The Case for Books. (Okay, a Bookcase).

I’m one of those stodgy people who refuses to own a Kindle. I know e-readers are super practical and all, but “I just like the feel of an actual book,” I’m known to say. (“I know an automobile is super fast and all, but I just like the feel of an actual horse, you know?” I imagine my early 20th Century counterpart saying).

During my recent MFA residency in Paris, an author giving a lecture said something that summed it up for me. He said he thinks one of the best parts of a book is its cover because it provides a “boundedness” for the book. You open that cover and you’re a little bit physically in the book in addition to being mentally in the book. I don’t think an electronic device provides that retreat from the world into a new world in quite the same way. At least, not for me, because I’m on my computer so damn much, often doing very distracting things. So when there’s a glowing, electronic thing in front of me, I’m just all like “What can I do on it that will waste my time and mindlessly entertain me?!” Whereas when I open a book, I will just read it. At least until my phone beeps or rings.

I suppose I’m being a bit nostalgic wanting to hold on to that “boundedness” of books. But I have a lot be nostalgic about because I had some really great early life reading experiences.

I was five. We had moved into a new house that day. It was brick and seemed hulking and endless. My bedroom had blue-green shaggy carpet and a few pieces of furniture were scattered about. First things first: I dumped out my little duffel bag, which contained only books and I sat under a fragile wooden vanity desk that I would break countless times over the next decade. I read “The Little Old Man Who Cooked and Cleaned.” I felt at home.

Illustration from The Little Old Man Who Cooked and Cleaned
Illustration from The Little Old Man Who Cooked and Cleaned

Reading Shel Silverstein’s The Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends over and over. Then writing blatant rip-off poems with nearly identical plots and the exact same rhyme schemes.

Shel Silverstein: My original writing inspiration.

Every time I took home the Scholastic Book Club order form. And then every joyous time I walked in to my elementary classroom and caught sight of a plastic-wrapped book bundle sitting on my desk.

These catalogs held such promise! Like will Marianne and Logan kiss?!
These catalogs held such promise! Like the answer to the question: Will Mary Anne and Logan kiss?!

Babysitters Club books. All of them, every single one, some of them twice, especially that special edition one with chain letters where you could actually open the envelopes and take them out. Today that wouldn’t be a book, it would be a interactive app on Facebook. “You’re friend has sent you a request to play Babysitter’s Club Chain Letter” And I’d be like “Hide all requests about Babysitter’s Club Chain Letter.’

The only chain letter I was ever happy to receive.
The only chain letter I was ever happy to receive.

Apparently I’ve always been too romantic about books because when I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at the age of 10, I read it IN A TREE.

Still one of my faves.
Still one of my faves.

The ten times I read Fanny Flag’s Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man. Dropped it in Belleville Lake once. Read it wet. Always smelled like lake water after that.

Read this kooky and hilarious coming of age story over and over.
I read this hilarious coming of age story over and over.

Nowadays, one of my favorite parts of reading physical books is that I love having a book shelf. It makes me feel grown up (and it adds an air of studiousness to my living room). The night I first met Mr. Dame in Spain, while we drunkenly and excitedly talked about everything that had ever happened to us, I told him Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” is my favorite book. He asked to borrow it, and I gave him my raggedy copy that night. Clearly, this was just a ploy on his part to see me again. Whatever his game was, it worked. This whole thing might have played out differently if he was like “I will be sure to purchase “The Handmaid’s Tale” and download it on to my Kindle. Pleasure to meet you and good night.”  I enjoy lending actual books to people, especially to future husbands.

I figure I have at least another decade to lose myself in between the cover of an actual book before e-readers become impossible to ignore.

Until then, yay for books!

The Dame in Spain


  1. I agree Emily. Loved my Bobbsey Twin collection, and I still have it! I no longer have my Trixie Belden books but I spent many a day reading and re-reading them and they re-“kindle”, so many happy memories of our cottage in Tawas, playing my Sonny and Cher album on my turntable, and laying on my chenille bedspread, reading.

  2. I felt exactly the same way, until my friends got together and purchased a Nook for me for my birthday three years ago. I would never have made the switch on my own. I now download books from the library, for free, and speed through them. I used to get library books before, but I actually had to go in when the library was open and would often forget. So I would frequently just buy them online and have them shipped to me (or stock up at used book stores). Now my bookcase has a lot of old favorites, but nothing recent, and when I tell people about an awesome book I just read, I don’t have a copy to put in their hands and send them home with.

    1. Hm, you raise a good point about getting FREE books from the library. All the used books I order on Amazon are cheap, but shipping costs do add up. Not to mention all the energy to have them delivered to me here in Spain!

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