We used to hold them, like a woman might grip a ticket to Maui, or a man a winning lottery pick. We used to take them with us in our backpacks, our pockets, and our purses. We used to look forward to a few stolen moments between their pages, or a lazy afternoon lost in a remarkable story somewhere between the front cover of the book and the back.
They used to be the first thing we’d be sure we had with us when packing for a trip, or the last thing we’d buy before boarding a train, or a plane at the airport. We used to relish a coast-to-coast flight for the downtime it afforded us to shut out everything else but a good read. Books were always a very personal thing, organic in nature, from the mind of a writer, from the wood of a tree; pages that would, ultimately, reflect our handling of them. Some of us were respectfully careful with them, and some of us would handle a book like a father might wrestle with his son. Don’t beat the kid up, but don’t baby him too much either. Books would take on the collective nature of their readers. Every reader would leave his own imprint. It was part of what the book became. When finished, some books still looked unread, and some as if they’d been devoured by ravenous hands, curious eyes, inquisitive minds, insatiable imaginations.
But you could always find a good story, a well-thought-out philosophy, an indulgent autobiography, a clever twist of a mystery. You could re-live history from the point of view of a lone voice in a lonely room, a weathered recluse whose cramped fingers felt compelled to pound out his meager thoughts on an old Royal typewriter.
Books were written, and fashioned in stages.
They were read sometimes in one sitting.
They have theses places called Libraries where they collect books to loan to people who like to read. Think about it; being able to select anything you want from thousands, or hundreds of thousands of titles, depending on the size of the particular library. I don’t know for sure, but whoever thought of the first library could be the single most important, and benevolent, person in the history of civilization. The wisdom, the knowledge, the motivation, the inspiration that has been imparted to so many millions of people through his vision is not only immeasurable, but incomprehensible as well. I’d go as far as to say that it was the library that gave birth to the Internet.
Moving through the world, I get feeling pretty sad when I see that the upcoming generation, the Facebook generation, if you will, never seems to have a book in their hands. I see them waiting in places, filling time (more appropriately, ‘killing time’) with Blackberries, and IPhones, and Laptops and IPads. I see them texting, and researching directions, watching streaming video, playing internet games, and keeping in constant touch with ‘friends’. I see them Googling topics germane to the moment, but germane only to the moment. I see them accessing information, constantly, but I never see them reading. I never see them with a book. There are no stolen moments between the pages, there is no getting lost in a remarkable story, or enlightened by a people’s early history. History, for this generation, is being reduced to the accounting of their on-line searches, and the number of hits on their social networking pages.
I would guess it safe to say that very few of this generation would even know where the library is in their own hometown. I don’t think these young people are reading books on line, I’m fairly confident that they are just accessing information. Information. Information. And more Information.
I’ve read some great books along the way. Books these kids are missing out on.
‘The Catcher In The Rye’, ‘The Little Prince’, Thoreau’s ‘Walden’, ‘Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee’, ‘The Bible’, ‘Animal Farm’, ‘Moby Dick’, ‘The Sun Also Rises’, ‘Cannery Row’, ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, ‘Call Of The Wild’, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ ‘The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn’, ‘Don Quixote’, ‘Robinson Crusoe’, ‘Lord Of The Flies’, ‘Brave New World’, ‘A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man’, ‘Roots’, ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, ‘Siddhartha’, ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’, ‘1984’
And these are only a few of the classics. Include some of the more remarkable contemporary novels and there are just way too many to mention.
I still read books as often as I can. A mouse in the hand, or a thumb scan across a smart phone just doesn’t quite get it for me.
“Books. We used to hold them, like a woman might grip a ticket to Maui, or a man a winning lottery pick.”
You can call me old if you want.
I’m just saying, I don’t ever see anybody sitting, enjoying a good book anymore.