Blog posts about the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries and their author Rabbi Ilene Schneider

BOOKS VS. READING

I have noticed the monthly circulation figures for my local library have been declining for the past eighteen months or so. I bought a Kindle around eighteen months ago. Coincidence? Hmm . . .

A lot of people tell me they won’t buy an e-reader. They love books – the feel of them, the heft of them, the smell of them, the whole gestalt of them. I love books, too, as the eleven floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in our study, one in each boy’s bedroom, two in the second floor hallway, three in our bedroom, and one in the family room, plus the books piled on the floor on the study, on the bed-side tables in the bedroom, under the boys’ beds, on (and under) the family room table, and in all three bathrooms will attest. But I recently realized something important: it’s not books I love. It’s reading.

I bought the Kindle a few weeks before we left on a two-week trip to LA and Wisconsin (you can read about it further down on this site). I have a pathological fear of being stuck in an airport, or, worse, on a plane, with nothing to read. Needing to pack for what we had expected to be two entirely different weather conditions, our suitcases were just under the weight limit. Even one book would have tipped it over. And putting the dozen or so books I’d have needed for a two-week trip into my carry-on was just not practical, unless I had started pumping iron six months earlier. The Kindle was the answer to a reader’s prayers. Light weight. Easy to put in my purse. Holds the virtual equivalent of tons of books.

My biggest problem with the Kindle is its ease of use. Or, rather, its ease of downloading books. I have to remind myself not to buy a book unless I would buy it in hard copy; if it’s a book I would normally borrow from the library, I should still borrow it from the library. I haven’t listened to myself.

I’ve always loved to read. Anything. Anywhere. Any time. I remember being thoroughly bored on some car trip or other with my parents when I was quite young. I had nothing to read. So I picked up the telephone book (remember those?) on the floor of the back seat of the car (I’ve no idea why it was there) and read it.

I never minded being sent to my room. To me, it wasn’t punishment, because it meant I could read. It’s not that I couldn’t have gone to my room and read without misbehaving first, but chances are I would have been watching TV or talking to my friends on the phone instead. I wonder sometimes if the need to read overcame my common sense when it came to doing things like talking back. I never told my mother the punishments didn’t work.

What is it about reading that I love so much? I could go into a whole psychoanalytic mode and talk about being a lonely only child and finding companionship in books, except I always seemed to understand that being alone did not equal being lonely.

There’s something about a book that transports me, not just into a world of imagination (cue song from “Willy Wonka” – the Gene Wilder version), but into other people’s lives. Call it curiosity, call it escapism, call it laziness. I call it heaven.

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3 Comments

  1. jennymilch said,

    January 18, 2012 at 6:59 pm  · Edit

    I agree that it’s about reading, it’s about story–but I have to say, I really love the smell, look, weight, and feel of a book :)  I also love the whole bookstore experience. For me they are a part of that heaven you describe. I’m glad for the many readers who find their joy with e readers as well, though. The more people reading, the better, right?

  2. Mary Ellen Jankosky Hill said,

    January 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm  · Edit

    Ilene, do you ever re-read the books you have at home?

    • Rabbi Ilene Schneider said,

      January 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm  · Edit

      Not too often, which is why I really should clear out some of the bookcases before the next “gently read” book sale at the library.

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Comments on: "BOOKS VS. READING" (18)

  1. My mom used to take away my library card to punish me for not cleaning my room. Now, NOBODY gets to stop me from reading–I’ve even found a way to do it for a living!

    While I haven’t gotten a Kindle yet, I can see it happening somewhere down the line. But, the pleasure of holding a book in bed with a cup of tea nearby to end a busy day is heaven to me. I start the day the same way.

    I have no idea what people who don’t read do to escape.

    • She took away your library card?! I can’t imagine a worse punishment. You must have been a very well behaved little girl.

      How do non-readers escape? Video games, Facebook, computer surfing, TV. What did they do before the technology age? Um, sleep?

  2. I share your fear of being in an airplane with no book. It has happened to me on only rare occasions, and it has always been traumatic. How many times can you read Sky Mall? And I really have no interest in the in-flight magazine because I’m not at all curious about the best steakhouse in Duluth. But I’m still not sold on a Kindle. A quiet joy of travel is leaving a book behind on a shelf somewhere for the next reader, or finding one left behind for me. And you can’t get that with a Kindle.

