Oh how I adore you. I really do. I adore you inside and out, but like all good, long term relationships, it’s mostly what’s inside that counts.
Yes, I love a good hardcover, and was entranced by the books at my first library job that were bound in vellum. The weight of a heavy book is lovely, and good paper stock is charming. But, like human beauty, it’s mostly fleeting, and can fade with time (and harsh light and mites). Mostly I love your insides, the stories and people and places, real and imagined. I love the way a book can transport you somewhere else, and I love a beautiful turn of phrase used in even the driest book. The Penguin History of the World is a large, dense book, but the author has a dry wit that shines brighter for it’s scarcity.
Some books I’ve loved for their trashiness – I’ll admit to having read a Twilight book on a long haul plane trip. When I want to laugh at the world I can’t go past Terry Pratchett, and I believe Good Omens to be one of the best pieces of comedic writing ever. I’ll admit I’ve never taken to the modern stories of women finding themselves (how dull!) but give me a good historical tome and I’ll be gone for hours. Having said that, I don’t often share with others, although I like the idea of it. A glass of wine, a group of friends, talking about a book? Sounds great! But I seem to have a particular taste in books, and such a long list of books I know I want to read. I’m reluctant to add a mediocre book to that list in the interests of being able to talk about it with other people. I’m not a good book sharer.
I’ve been told I can select three of you to take with me to a desert island. Clearly I’m in some kind of hell dimension, with this limitation being placed on me, so I’m tempted to cheat. First up, I’ll take the complete works of Shakespeare, because it seems efficient – there’s a lot of reading in that, including a lot that I haven’t done yet. Plus, when I get to The Tempest I can fantasise about being rescued by a sprite. Second, in a nod to the occasional physical manifestation of a book, will be the volume of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland given to me by my grandmother, which still smells like the perfumed card she left in it. Lewis Carroll’s work is so layered with meaning and symbolism that it’s like taking five books in one – and it encourages us to appreciate nonsense, which the world is full of. Finally, I’ll take the largest version of Encyclopaedia Britannica that can fit into one volume (or on the solar-powered ereader that I’m sneaking along with me). There’s so much about the world that I don’t know, and it would be lovely to have the time to just work my way through some new information.
Books, you’ve changed lately. You’re coming to me in all kinds of new costumes, and, like magic, I can now carry hundreds of you with me without requiring a giant handbag. Given I love your insides more than your outsides, I have to tell you that I like your new look. Not for all of you, however. Sometimes your physical manifestation is an important part of your story. But physical books are, for me, mostly mementos, keepsakes, sometimes pieces of art. Ebooks are stories. One day I may even be able to borrow or purchase the ebook of my choice to be read on the device of my choice, but it seems we’re a far way from that still.
You know what I wish, books? I wish I had a job where I could read you all day. I should find out what that job is…
Yours in adoration,
Alyson Dalby, ILN Program Coordinator