For the Love of Books

People of the book, such as I, not only believe that the replacement of the page by the screen will alter human character, thin it out, empty it of depth, but secretly hope this happens. A deterioration in human character consequent upon the demise of the book will be, for the inveterate reader, an apologia pro vita sua. For we who have spent so much of our lives with, and even for books secretly derived a sense of moral superiority from having done so. This is obvious from the fact that no one says “Young people nowadays do not read” in a tone other than of lament or, more usually, moral condemnation. A person who does not read—and for us reading means books—is a mental barbarian, a man who, wittingly or unwittingly, confines himself to his own experience, necessarily an infinitesimal proportion of all possible experiences. He is not only a barbarian, but an egotist.

– Anthony Daniels, “The digital challenge, I: Loss & gain, or the fate of the book

I loved this article from The New Criterion. Never before has anyone captured so perfectly everything I feel about literature — the sense of escape it provides, the addictive quality of consuming whole pages, and the feeling of grief coupled with reluctant acceptance at the realization that the printed book is fading into obscurity, taking with it something profound.

The article is an ode to bibliophilia and a personal look at the impact of technology on books. It’s a much-talked about topic, but this isn’t about predictions and numbers. It’s just a man who loves his books.

Probably unlike him, I own a Kindle, and spend hours reading all sorts of things on screens of all kinds. It can be convenient. But nothing will ever replace a book. In fact, I never buy anything of real value for my Kindle.

A good book must be experienced, touched, leafed through, dog eared, and so forth. Most importantly, for me at least, they must be owned. One of my proudest possessions is my personal library (which I imagine that my grandchildren or some imaginary person will someday pore through while marveling. Yes, I know I’m deluded. See Daniels’ note on this)

While my collection is unlikely to amount to anything more than a source of personal joy, I sincerely hope that books will always have a place in the world. At least long enough for my children to experience them.

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What I’ve been reading lately.. [Photo by Jhaneel Lockhart]

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9 Comments

  1. November 19, 2012 / 1:16 am

    Ah! I used to be like, “Kindle what? No, man, no!” I own a kindle now and it contains a high percentage of my school books. However, I must agree with you. Good books must be possessed. When a prof. recommends a book that I think excellent, I don’t get it on kindle. I buy the real thing and moan about how much cheaper it could be on kindle 🙂

    If you haven’t already, check out Gary Shteyngart’s novel, Super Sad True Love Story. In many ways, it is relevant to your post.

    • December 7, 2012 / 10:06 am

      Thanks for the recommendation, Jane! I’ll definitely add it to my list of things to read. And I did the same thing when I was at Baruch — all those PDFs and slides went right on to my Kindle! Lifesaver (and tree saver)

  2. November 12, 2012 / 1:43 pm

    I so love books. But I’ve kind of become addicted to my Kindle as well. Also, I wish I could spend 2 weeks in Paris, too 🙂

    • November 12, 2012 / 5:33 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Becky. Hopefully we’ll both get out Paris wishes soon! And keep reading 🙂

  3. Brid
    November 12, 2012 / 1:06 pm

    Hi Jhaneel… just over from Stirrup Queens… your wish sounds great and I wish I could send you to Paris, but sadly, no.
    I did love this last post of yours. I too love books and struggle, even with the silly ones, if I ever have to give them away. I feel it’s our responsibility to hoard them because if, as technology continues to take over, they will disappear. We get the really old, stinky ones!
    Good luck with your wish!
    Warm regards,
    Brid

    • November 12, 2012 / 5:36 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Brid. I can’t give them away either.. but I’m always happy to “borrow” from others. Haha.
      I’ll keep working on Paris.
      Look forward to checking out your blog!

  4. November 9, 2012 / 11:01 am

    ooo! Is the Soledad O’Brien book any good?

    • November 13, 2012 / 11:30 am

      kasperka, it definitely was. Good quick read. But I’m also overly biased because I love her. (Also, thanks for the Twitter promotion!)

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