On any tube journey I probably see at least one person reading a book I have read, Harry Potter still proves to be very popular, occasionally I see someone reading one of the Millennium Trilogy and for a moment I’m a little jealous that I can’t experience those books for the first time all over again. The big ones at the moment are those from A Song of Ice and Fire, or the Game of Thrones series as it’s known and referred to by most (and yes I judge you for not realising that is just the name of the first book in the series and not the series) and Gone Girl. All books I’ve read and enjoyed, some more than others. When I see someone reading these books, or any other I have read, I do find myself smiling, it’s like they’re sharing a journey with me, whether they realise it or not. Despite the urge to speak to them, to ask where they are up to, I leave them to their private reading.
But, there are occasions when the urge to speak takes over me and that is when I see someone reading a special book – what are these special books, well they can be anything I’ve read that has never become a trend, that has never been the book people read so that they don’t feel they’re missing out, that has never been on the list of a book club.
I love Ben Aaronovitch’s books, in particular his first Rivers of London, my brother introduced me to them and since then I’ve passed the books around and created a little fan group. I also have a guilty secret in that I love steam punk novels. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters and The Dark Volume by Gordon Dahlquist and his most recent one The Chemickal Marriage are three of my favourite books. Yet if you don’t count my friend Carolyn who shares a love of steam punk literature I’ve never met anyone who has heard of them never mind read them. So you can imagine my pleasure, excitement, unbelievable happiness when I see someone on the tube reading them. I want to cry out “aren’t they fantastic!” I want to invite the person round for dinner to talk about them and remember rule number one of my relationship with books is it’s a bookclub4one!
Another scenario which can tempt me to speak out on the tube is when someone is engrossed in a book that I think I might want to read. When someone is bumped and bashed from every angle and never stops reading, when they get on the tube with their face in the book and get off still consumed, that is a book I think I want to read. I want to find that hypnotic state, so I’ll quickly tilt my head in a weird 122 degree angle to try and work out the title and author’s name. I have been known if in the right position to start reading along with them, call is test driving the book. If a random section part way through the book can grip me it’s probably worth investing in. And when I’m feeling slightly more normal I may just politely ask them what the book is and whether they’d recommend it.
Wondering if I put the wrong title on this blog? I’ve implied I’d be talking about books over kindles and instead I’m rambling on about book spotting on the tube. Well the thing is, the above is one of my primary reasons for loving books over kindles. The moment someone takes a kindle out of their bag, I don’t know if I’ve read what they’re reading, I can’t reminisce about how much I enjoyed that particular tale, I certainly can’t strike up a conversation about the book or ask them if they’d recommend it!
Kindles prevent the art of reading by inspiration, they’ve certainly stunted the dating world, I’ve been chatted up on more than one occasion when the guy’s opening line was in reference to the book I was reading.
My other issue with Kindles is that having read a beautiful love story, experienced high adventure on the plains of Africa, or travelled the world in hot air balloon etc. you can’t share the book with others. You’re not going to leave your Kindle on the tube, letting a bored commuter pick it up, read it and pass it along. You’re not going to go through your shelves in a fit of spring cleaning and donate your Kindle to a charity shop, providing someone else with that sought out book they’ve trailed shops looking for. You may at a push lend it to a friend but considering you’ve already started another book on it, that’s highly unlikely. And so, there ends the age old tradition of book swapping, of sharing a tale or two.
So reasons to dislike Kindles
1) You can’t start a conversation with someone about the book they are reading if you don’t know what book they are reading
2) You can’t pass a Kindle book on to friends and family so that others can share a joy you found within it’s pages
3) If for whatever reason you wish to part with the book forever, you can’t donate a Kindle book to your local charity shop
But there is a 4th reason – you can’t line the walls in a room with shelves full of Kindle books! Some of my earliest and fondest memories are related to libraries, the old Carnegie library which was cold and dark and despite being quite eerie a place I was drawn to; the children’s library in the centre of town where mum would leave us on a Saturday morning whilst she went off shopping; the adult library exploring a whole new world of literature; the school library where I spent wet breaks and lunchtimes; the college library where I pretended to work whilst flirting with boys; my University library where I read about Islamic Law and Medieval Christian Heresy and where I wrote my dissertation.
I can’t really put into words the feeling of balance and rightness I get when in a room surrounded by books. There is a warmth that radiates from them, a slow unnoticed throbbing of the lifelines that live within them. An acknowledgement that it is good to strive to know more, to step outside your everyday situation. A recognition that there is power in words. And a pure beauty in design of book covers. All of these things are represented by books on shelves and for me a single, lone, Kindle will never summon such feelings. And that is why I’ll be sticking to books.
As a side, this is a fantastic talk by Chip Kidd a book cover designer.
For the purpose of truth and honesty I must at this point declare that I do own a Kindle! Oh the shame! Kindles win on one point and one point only. When travelling as I did last summer in South America, having shed loads of books on one slim lightweight device was a winner.