Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

A Bookcase In The Digital Age

I have a steady relationship with my kindle – no I haven’t updated my Facebook status, don’t bother checking. I take it with me everywhere I go, with an assortment of books ready to read. I also have an off/on affair with my public library which truly softens the blow of having to pay taxes.

However, when I go into someone’s home, one of the first things I look at is their bookshelf. I hope there is no judgment in my peering. I feel the books tell a story, not only between their covers, but of this person’s life. It tells me what they love, loved, and maybe aspires to love.

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And it is not only other people’s book collections. When we recently moved house, one of the first areas I set up was our bookcases. It somehow made this new house our home. Wherever I live, and with whatever digital advancements yet await, I will always have the bookcase as the foundation of my house, of my identity.

So I was delighted to discover this quote from Laura Miller: 

Of course, you don’t have to buy a book to read it, but the act of giving someone a book of his or her own has an undeniable, totemic power.

As much as we love libraries, there is something in possessing a book that’s significantly different from borrowing it, especially for a child. You can write your name in it and keep it always.

It transforms you into the kind of person who owns books, a member of the club, as well as part of a family that has them around the house. You’re no longer just a visitor to the realm of the written word: You’ve got a passport.

–Laura Miller in her Salon essay, “Book owners have smarter kids.”

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I know it is not the same, but we are now a two-kindle family. Generous friends bought my eldest a kindle for his birthday. I have just loaned him a book from my device and also gifted ebooks. It is not quite the same, but for the sake of the trees, I’ll live with it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the weekend beckons and its time to curl up with a good book.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.  

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