In early January my husband and I will “move” to Colorado. He will be interim pastor at an Episcopal church for about a year. The church will provide furnished housing, so we will take only clothes, a milk foamer, my big coffee mug, and some of our favorite books. When I queried my Facebook friends about which 40 books I should take, almost everyone said, “Just take a Kindle.” My husband has a Kindle and I have the App on my phone. I admit it’s a great way to travel light.
But what about the sensual pleasures of a 3-D pulp and paper book? When I read my digital books I miss the smell of paper, the noise of turning pages, and the smooth or nubby texture between my fingers. A hard copy book has heft. I mark my place in the reading of a book by the thickness of the lefthand side. And I have a visual comprehension of text and content by its location on a left or righthand page. The physicality of a paper book is part of the reading enjoyment and learning experience for me. Three dimensional books are almost as comforting as stuffed animals; I haven’t yet figured out a way to snuggle up with an aluminum book, one that will be destroyed if I spill even a little coffee on it. (I know the latter part from experience and an $800 repair bill.)
I think I will reduce the number of candidates for the FedEx box to twenty, but how can I leave home without my tattered copy of Frederick Buechner’s Wishful Thinking or the torn pages with underlinings and food smudges of my 1977 edition of The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle or my just-purchased Wide-Margin Bible with its fake leather cover and new plastic smell, or at least ten other books with their sensory and visual connections to my spiritual formation. What I like about these “real” books is their earthiness and their substance. Just like the first Nativity with its dirt and barnyard odors, my “flesh and blood” books are grimy and messy. They are witness to repeated human encounter, aging and worn. Unlike their untouchable, sanitized digital cousins, they are an apt symbol for the Incarnation.
P.S. Speaking of books , if you a re looking for a last minute Christmas present for frustrated or bored pray-ers, try the Active Prayer Series from Paraclete. Right now there are four books to choose from, each with its unique physical/visual focus–drawing, moving, creating, and writing. Some are 40% off until tonight, with free shipping over $50.