You might say I’m a reader.
My current library account displays 18 checked out paperbooks, stories of love and loss and growth and change. They used to stack in two rivaling towers on my nightstand, each leaning into one another, miniature Pisas, ready to fall to the carpet at any moment. In the kitchen, cookbooks. In the office, books on design, typography, art, business, religion, social justice. In the car, memoirs. Ever always memoirs.
My former college roommate used to joke that wherever I went, I’d leave a book or two in my wake. Some roommates leave behind dirty dishes on the coffee table, wet towels on the bathroom floor, used tea bags on the kitchen counter. I left books. Dozens of them, splayed on any hard surface I could find.
And now, here I am, still unchanged.
On my last business trip, I tucked five paperbacks in my backpack and stuffed a hardcover memoir into my weekender. As I settle into 24D, the freshly shaven guy next to me peers at my tall stack of reading material.
Have you ever thought of getting one of those e-Readers? he asks.
I had thought of it.
But I’d thought I’d hate it.
I’d thought I would miss the dog-earing of the pages, the cracking of the spine, the smell of the paper, the passing around of the tattered copies, the great ritual that comes from walking into the library, the mecca, the best place in the world, to see my holds are ready and I get to take them home. Me?! Take the books home?! I still pinch myself when I think of it.
I thought I’d miss it all.
Yesterday, I’m in bed. Bee is napping and there’s work to be done, but the dogs are warm and the sun is out and just one more chapter, I think, then I’ll get up.
My Paperwhite tells me I have just six minutes left to read this chapter, and I think it a challenge – can you steal away for six more minutes?! – so I go for it. It’s a Vonnegut, after all. I could read a Vonnegut for hours.
And I do. I read and read and read, and I don’t miss the cracked spine like I thought I would. There’s a glare-free screen, and a built-in dictionary for the heady words, and a slew of Goodreads recommendations at the ready for when I’m in the mood for something lighter.
The businessman in 24E would be so proud.
I still have dozens of books scattered around the house. Just yesterday, I tripped over an old copy of Didion’s Where I Was From (a perfect volume/height for toe-stubbing, if you’re curious) on my way to the laundry room for clean socks.
But my nightstand doesn’t tower like it used to. And my airplane stack is non-existent, replaced with a tidy little screen that holds its charge for what feels like forever.
Most of the time, I fight change. When faced with the inevitable shifting tide, I use my energy to seize up, to clench my teeth, to furl my fist and hang on tight. To plant my feet firmer. To squeeze my eyes shut.
Sometimes I’ll build a wall to soften the blow. A nice, tidy tower of sand.
But every now and then, I’m able to embrace a small change, an easy ripple, a gentle drift. Every now and then, I don’t think of what I’ll miss – those deeply ingrained habits of my past like library trips and cracked spines and wrinkled pages.
Every now and then, I think of what I’ll gain.
A new perspective.
A better view.
A deeper story.
I once heard that your life will change – for better or worse – based on two things: the people you meet and the books you read.
But sometimes, if you happen to encounter a businessman in 24E, you get a twofer.
This is an essay for Amazon, one of my favorite brands, in celebration of the all-new Kindle Paperwhite. Thanks for reading!