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Sunday, May 31, 2015

On Reading and Books and Choices

Jean Sexton muses:

I have been disturbed by some statistics that I've been made aware of. These show that most people don't read once educators don't require them to do so. To me that sounds so sad. To have the capability to read and to not use it for enjoyment is something I don't understand. 

Once I realized I could read books other than those assigned at school (early in first grade), I read voraciously. I read all my children's books. I read my mother's books from her childhood. I read everything I could check out of the library. I read books about Star Trek and found a list of science fiction authors. I was hooked! I read everything I could find and bought every science fiction book that showed up in my local grocery store (the primary source of books in my little hometown).

When I was in high school, one of my teachers introduced me to a company that sold books at a discount to students. I bought more books and discovered J.R.R. Tolkien and Roger Zelazny along with the great three SF writers: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert A. Heinlein. I had a hard time because my personal library was limited to a single bookcase.

When I got my first apartment, I filled it with cheap bookcases and put my books in double-faced (think of library bookcases). I didn't have much floor space after that! A friend helped me by building a couple of bookcases that were designed to hold paperbacks and I maxed them out. I had hit heaven -- my hometown had a bookstore! And there was the Science Fiction Book Club. I reserved some bookcases for those larger books. I discovered other genres and added those books as well.

When I moved out to a house, I added even more books. I had over 3,000 books, not counting sheet music. When it came time to plan to move to Texas, I had to make decisions. Did I want to move furniture, clothes, dishes, and other necessities of life, or did I want to move books? I had to give up something and it became books. Children's picture books went to the library so that many young ones would enjoy them through the years. If I could replace the entire series on Kindle, I put the books up for grabs. I whittled out about a thousand books.

When I got to Amarillo, I was pleased. I had two bookcases in my office which would hold my working collection of Star Fleet Universe reference books and various role-playing books I needed for reference. I had two bookcases that my grandfather made my mother and that she gave to me. I had a hutch that had been my original bookcase. I had a lawyer's bookcase that belonged to my grandmother. Surely everything would fit!

Nope! Not a chance! So I whittled down more books that could be replaced by Kindle books, no matter how expensive or if it left a series partially in paper and partially as ebooks. I said farewell to hundreds of  books -- and still more books languished in boxes. I bought a bedroom suite and included a bookcase, but that still wasn't enough. I bought a large bookcase with glassed-in doors. Finally my books would fit, albeit three deep on many of the shelves.

I love books. I love how they feel, how they smell, the feeling of satisfaction as I progress through them. I love my autographed books, knowing that I met the author and that the autograph is personalized for me. (Those are all in the lawyer's bookcase.) I love the places and times that books take me, the characters I meet, the things I learn. The latter set of qualities to me are the "essence" of the book. While I lose the tactile portion of the book when I read on my tablet, I still have the essence. The lit "book" gives me the feeling of illicitly reading with a flashlight under the covers of my bed. So I will be satisfied with my electronic books and continue to expand my library and my mind.

I do challenge you to read something for fun this year. Both Goodreads and LibraryThing have challenges for reading books should you feel compelled to keep track of your reading. Whether you track it or not, read!