We have books stashed in just about every room of our house, from the living room to the kitchen to the den, and there are even a few familiar titles in obscure places like the garage and the outdoor shed and in the basement. My wife and I are voracious readers and we've set up our house in a way that virtually ensures that any room that has a chair, couch, bed, or bench will also have an accompanying set of paperback novels or biographies. You know how some people have aspirin bottles in every bathroom or bedroom, so they won't have to go too far if the aspirin is needed? We're like that, but with books. You never know when you might have a few spare moments to yourself in a room, and it's nice to grab an old favorite and flip through the pages. You can always pull out your smartphone, of course, but that's never been as relaxing to me, or as pleasant.
My son bought me a Kindle a few Christmases ago, and it's a dazzling contraption to have--all those titles, available at your fingertips! I used it quite a lot when I first got it, and I discovered that it's really handy when you want to tackle long novels. I re-read "Anna Karenina" on the Kindle and it was kind of a relief not to worry about bonking myself in the face with the huge book if I started to drift off while reading in bed. (I still read like a kid when I'm in bed: holding the book above my head while lying flat on my back. More than once I've dropped a book on my nose while sleepily reading late at night.)
But you know, I've found that as convenient as the Kindle is, it's just a better experience to hold and read a physical book. I'm not sure why that is, maybe it's a tactile thing, the heft and weight of the book in your hands. Books are still an amazing invention, an invention that's remained useful and user-friendly throughout the centuries. They're portable and built-to-last; a paperback will always feel comfortable in my back pocket or in the inside lining of my suit coat.
And I re-read old books constantly, even when it makes me feel guilty that I'm not tackling that new critically-lauded novel or that one classic that I never got around to reading. But I can't help it; there's just something wonderful about picking up a book that you've read dozens of times before. You see the history of your relationship with the book, you see all those little folded-up triangles of page corners that you always creased for yourself because you never were responsible enough to keep a bookmark handy.
And re-reading a book numerous times throughout your life gives you a snapshot of how you change over the years. The book doesn't change, but you do. I remember reading "The Razor's Edge" by Somerset Maugham when I was twenty-one and it thrilled me with adventure. When I read it again, at thirty, it felt more like a comedy. Then, at forty, another re-reading made me think it was a tragedy instead. At fifty I thought it was a thrilling adventure again, and now, when I re-read it, it just makes me feel like I'm in the company of old friends.
Our kids picked up on our reading habits pretty quickly--what choice did they have? It was inevitable--kids like to imitate their parents, after all, so it's not too surprising that all our children became pretty accomplished readers themselves. And I'm happy to report that my grandkids have picked up on the family tradition as well. When the grandkids stay overnight, a lot of times we'll watch movies or some ballgames on television, but many nights are spent with everybody sprawled out in the living room, with each person flipping through their latest literary discoveries.
I even managed to get my granddaughter to put down her books about dreamy vampires and teenage wizards and read one of my favorite writers: Arthur Conan Doyle and his great Sherlock Holmes stories. She got hooked on those sleuthing tales immediately and read the entire lot of them. Then, when she was done, she asked me to recommend another writer, and I got her started on Edgar Allan Poe. It's just about the proudest I've ever felt as a granddad, successfully picking books for my teenage granddaughter to read and love. Now, she doesn't even need to ask, she just pokes through the many books in our house before choosing a great writer for herself. I'd like to take all the credit for helping her further her own personal reading education, but I know that's not accurate. It's in the blood, after all.
Until next time,