I had the chance recently to get away for a long weekend on the North Carolina coast. As always, one of the main attractions of this short break from the rat race was the opportunity to read. In a quiet, pleasant setting. For extended periods of time.
This doesn’t happen nearly so often as I would like. Sure, I read all the time – it’s an essential part of my work day in and day out. And I always snatch some time before bed or at any odd hour I can to read for pleasure. But reading as a true luxury, with time as no object, is another thing entirely.
This time around, I was struck more than ever by the sheer physicality of “old school” reading and by the ways in which I tend to go about reading a book.
I dog ear numerous pages, underline, and take notes in the margins – practices that would no doubt make a true bibliophile cringe.
I scribble notes in a small notebook I always try to keep with me. Things I want to remember. Things I may want to use later in some piece of writing of my own.
I remember other times and places – sights, sounds, smells – associated with other books. Reading War and Peace on the Trans-Siberian railroad decades ago – easily one of the highlights of my life. I still have that copy of Tolstoy’s masterpiece on my bookshelf. (I need to do better following a friend’s habit of always writing the date and place of each reading in the front of the book.)
I listen to my wife’s voice as we once again read a book aloud. This time it is Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Louisa Musgrove has just tumbled from the steps at Lyme. We read the copy I used to teach the book many years ago.
There is a certain poetry, I think, in experiencing a real, physical book. As many intellectual thrills as I have encountered on the Web, as many exciting prospects as holding a vast library in the palm of my hand may represent, I have yet to experience this poetry in the digital world. Perhaps it will come eventually.
How about you? How do you read a book?
P.S. – In spite of the somewhat wistful tone of this post, regular readers here know I am a stalwart fan of technology when it comes to learning. As far as books and technology go, you may want to check out 15 Online Resources for Book Lovers (which, admittedly – and perhaps appropriately – I did not write).