Last fall we decided to redo the basement, ripping out the 1970s era paneling and getting rid of the funky, and paper-thin, indoor/outdoor carpet. We wanted a space for games and hanging out and the sewing I still occassionally do. Now, the walls are a sunny yellow trimmed with white, and the space is completely transformed.
We’re starting to move back into it, so I’ve been unpacking my books. This is always the first thing I do when I move into a new place: unpack the books. Even though they’ve only been in storage for six months, I’m greeting them like old friends I haven’t seen in awhile. And so they are: I’ve had many of these books since my early days of college, and they’ve all survived the various moves and also the shelf-weeding which I’ve done (always reluctantly) over the years. All of them evoke memories, of the places I lived, the people I knew, the quality of light on the day I read them, the discoveries I made within their covers.
They are e-books, too, but the “e” doesn’t stand for electronic. It stands for emotion.
I have an ipad and my husband has a kindle and I’ve read books on both, but it’s a completely different experience. I like e-books for traveling, but I can’t imagine I’ll ever have the same kind of emotional connection with an e-reader that I do with my books. I like being able to hold books, and glance back at the cover when I reach a place where I need to pause and contemplate. I like knowing where I am in the text. I like the feel of the pages.
And I like book stores. Earlier this year, on the US book tour for The Lake of Dreams, I did reading at Powell’s Books in Portland Oregon, a fantastic store that takes up a whole city block. I stopped by earlier in the day to browse, and I ended up buying two books I didn’t even have in mind when I entered the store, an anthology of essays edited by Mary Oliver, and a Kate Atkinson novel. In both cases, I didn’t even know about the books I bought until I saw them on the shelves during the hours I spent happily wandering amid the stacks. There were a dozen other books like this, which I would have bought if the suitcase had more room–books I’d never have found online.