I love books. No really, everything about them. The entire tactile experience of them — the feel of the paper, the sound of the pages as they turn, the smell of a new book, the smell of a used book (well, okay, sometimes I don’t love the smell of a used book) — is something I treasure, and I find that whenever I have spent too much time staring at pixels, there’s nothing like reading a book to bring me back to loving words again. I’m terrible to my books, though. Or at least I’ve been told that I’m terrible to them, because I underline things and scribble notes all over the margins and read them over and over again until the spine gives up and starts spitting out pages. Something like this:
This is my copy of Adrienne Rich’s collection of poetry, The Fact of a Doorframe, which I’ve had since I was 19 or so, and it’s probably the most-used book in my collection. For me at least, there’s always something to be found in that book of poems, and I turn to it often, just because I know that I can count on it for some good reading, even though now I have to mind the pages and be very careful so as not to have the entire thing fall apart.
But there’s something about reading for pleasure, something that goes beyond the tactile experience, something as intangible as a feeling. Like falling in love, or getting champagne bubbles up your nose, or kissing that cute someone for the very first time, there’s a feeling that goes along with reading something great that is just indescribably good. Of course, if you’ve read something and truly loved it, then what I’m writing isn’t news, but it’s something that doesn’t get talked about much. From books whose endings are so insanely perfect that I’m left reading the last sentence or paragraph 10 or 15 times before letting go (Immortality by Milan Kundera and On the Road by Jack Kerouac come to mind) to openings so amazing that there’s nothing to do but be excited about the book in your hands (like, say, the opening of Lolita), reading for pleasure is just that: a pleasure.
In a world overrun with information, from blogs to news to RSS feeds to e-mail, blogs about books, blogs about news, even probably blogs about RSS feeds and e-mail, it’s pretty easy to spend all day reading, but — and maybe this is just me — it’s pretty easy not to enjoy any of this constant bombardment of words. Yet even though the really good books are often neither quick nor easy, they’re definitely worth the effort. Like love, I suppose.
I do love books. Don’t you?