There’s nothing like being engrossed in a great book.
Which is why I am grateful for that chance encounter with a stranger in Paris…
A few months ago, I was enjoying a hot chocolate and a scrumptious cake at the Bread & Roses deli-slash-cafe (which I try to visit whenever I’m in Paris… it’s that kind of place). An American couple sat a few tables away from me. He was reading the paper; she was engrossed in a book, so much so that she was barely acknowledging her surroundings. I quickly jotted the names of the book and author in my (now missing) notebook.
Back home, I got hold of the book and devoured it over a weekend. My current book by the same author is as well written and as enjoyable. I doubt I would have come across that author had it not been for my desire for cake in Paris that winter day.
My curiosity and love of books have led me to spy on people from a very young age. What are people around me reading? Would I like it? I took to memorising the author or the name of the book or writing then both down. Over the years, there have been a few errors but on the whole, I’ve had many a great read.
And this is why I regret the popularity of the Kindle. My morning commutes now see people either reading a free paper or kindling (I’ve just made up this word by the way). Apart from the fact that I sit in front of a computer all day and as such have no desire to read novels from a computer-type screen and risk developing RSI, I have no intention of getting a Kindle any time soon. I like holding a book. I like being able to physically turn pages back and forth. But worse still, it’s the fact that I can no longer see what people are reading that distresses me most. How will I get inspiration? How will I discover new authors and great books? Are there other people like me out there?
I would say about half the books I read come from chance encounters… Will my book purchasing decline (bad news for publishers that)? I know Kindle owners rave about it: you think of a book you want to read, you can download it and read it within minutes. But see… all I think about when I hear that is “where’s the pleasure in that”? I enjoy browsing bookshops. I like ordering a book and waiting for it to turn up, making that moment when you open the first page all the more special. Call me old-fashioned if you wish… but that anticipation, that sense of being on the verge of a discovery… there’s nothing like it.
I admit I can see the benefits of having a travelling library when on a longer trip… but watching the sun set by one of the world’s great rivers, sipping a cold beer or a G&T, I can only picture myself with a book.