A couple of weeks ago I was sitting at a coffee shop reading when this young girl who I had seen many times before, asked me a question that I get quite often now. She wanted to know why I am always reading real books and not e-books on Kindle or Nook, or on my phone like she seems to always be doing when I’ve seen her at the shop.
I understand why she asks. For the last couple of years that I have been frequenting coffee shops I have not seen another person like myself who carries a book bag. I always have it with me in when I go to the coffee shops and I have never seen anyone else with one.
So I get. I understand why she would ask. And don’t get me wrong. I really wanted to tell her why. I really did.
I wanted to tell her that long ago in the futile college days of my life I had this one English professor who loved books. He simply adored the idea of books. I cannot right now for the life of me remember his name (it will come to me the moment I hit the publish button). He was a tall skinny man with wavy unkempt hair and mustache. He reminded me of a young Albert Einstein in his appearance. The class I took with some was a literature class that required reading about 10 books during the semester.
The entire first week of our class was an introduction to books. Not specific titles or authors, but just books. What they are and how you should read them. How they look and feel like and what it means to start the experience of reading one. He spent 5 class sessions showing us every part of a book and what it meant. Every nuance of a book was pointed out and examined and discussed. He had written a book or two himself and shared the experience (both good and bad) that came with being an author and what the relationship between author and reader means.
I thought he was full of crap.
For a couple of decades I thought he was full of crap. And then one day I didn’t. One day about 5 or 6 years ago I got it. All the things he said about the book and the book reading experience were real. Books were real and the reading experience was real and the experience of the reader and the author together was real. I had lost so much time not reading and I had to make up for it. And if I wanted to write I had to read as much as I could too.
So yeah, I wanted to tell her that is why now I carry a book bag. Yes, a book bag. A bag full of books. I have for the last couple of years. If I leave the house and not going some place very specific and immediately coming back I take the book bag with me. I have a book or too in the car, some in the bathroom, and a couple always lying on the arms of a couch or on the table. I never go to the doctor without a book in my hand for the waiting room.
But I also wanted to tell her also not to mistake me for someone who does not like technology. I have a Kindle and a Nook and I also have both apps on my phone. But I like real books. I like them because they are real. I can read them and feel them and write in them and see them evolve with the experience of being read. If you have never had a book long enough to experience that then you are missing out.
I wanted to tell her all of those things. But hey, I’m me. So when she asks, “Why the bag of books when you can carry that and more in my Kindle?”. I answered the only way I knew how.
“But where would I put my Pop-Tarts?”
And that made sense to her. As it should have, I guess. I do carry Pop-Tarts in my book bag. And Fig Newtons. Gum and other stuff. Pen and paper just in case I really want to take it old school, or the zombie apocolypse strikes. More pens than I could ever use. The monthly calendar of events from my fave library. Menues from my favorite coffee shops. A small fist aid kit (it’s rough world out there). My BOSE 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones just in case the place gets too loud or people like this girl want to talk to me. More notepads than I’ll ever use. A small knife (in case a small person attacks me). And of course books. Usually about 4 or 5 of them which I change out every 1 or 2 weeks.
But no I did not need to tell her anymore than I needed to carry my Pop-Tarts. But I think it was only because she was hungry. I shared my Pop-Tarts with her and we went our separate ways. Her into that little screen of hers and me into the wonderful copy of Out of Africa by Karen Blixen that I held in my hand. A gorgeous book I have owned for quite a while and read every now and then for the sake of the words.
I have discovered, and quite late in life, that I enjoy reading a good book. I don’t usually read the popular stuff that teens read. I like to read well written literature known for it’s great writing and compelling stories. I enjoy the good books. The ones that will be around long after much of the other nonsense is gone.
Maybe some day I will go the way of the Kindle and the Nook, but I don’t think that day is anytime soon. I am enjoying real books too much right now. And of course there is the question of the Pop-Tarts. I can’t just be running around without a proper way to carry them. That’s just wrong.