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Books in a Cold Climate


I love to read. Mostly fiction. Sometimes an autobiography, or biography, but that's rare. Even rarer is non-fiction. Now, this isn't to say that I'm constantly reading. It comes in spurts. I'll go for a stretch without a book in-hand each night (or weekend), but then there will be long stretches where I'll devour a tome, then quickly begin another one. Ashley is much the same way, but is much more well-read than I. Our bookshelves, nooks and crannies are littered with books, both read and unread. And it was while perusing these collections that I realized something.

I don't remember half the books I've read.

No, dear reader, this isn't some revelation of early Alzheimer's (at least, hopefully it's not). I can remember the fact that, yes, I did indeed purchase and read books X, Y and Z. But ask me who the murderer was in Ruth Rendell's Shake Hands Forever, or what most of the plot points were in Bob Cook's Paper Chase, and you'll be met with a blank stare from yours truly. For some books, that's not the case. I can distinctly recall many of the details (and much of the emotional impact) from P.D. James' Innocent Blood, Peter Carey's His Illegal Self, and David Benioff's City of Thieves, among others. With most previously read tomes, however, I could crack them open and have an almost brand new reading experience.

This is an issue which has resonated with me of late, as I have contemplated my under-used e-reader. It's a nice gadget, and I've read a few books on it, but something about it has prevented me from fulling realizing its potential. In theory, thousands of stories could be stored in its archives. But then I grew up in a different era, when 'thousands of stories' meant a physical place to put them all. This brave new technological world is one in which I stand reluctantly upon the threshold.

For awhile now, I've wanted to cling to the physical, bound book, to keep it after reading, to know that it is there again to possibly be re-read, to be able to look at my own little library and recall past reading adventures. But one has to wonder: If I'm hard-pressed to remember some of the books I've read, and to occasionally be surprised that I even own a particular book, then is this keeping of the old way really worth anything? Are books lining a shelf really worth much, other than to be good dust collectors? Should I dive-in all the way to the world of e-reading?

It's not like I go back and read books again, anyway. Most of the time, they serve their purpose as a distraction, a way to pass the time, perhaps to learn something, gain a different perspective, or to be moved. But they're rarely re-read. I feel as though life's time is limited enough as it is, that if I am to devote some hours to reading, it should be with something brand new. Keep looking forward, as it were. Just hope I remember more of what's read in the future. Or is that not finally the point?

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