Wednesday, September 19, 2012



"One of the many things I love about bound books
is their sheer physicality.
Electronic books live out of sight and out of mind.
But printed books have body, presence.
Sure, sometimes they'll elude you by hiding in
improbable places; in a box of old picture frames, say,
or in the laundry basket, wrapped in a sweatshirt.
But at other times they'll confront you,
and you'll literally stumble over some tomes
you hadn't thought about in weeks or years.
I often seek electronic books
but they never come after me.
They may make me feel, but I can't feel them.
They are all soul with no flesh, no texture,
and no weight.
They can get in your head
but can't whack you upside it."

~ Will Schwalbe

Schwalbe's love of bound books reflects mine. In fact, I will not use a Kindle or Nook. We actually have a perfectly unused Nook that I bought for my husband at Christmas time two years ago. But for me, if it's not a bound book, it's not a "real" book.

I am sometimes frustrated by my bound books.  I know I have to weed them out but I am daunted by the task. The books overgrew my bookshelves years ago and a lot are stacked on the floor. Sometimes the stacks get knocked over and I have to stack them up again. Dust bunnies have a tendency to gather around them. And it's been way, way too long since I've dusted my bookshelves.

The cabinets underneath my bedside tables are full of books. My closet shelves are full of books. I am terribly frustrated that I cannot locate a certain book, especially Tasha Tudor's gardening book, no matter how many shelves and stacks I have looked through.

But I love the sight of my rows and rows of books. I love their dust jackets, which add so much color. When looking at them I can often remember the settings in which I read them. I remember the particular sensations that a particular book gave me.

I can look at my various bookshelves and detect geological-type "sedimentation" layers of reading history. The white metal bookshelf holds books I bought when I first joined my book club. It reflects the time when I fell in love with trade paperbacks and mostly turned my back on regular paperbacks.

In contrast, the built-in, dark wooden bookshelves in my dining room reflect a time when we moved into the house, when I was still reading Victoria Holt, Phyllis A. Whitney, Catherine Cookson, Daphne du Maurier (of course, "Rebecca" will always be a classic), Jean Auel and the like.

I like to put my nose in a new book and sniff the freshness of the pages. I have a friend who describes this experience as orgasmic, but I wouldn't go that far!

The quote at the top of this post comes from Will Schwalbe's new book, "The End of Your Life Book Club". I have read a lot of rave reviews about the book, which details the books he and his mother, noted humanitarian Mary Ann Schwalbe, read and then discussed while she was being treated for an advanced form of pancreatic cancer. Mary Ann knew she was dying and did pass away two years after her diagnosis. Hence, the title.
Several reviewers have said that the book has prompted them to go out and purchase many of the titles Schwalbe and his mother discussed. But as much as I want to read this book, with a husband having a diagnosis of Stage IV gastroesophageal cancer (currently in remission), I just can't bring it into the house. I certainly can't let Dan start thinking about which book will be the last one he ever reads.
It even freaks me out to think of the last book I will ever read. Will it be a junky beach read or a deeper tome which deserves to be the last book read in a person's life? I mean, I could be hit by a car today and the last book I would have read would be "The Book of Lost Fragrances: A Novel of Suspense" by M. J. Rose. It is, in fact, quite a good story, but it made me wonder - should I start reading only loftier books just in case my time is near??

Are there any books on your Book Bucket List that you've always meant to read but never got around to reading?


Kath said...

I'm like you, I love my books. No Kindle for me :-D
I hate having to weed them out, I rarely keep fiction, but sewing, crafts, gardening, history and dog/horse books tend to get taken down, browsed and put right back again!

WOL said...

My dream house has floor to ceiling book cases. Many of them. In every room. I've got to go through mine and start listing some of them to sell on Amazon. I am running out of what little space I have, and I am facing a major downsize in the forseeable future. Unlike you, I have a Kindle. I'm using it to weed through the books I read. If it's something I want to read again and again, I'll buy the real book, but so many of the books I read any more are only good enough for one read.

Rose H (UK) said...

You know a Kindle is not for me either, there's just NOTHING like a REAL book!
Weeding them out is a real problem for me too, there are books in almost every room, I'm often reading two at a time - one downstairs and another to drift off to sleep with...Often some are read again and again too.
Loftier books for me? Probably not, but I really should read classics like Jayne Eyre and others by Charles Dickens - though I probably won't!
Rose H

Lila Rostenberg said...

I don't use the electronic readers either! love the feel of the "real" book!
I see we will be reading Mary Stewart's "Touch Not the Cat" with Cornflower book club. I have it on reserve at our library.
I have LOVED reading the novels of Louise Penny...set in a small Quebec village. (see myn latesst post!)
Can't think of any that I have on my "bucket list"!

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

I am one that said - NEVER to nooks and kindles - until I got my first e-book on my e-pad (free kindle app from amazon). I love the feel of it - the ease of reading - the cute little case that keeps it safe when I travel. I adore it - and yes, I still have my favorite paper books on shelves - but it has been easier to read them on the e-pad (like an i-pad but bigger and does a LOT more for a lot less).

If I want to read a book over and over - it is stored right there - plus I can go to (almost every city is represented - you use your local libary card) and I can browse selections from my computer, make a wish list - request books and when they are available I can check them out for two weeks. If I request too many and don't get them read before they expire I can request them again and finish reading.

Plus if you don't know the meaning of a word you can tap it - and the definition appears at the bottom of the page. I was reading a paper book the other day and tapped a word - then laughed at myself when I realized that it wouldn't work on paper. LOL

Anyway you do it - reading is such a great activity - and there are tons of free books from kindle and other places - plus the anytime library - great sources. All classics are free, since their copyrights have expired - a good chance to reread with the heaviness of a paper book.

Enjoy your books - thans for the thoughtful post.