There is something physically satisfying to me about a real book—the way the separate elements of ink, paper and binding conspire to envelop me in their shared story and the contents within. And while I love my e-books, too, nothing elicits the same feeling as holding a volume in my hands, turning the pages and allowing myself to travel to another place and time, all the while ensconced with a cup of coffee in my comfy chair.
Sometimes, the journey is a difficult one. I love history, majored in it in college, still read incessantly. While history abounds with noble moments, it is also fraught with unimaginable horrors. Back in my university days, I wrote a lot of papers. For my research in one of my many Russian history courses, I chose one of history’s most perverse autocrats. I vividly recall recoiling with revulsion at the enumeration of tortures perpetrated on his subjects, including his closest confidants and friends, of Ива́н Васи́льевич, otherwise known in the annals of history as Ivan IV Vasilyevich, or Ivan the Terrible, Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547 and Tsar of All the Russias from 1547 until his death in 1584. Repulsed as I was, I was fascinated by the story as I read his biographies, racing through the pages of each, until I realized that I was nearly done and wishing I were a slower reader.
Across the street, a neighbor built a little free library. I’ve perused the selections, added a book here and there, have watched through my front window the many dog walkers who stop to peek, sometimes approaching with purpose as they deposit or take a volume. People are still reading books. For some odd reason, this makes me feel better about the overflowing shelves in the guest room, where the books far outnumber the spaces available to keep them and show no inclination to leave.