I’ve always loved books from a very early age. My father, the reader of the house, had a large bookshelf just outside my bedroom door with a mix of books, from old children’s classics to the kind of books he liked to read himself, varying in genre from military history and pulp fiction to crime fiction. Oh the excitement of choosing a book from that shelf to read under the covers at bedtime.
I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
I remember too feeling very excited when I joined the adult section of our large town library aged eleven and started borrowing Sherlock Holmes, Maigret and Dorothy L Sayers books. Around that time I also developed a liking for the Whiteoaks of Jalna books saga by Mazo de la Roche. The librarians must have thought I was a very strange child.
In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.
My love of books continued throughout my life until I developed rheumatoid arthritis with swollen, painful fingers and started finding it difficult to hold printed books. Along came the Kindle, the ebook reading device from Amazon (other ereaders are available) I embraced the device like a drowning person. Here was the answer to my prayers. I could store hundreds of books and carry the device with me to read books wherever I went. The Kindle was lightweight and easy to hold. Any book I’d always wanted to read, was usually available to purchase and download within minutes.
I became quite evangelical about Kindles, telling everyone how wonderful they are, why everyone needed to have one and if not, why not.
The ‘real books are best’ brigade really annoyed me with their, what I thought, sanctimonious stance and constant repeating of how they loved “the smell feel and touch” of a real book. You don’t say! So did I, I assured them, gritting my teeth, but carried on singing the praises of a Kindle. I stopped going into bookshops, stopped browsing the shelves of the local library and charity shops. Packed away all my books and stopped having a bookshelf in the house. Other Half is only an occasional reader of books so he didn’t miss them at all – probably glad to have more space. I had my Kindle, so had no need for physical books any more. Needed to look something up? Google it. Much quicker than looking something up in a book.
Lately though, I’ve started looking in bookshops again. I’d forgotten the joy of finding an old book you’d always wanted to read but had forgotten about. Or browsing the titles, reading blurbs or just choosing a book because the cover appealed.
I still find holding books difficult, now my hands have worsened, but if a book I’ve bought is too difficult to hold and read, my Other Half bends the spines for me (yes I know that’s very upsetting for real book lovers and the puritanical, but only very new paperback books have stiff spines!) and I can find a way to balance a book somewhere while I read.
Or this one: Letters from the war area by sisters on active service 1944
A local charity shop sells four titles for a pound. Hardback or paperback and often very recent titles. Our local Waterstones is a good day out with a coffee shop and shelves and shelves of undiscovered books. Reading books with grandchildren who have already developed their own love of books is a joy.
Also, I’m having some really good books sent to me by post from publishers of new releases in exchange for an honest review. Absolutely love those. Here’s one that was sent recently and is my current read:
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books.
Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket, #1)