I love books. Fiction. Nonfiction. It doesn't really matter. I've been this way since childhood, ever since Mrs. Widener taught us to read in the first grade. Before long, I was sharing the adventures of teenage detectives Frank and Joe Hardy.
Soon after that, I was floating down the Mississippi with Huck and Jim, experiencing the Civil War through the eyes of Scarlett and Rhett and learning about racial inequality with Atticus and Scout.
I love the way it feels to open a brand-new book for the first time. I love the way an old book smells. The smell of an old bookstore is rivaled only by that of a freshly mowed lawn or brewing coffee. Believe it or not, scientists have studied the smell of old books. The sweet scent of an old book comes from compounds in the wood pulp of the pages breaking down.
I love the adventures that books can create. Books can be a window to your own world. Or they can open a door so you can share someone else's. In books, anything can happen. Dragons and wizards are real. We can capture a Soviet submarine from right under their noses. We can travel back in time.
I love that books force us to use our imagination, to picture in our minds exactly what the protagonist looks like, how he might act in a certain circumstance, how his mannerisms might be.
I hate it when Hollywood makes a book into a movie and gets my vision wrong. I love Tom Clancy’s book and his character of Jacky Ryan. Harrison Ford is most assuredly not Jack Ryan.
I worry about the future of books. Not necessarily the future of reading, but the future of the printed book. So many friends now use Kindles or other e-readers to download books so they can read them on a small computer screen.
Now I've always considered myself ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. I was one of the first of my friends to have a personal computer, among the first to have a cell phone. I love surfing the Net. I have Facebook and Twitter accounts. And, according to my last phone bill, I sent or received more than 500 text messages last month.
But let’s be honest, I simply prefer real books. I can feel a sense of accomplishment with a real book in my hands. Reaching page 485 of a 500-page book and looking back over the already-read pages is a rewarding feeling.
So is looking back at all the books that line the many bookcases in my house. I love to peruse the titles and find a book I want to read again. I like how the passing of time and new experiences in my own life bring new perspective to a book the second or third time around.
One of my favorite things to do is to get lost in a bookstore, to wander the aisles checking out titles and looking for that next great adventure. Sadly, this pastime may be endangered. A lot of the major national bookstore chains are in trouble, though thankfully many Mom and Pop stores are still thriving.
I hope bookstores don't go the way of cassette tapes and nickel Cokes. I would miss being in a bookstore, and I can't imagine that scrolling through Web pages to find a new book to download would be nearly as much fun.
Sometimes progress really isn't, is it?