    William Doonan
    http://www.themummiesofblogspace9.com

    • With airlines charging more and more for luggage, even for carry-on, the convenience of the e-readers outweighs (so to speak) the joy of sharing books. I have to admit, I’m addicted now.

  3. I, also, call reading “heaven.” I remember a friend teasing me once and saying, “Lock you in a room with a good book and you’re happy.” She was right.
    As to the Kindle thing, well, I do see its value when it comes to taking something to read on vacation but, to be honest, I prefer the feel of a book in my hands.
    I’m thrilled because, in just a couple of months, I’m going to be able to hold my own novel, “Mixed Messages,” in my hands. For me, that’s got to be the highest high there is!

  4. I read eBooks on my iPad. The Kindle went on the shelf once I got that iPad. I do like holding a book in my hand – I’m older than a lot of readers now and may not be typical. The eBook has some advantages for research – it’s entirely searchable – word or phrase – which saves a lot of thumbing through.

    I’m watching book stores fail. Amazon is so easy it’s almost criminal. Have to remind myself to visit the independent store in town. Might do that this afternoon.

    I heart your blog

    Dac

    • Thank you.

      It is a shame that bookstores are closing. I would have thought Border’s was “too big to fall,” but obviously not. I wrote both my books at my local Borders and have yet to find another spot. The B&N near us has no wall plugs, so I’m limited by my laptop’s battery. And Starbucks just doesn’t have the same ambience. An independent bookseller/cafe would be ideal, but the only ones I know of are a bit too far to drive to when the creative urge hits.

  5. Hi Ilene,

    Being a frugal Scot, I’m with you on being reluctant to buy and download books when they’re free at the library. But here in Vancouver, we can download ebooks to borrow for three weeks. Are you able to do that? Then you would have the best of both worlds.

    Melanie Jackson

    • Our library has the same program, but there are usually only a very few of each title available, and a long waiting list.

      I like library books for my bedside reading. I’m afraid I’ll lose the book if I take it out with me, and I don’t usually take my kindle upstairs (or I’ll forget to put it back in my bag in the morning!).

      I bought my older son the boxed set of Game of Thrones and he passes on each volume to me as he finishes it. That’s my current bedside reading. (Just finished volume 2, waiting for him to bring me volume 3. At 1200 words, the book will take a while for me to get through.)

  6. Ah, you’re a woman after my own heart. Some people just don’t “get” why I’ve always read so much, but they truly have no idea what they’re missing. Give me a good book, a glass of iced tea and some chocolate and, yes, it is heaven. Great blog!

  7. Carole Avila said:

    Ilene,

    I also have lackabookphobia and cling to books like my grandson does his pacifier. I feel like a sappy teen when I read a good part and clutch the open pages to my chest to take a breath before I find out if they kiss, he dies for his country, she saves the town from the evil sheriff, or the killer is someone else.

    If I had the money for a Kindle, I’d buy one, but thanks to the economy, that’s not possible yet that allows me to continue happily embracing books, whether they’re gifts or borrowed from friends or the library.

    I have yet to see what a Kindle feels like after a line that takes my breath away! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Carole
    Posse Member

  8. (I replied earlier, but it seems to have vanished. Apologies if I comment twice!)

    I consider my NOOK a great back-up and convenient in some cases, but 98% of my reading is still from print books by choice. I just wish I had more time for reading from either. Currently up to my pipical with work related to living the busy life of an author.

    Iilene, I look forward to the next Rabbi Cohen story!

    In answer to another comment. I do re-read books I enjoyed the first time, and I often put the date read inside the front page of books I own. Those by Agatha Christie are the most often re-read. II’ve learned that, by a few years down the road, I have forgotten many of the main plot features! (But this enjoyable re-reading means I have shelves crammed with saved books! HELP!)

    • I think your other reply went to the rabbiavivacohenmysteries site. I know I got it as an email. The other site is still active; I just won’t be posting to it. Eventually, I’ll transfer all the material there to this site, but it will be a time-consuming, tedious process.

      I understand what you mean about finding the time to read. Consider it research; then you won’t feel guilty.

  9. Okay, don’t laugh, but I used to watch Buffy the Vamprie Slayer and one episode had the librarian commenting on why he doesn’t like all the computersto do research. “Because they don’t smell.” Books have a smell to them. I dont’ mind eReaders and I’m glad people have them so they can buy my books, uh, so they can buy eBooks, but I’ll always enjoy the feel and the smell of a tangible book.

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