Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Take a Look, It's in a Book

I don't remember learning to read. Maybe most people don't; I don't know. I do know that I could read before I was in kindergarten and possibly before I was in nursery school. No one taught me, per say. My mother tells me that one day we were in the car and I read the signage on a passing truck and she had a moment of: "Okay. The toddler can read. Interesting."

I often say that I love to read, but that doesn't really convey what I mean. Reading is necessary to me the way breathing is necessary. If you told me that reading was incredibly hazardous to my health and could result in death (and I'd like to point out that in some societies, it IS) -- I would be forced to take my chances. If I had to choose between food and books, I would choose books.

I think of libraries as sacred spaces, and still remember my card number from the library in my hometown. (It was 42 ... hey, it was a small town). I remember the way the light would shine through the windows in the back room, and the way the leather bindings would feel, warm in the afternoon sun. Going to the library -- or a bookstore -- still has the capacity to make me incredibly happy.

As a result, I was suspicious of e-readers. Because they weren't, you know, books. I'm already tied to a zillion gadgets -- I certainly didn't think I needed ANOTHER gadget. Ridiculous. Plus, I like the way a book FEELS in my hands. I like the weight of it. I like the act of turning the page, the feel of the paper, the smell of the print. An e-reader would have none of those.

The problem, however, has been this:  I don't go ANYWHERE without a book. Ever. I usually have a paperback tucked into my purse. I have a book in my bathroom at all times, one in my bedroom, one in the living room. There is often a book or two in my trunk. I'm like Pigpen in the old Charlie Brown cartoons, but instead of being surrounded by clouds of dust, I'm followed by a storm of words and bindings.

Also? I read quickly. How quickly? I can finish a novel on a 4 hour flight. So if I'm travelling, I need to bring several books, and will usually need to buy another one (or two) in the airport on the way back. This makes my carry-on super heavy and also, awkwardly stuffed full.

I have a couple of trips coming up -- some shortish flights, and potentially one longish flight. At least two of the trips also involve bus rides to the airport that will be about seventy-five minutes.

Obviously, I will need to read on those trips; also obviously, I needed to reconcile my desire to pack light with my need to shovel the written word down the hungry gullet of my reader's brain.

So I caved and ordered a Kindle. Lightweight. No glare. Big old Kindle store on Amazon. Slides nicely into carry-on. No worries, right?


The Kindle came and I went to the Kindle store to cruise around. I thought, I know, I'll get Middlemarch because I love that book and I haven't read it in a couple of years as my copy got lost in a move.

And that's when I discovered something so miraculous, so GLORIOUS, that I nearly wept with joy:

Amazon offers MANY literary classics for the Kindle FOR FREE.*

FOR FREE!!!!!!!

This discovery? Better than Christmas. Better than winning the lottery. This is a goofy analogy, but it was sort of like coming in from a cold night and finding a blazing fire in the fireplace, a hot toddy, and a warm cozy blanket to snuggle under. I may have heard the angels sing hallelujah.

So what's currently on my Kindle?
Middlemarch George Eliot
Little Women Louisa May Alcott
Anthem Ayn Rand
The Jungle Upton Sinclair
Walden Henry David Thoreau
Moby Dick Herman Melville
The Beautiful and Damned F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tales of the Jazz Age F Scott Fitzgerald
This Side of Paradise F Scott Fitzgerald
A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett
Mansfield Park Jane Austen
Lady Susan Jane Austen
Love and Friendship Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen
Persuasion Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey Jane Austen
Emma Jane Austen

The opportunity to read -- and re-read -- some of these books is so exciting. The fact that Amazon doesn't charge for them? Amazing.

* You probably already know this, but in case you don't?You don't ACTUALLY need a Kindle to access it. You can actually just download a Kindle App to your iphone or laptop or whatnot. And then -- you too can have zillions of hours of reading enjoyment. Whee!

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