I have a Nook, and I have a Kindle, both packed with dozens of titles. I also have the apps for both on my iPad mini. Finding ways and words to feed my mind and soul is not a problem.
I still love books, though.
Mind you, I’m talking about actual books, bound volumes with covers and paper pages that are chemically composed of organic and inorganic compounds. Cellulose. Lignin. Calcium carbonate. Clay. Titanium oxide. What have you.
Basically, dead trees and filler material.
Despite the fact that my Nook/Kindle/iPad mini give me access to more books than the Library of Congress, books – actual, dead-tree books – accumulate on my bedside table.
What does it say about me that a double stack of books sits gathering dust on my bedside table? You might think I’m too lazy to take them back to their shelves. You might be right.
I prefer to think better of myself. I like to think that once I’ve finished with a book for the evening, it’s not goodbye. It’s merely good night.
I have always found comfort in the proximity of books.
Why these particular books?
They are, in no particular order (and not by way of endorsement):
- Caesar’s Women, by Colleen McCullough
- The Creators, by Daniel Boorstin
- Field Guide to Birds (Eastern Region), published by the National Audubon Society
- Hemingway, by Jeffrey Meyers
- Walt Disney World (2013, Unofficial Guide), by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa
- Western Philosophy, edited by David Papineau
- The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop, by Stephen Koch
- Joseph Campbell: the Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers
- Insight Guides: London, published by the Discovery Channel
- The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell
What do the books I’ve chosen as bedtime reading over the past few weeks say about me?
They speak to my pretensions, certainly. I want to know what thinkers like Boorstin, Campbell and all those Western Philosophers thought of it all. Especially Campbell, evidently.
They speak to my lifelong ambitions, too. I bought the Meyers biography in 1989, when I was 20 and still thought of myself as a contemporary of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, separated only by time. Now, I know that time is not the only thing that separates me from them, but the Meyers biography still gives me hope. And although I own about 100 books on writing, the Koch book (purchased in 2003) remains my most inspirational and insightful.
These books speak to my wanderlust (London and Disney are dear to me). And they speak to my hubris (McCullough’s meticulous characterization of Gaius Julius Caesar makes him human, and therefore makes us believe we could have accomplished what he accomplished, or still could, given the right circumstances and motivation).
I’m not sure why the bird book is there. One of our sons must’ve added it to the stack. (They, by the way, have their own stacks of books on their own bedside tables, and I couldn’t be prouder.)
Unfortunately, I’m not often able to stay awake long enough to get through more than a page or two. These days, the words blur quickly. My eyelids grow heavy. I might drift off in the middle of a particularly enticing passage about Caesar’s illicit dalliance with Servilia, or an illuminating piece of Campbellian wisdom. I have fallen into a deep sleep still gripping both sides of the book, with my nose still pointed at the page, and woken hours later in the same position.
Is it parenthood that has robbed me of my ability to stay awake while reading? Middle age? The stresses and demands of the 21st century middle-class American household? Middle age? Wait, already said that. What was I talking about?
Oh, yes. Books.
I guess I should return these to the shelves. Maybe it’s time to start a new stack.
What books, if any, do you keep on your bedside table? Or, if not actual paper-and-ink books, what volumes do you keep on your e-reader or tablet? I’d love to know, so please share in the comments, if you’re so inclined. Also, if you’re into such things, please take a moment to “like” my blog’s page on Facebook.