Right, so here’s a little confession: I’ve been having a really difficult time reading. It wasn’t something I was entirely conscious of — deep down, it wasn’t even anything I wanted to think about, though I’d sometimes glance at the growing stack of books on the coffee table and think, “Wow, why haven’t I started in on these treasures?”
For me, that’s crazy: my life has always been 70% books, 10% breathing, and 20% some-other-necessary-to-life act — like eating. But in the last year, I just haven’t read all that much. That didn’t stop me from buying books, but they sat there like broken promises.
There’s a side story to this. There used to be so many books in our small apartment that we began having trouble walking. I mean, it’s not like we had actual book tunnels, but we had a book fort — towers of books in deep layers pressed against the bookshelves — books underneath tables, books stacked along the walls, books in the kitchen (there are still books in the kitchen), books stacked against chairs — you get the idea. Books, everywhere. For book people, that should have been heaven, but we came back from a two month trip to Japan and couldn’t get our luggage into the living room without causing an actual avalanche that set off a chain reaction book slide that you don’t want to imagine, and that’s when we decided that something had to change.
In one week, we packed fifty boxes of books. Fifty. Cleared up the floor, finally saw the walls again, were able to move some chairs — we found ourselves with more square footage, certainly. And there were still plenty of books in the apartment. In fact, removing fifty boxes of books and taking them to storage only made the slightest of dents. But it was enough.
We also instituted a “one book in, one book out” rule.
That was difficult for me. I won’t lie. I had a moment when I felt emotionally weak, like a security blanket was being ripped away from me…and I thought, “Wow, what’s that about?” Books, being surrounded by books, buried by books, swallowed by books — words, paper, story — has always been a safe space for me. But there are other ways to feel safe, I realized, and I was finally able to let that go. More or less.
Still, the “one book in, one book out” rule has meant a more thoughtful approach to buying books (and going to the library). One book enters, another must leave. You find out real quick what your favorites are (and we’re cheating a little, because some of the books that “go” end up at the university office where there’s still a lot of shelf space).
But what does that have to do with not reading? Well, all this book drama aside, reading was making me tired. For the last year or so, I found that I could not sustain the energy needed to be in a book. Which, again, was REALLY strange and disturbing. That’s not me. I told myself I was distracted, had too much work on my plate, stress from launching Monstress — pfft, you get the drift.
Well, a week ago I was on Amazon and saw some recent romance novel releases that I was into — but getting the books would have meant shoving some out the door, and I honestly didn’t know what could go next.
Handily, there was also a link staring at me for a Kindle device . And I thought, “Okay, why not?” Years ago, I had a Kindle — years and years ago — and I used it for a while, but paper was better. And since then I’ve used the Kindle app on my phone, iPad, computer — but sometimes it would crash and staring at the screen for all the hours I like to read was headache-inducing.
But here was an updated Kindle with some interesting-sounding-technology, and better yet, the books wouldn’t take up any space. So I got the damned thing, it arrived two days later, I uploaded Sarah MacLean’s The Rogue Not Taken…
…and I read the book straight through in one day. Which hasn’t happened in a long, long time.
Now, The Rogue Not Taken just happens to be a very, very good historical romance. But I’ve read very, very good historical romances and still have had trouble finishing them because of this whole, “I’m tiiired” feeling that sweeps through me.
What I realized, however — as I was devouring this book on my Kindle — is that I’m getting old. Like, for real. That was my actual come-to-Jesus-moment. I realized, suddenly, that I was becoming all worn out and discouraged (poor me, the terrible effort) while reading physical books because (and here, I simply theorize) the print was too little, the light too poor, my weak feeble writer’s wrists were too frail to hold a tiny paperback…
…but on the Kindle, none of that was a problem. The print was comfortable, evenly spaced — light wasn’t an issue — the device was barely-there and fit in my hands. I more or less curled up around it, and never once felt distracted. I never had to squint. My arms, fingers, hands, didn’t start to ache. I read while blow-drying my hair (you can’t lose the page when you let go), I read while in bed (no need to turn on the side lamp), I read and read and read.
I felt like a new person, afterward. Amazing, how that happens, when one reads.
I didn’t particularly want to be a someone who reads on a device — I love holding a book, I love seeing books — I don’t feel as though a book is truly mine unless it’s a physical object in my hands. But man, I gotta read. And if this is the way I can finally bring that back into my life again, so be it. Because my head was getting pretty dusty and empty without the joy that books bring me. I just couldn’t enjoy them anymore. My body was distracting me from the mental space needed to be fully engaged and present in the story.
This, by the way, is not an actual endorsement of the Kindle — I have no interest in pushing anything. It’s just me, being very happy to discover that I haven’t been suffering from some terrible mental infirmity that was preventing me from enjoying books the way I used to. Apparently, I’m just not the spry young thing I used to be.
Of course, I still have a pile of physical books I need to read, but maybe I’ll just have to bite the bullet and put them on my device. I’ll worry about that later. For now, I have a Larry Brown novel to devour.