Picky Judy's Picks: Books, books, books
Something has been missing in my life: books. The old-fashioned printed kind, I mean, with paper pages. The kinds of books I can carry to the beach and shake the sand out of, that dry out after I spill coffee on them; books with corners I can dog-ear; books that hit the floor without breaking.
Electronic reading has opened a whole world of information and instant fiction. It’s almost dazzling, the speed with which a book can be pulled down from the ozone, but somehow, I feel pressured to read that material at the same speed with which it was downloaded. I have found that I don’t relax and read on an electronic device like I do with an old-fashioned book.
Printed books have been an important part of my life since I first figured out how to form letters form into words on pages. As soon as I got past Dick and Jane, I read everything I could in the children’s room of the Bridgeport Public Library. By fourth or fifth grade, I was following my older brother into the high school room to take out better books. It was probably my brother, so tolerant of that bratty little girl tagging behind him, who taught me to read. We had no television in our house, and reading was our escape hatch from whatever adult chaos erupted there. Subsequently, we have both spent our lives with our heads in books.
My first job was in the Bridgeport Public Library shelving books after school for $.60 an hour. I spent my breaks, and probably longer, hidden away in the stacks reading all the books I knew I couldn’t bring home, like “Lady Chatterly’s Lover.” I skimmed that one to the tunes of the Spanish cha-cha music floating in the windows from the tenements behind the library, where the Puerto Ricans migrating up to the factories of the North were then living. It was my first racy reading.
Though I’ve been training myself to accept e-books, I miss the heft of a novel in my hands and am drawn to the Island Bound Bookstore to browse and buy a real book at regular intervals. This week, I stopped in at Beth’s Books also and went home from there carrying a used book in my hand.
Browsing the e-book stores cannot measure up to standing in front of a bookcase, reading the titles on a three dimensional shelf, choosing one and opening it up to thumb through it leisurely. I like chatting with the owners, like Beth Gaffett or Cindy Lasser, who are often on their premises. It’s fun to find out what they are reading and what they recommend. Their conversation is a world away from the pushy suggestions of the e-stores telling me that other people who liked such and such also liked x, y and z. Just who are these “other people?” I always wonder, just why should I care what they read? But I do know Cindy and Beth, and I do care about their suggestions.
Mine is probably the last generation who will find comfort in the printed page. My own son, soon to turn 25, sat down at my computer when he was 4, and reads everything electronically. He does not share with me the joy of folding back the pages of the morning newspaper at the breakfast table, a joy I engage in at lunchtime on Block Island by the way. The trite but on-the-mark phrase “it’s a real page-turner,” will be replaced, perhaps with the spineless “it’s a button pusher.”
This weekend, my brother visited here, and, I am happy to report, that he too still has his head in books, literally, that is. It was with great pleasure that I watched him fall asleep on my living room couch while reading, the open book propped against his chin and his chest. When he woke up, he commented that at least he didn’t have to worry if it slid to the floor, an event which would have provoked anxiety had it been a breakable e-book reader.
I hope our island bookstores never disappear. Apparently the publishers and middlemen are about to give independent booksellers a little help with that. According to Lasser, she is now able to sell her customers Google e-books for their desktop, laptop, tablet, iPad, iPhone, Droid, Nook, Sony Reader or any other dedicated reading device (except Kindle). Simply go to her website at www.islandboundbookstore.com and click on the e-book menu item.