I am 23 years old. I have (very active) Facebook and Twitter accounts. I use a computer for most of my research. My cell phone searches out Wi-Fi spots almost as much as I do. Most of my generation would feel lost without the technology we have grown up with and become accustomed to.
So, for two days last week, when someone cut a fiber optics line and crashed the area’s internet, there was an uproar. People took to their phones, their 4G cards and their iPads to post on internet message boards about how weird it was to not be connected. The outage even made it onto the evening news.
I will admit it: I got home, opened my laptop, found there was no connection that would allow me to surf my normal before-bed fodder, and sat confused for a minute as to what to do with myself.
Then, I pulled out a book.
When I woke up in the morning with a book on my lap, 200 pages into a story I couldn’t put down until my brain literally forced itself to go to sleep, something occurred to me. The publishing industry has been taking steps toward modernizing and making books “more accessible,” but when did they become hard to access?
When did carrying around an extra tenth of a pound become a burden? When did the new-book smell go out of style? When did the classics become converted to PDF form so people, hopefully, had time to read them?
I’ve been reading all of my life. Yes, it started with stories read to me in bed. Yes, it branched out to popular fiction. But, the books I read are proudly part of my personality.
On my shelf at home sit the political non-fictions from both right and left that shaped some of my core beliefs. There are trashy romance novels that I read through in hours just to stop my brain from making lists and the classics that made me realize I wanted to be a writer.
Those are all next to the biographies, the chronicles of sports miracles and the anthologies of award-winning news stories. On the shelf above it are the fact books and encyclopedias of history.
Every time I used to pull out some random information, or blurt out the average height and weight of a male chimpanzee, my mother used to shrug and say something like, “Well, she knows a little about a lot.” Books did that for me.
Books are what made me able to write about a myriad of different topics and have a basis for argument on most of today’s news. Last year, I converted to an E-reader but only because my shelf space was becoming sparse. Every single day I set aside time to read.
It is true that most of the great books, and even some of the bad ones, are made into movies. But did the adaptation of “The Soloist” explain, how Steve Lopez does in text, that becoming emotionally involved in your stories and with your audience is a must? You know Noah is sad about losing his love in “The Notebook,” but do you feel that sadness down to your bones as you read ever jarring detail word for word of his depression?
Even one of publishing’s latest big-screen releases, “The Whistleblower,” is drawn from facts and events in a book but is also shuffled around for entertainment purposes. Don’t worry, you still get the gist that the United Nations was involved in a sex-trafficking scandal, even if you don’t get some of the major details.
There is something to be said of the lessons books teach us. They cover time and space so completely. Our nation, in fact, most of our ideology and world history is based on books. So why put them down now? Why abandon them for back-lit, for-your-convenience Google searches and YouTube video clips?
Not every book is life-altering. Not every author can open your eyes to reality or transport you to fantasy. Nothing is a guaranteed classic, but there is always that chance. And that chance is what keeps me hooked.