I was guest lecturing in The Cinnamon Girl’s Sociology class last week (speaking about The Portrayals of Women in American Comic Books) and I found myself – as I always do when I am in front of a captive audience – joking around. I teased the students about reading in the 21st Century, explaining to them what a “book” is and telling them they should try opening one for pleasure and fun sometime. Following the class, I was gently taken to task by two students who identified themselves as “life-long read readers.” They proceeded to tell me about all the books they were currently reading to make their point.
It was a fun exchange and made me realize two things: I love opportunities to talk about reading with kids and I, too, identify myself as a life-long reader.
When I was young, I would descend the stairs in my grandparents’ house, always careful to be sure the lights were on in the basement to ward off any ghosts or other scary things before I did. I would creep down through the hallway, past the telephone table and into the big room beyond. There were three or four large shelves packed with paperbacks in there and those shelves were what drew me to that recess of their house. They were both readers, Grandma and Grandpa, and they had hundreds of novels. I would switch on the light and scan their shelves, looking for something to catch my interest. From those shelves, I pulled and read Coma by Robin Cook and The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. I found The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy and Trinity by Leon Uris. I borrowed Centennial by James Michener and The World According to Garp by John Irving.
More than a few of these books made indelible and lasting impacts on me, especially my reading of The World According to Garp, and I know that I never thanked my grandparents for opening this world to me for who recognizes how important these moments in our lives are when we’re living them? I also don’t remember what happened to their collection when my grandmother moved out of her house years ago. I am sure it was not as vast a gathering of novels as I recall, but it was a fairly large one to be sure. I ought to have grabbed a couple paperbacks for myself.
There is a realization here. Though The Cinnamon Girl and I have many books in our home, we don’t have anywhere near the amount we used to. Because of this, our kids and grand kids (grand kids who will arrive YEARS AND YEARS from now) will not be able to see what we’ve read by walking along the shelves of the living room. They will not run their hands along the spines of the books or pull them down from the shelves. They won’t regard our home as an adjunct library.
And I think that’s a loss.
I love my Kindle app on my iPad. I love being able to read and night and not keep The Cinnamon Girl awake. I love being able to “shop” at any hour and download books in seconds to my device. The convenience is wonderful. I have also adjusted to feeding my weekly comic book addiction digitally though Comixology, an application owned by Amazon. I should be embarrassed to admit that I buy anywhere between 7-10 comic books a week. While one could have worse addictions, 7-10 physical comic books a week pile up. Literally. Having them on the iPad alleviates this issue.
I have embraced technology for my reading and, while I am a collector, I know that I cannot collect everything. The house isn’t that big and the desire to continue to collect may not be that healthy.
But I have come to realize that, while most of my shift to digital is positive, there is a significant drawback which I don’t really know how to address.
No one can walk through our living room and see everything we’ve read.
And yet, we still live in a reader’s house. Now we just talk with people more frequently about what we’re reading. That’s a plenty good thing, too.