocolate-milk splattered and crayon-strewn life, there’s nothing quite so perfect as a book I can dog ear, fall asleep with, and hold in my hands.