The very first and proper book that I picked up and read was Five go to Billycock Hill from The Famous Five series. It was a gift on my 7th birthday (yes, the same one where I wore all those cringe-worthy hair beads that I talked about here) and I have no idea who bought me that gift. I just remember opening my presents the next morning and holding the book in my hands as if it were a fragile baby that I was going to drop on the floor and kill. I smelled this new thing I was holding, slowly turned the pages and took in the beauty that is A BOOK. A plain and simple book. Something that I found my mother reading every single day. Something that she would get from the library and spend most of her time reading. Now I finally had my own, something different from the usual comics and story books that I always had to make do with. A book to call my own. I stayed up till 11 p.m for two consecutive nights (I still remember the time because it way past my bedtime and my parents just let me be because I think they were happy about my latest distraction that made me shut up for hours together) and finished my very first book in just two days (or nights). It became such an addiction that slowly I finished reading all of the Secret Sevens and Famous Fives and Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys that I could lay my hands on. At the age of 9, I started reading my Harry Potter and on my 11th birthday, I was convinced that I was going to get my first letter. I even told my dad that I was going to leave him and everything I knew at the time to become a witch. He obviously didn't understand the context of (or the sentiment behind) what I was on about and told me that I should never aspire to become a witch because then I would be an outcast or something (WTF dad?). And I had the most amazing best friend in the world, who knew how seriously I took my Harry Potter and didn't want to see me heart broken. She sent me a letter (yes she took the effort to mail it via the shitty local postal system), got her Mom to address it (complete with "room on first floor, grey bungalow") so that I don't recognize her handwriting, told me that I had been accepted into Mazuka school of witchcraft and wizardry, and finally asked me to calm my tits and explained that she was the one who had actually sent the letter. Because you know, I totally DID NOT calm my tits and freaked out about it and refused to listen to my parents who told me that it had most definitely been sent by P, so P had to interfere and ask me to hakuna my tatas. Anyway, my point is, it all started at a very young age and I also happen to be one of those creepy people who likes to molest a book by smelling it and feeling all it's curves and edges in as non-sexual a way as possible ("molest" was probably not the word to use there). I sometimes judge a book by it's cover and get it simply because I want to explore what's inside such a beautiful cover. I sometimes get lost in book stores (I used to cut class in college and go to the local DC Books store behind my college to simply stare at the beautiful little books on the shelves). So it was as much about the reading as it was about the touching (if you know what I mean and can try not to take me for a pervert). It was always an obsession and still is.
Which is why, when The Husband keeps persuading me to get a Kindle, I scream "NOOOO!!!!!". I can get very melodramatic about it because he never lets it go. He never shuts up about it. He doesn't understand. He doesn't try to understand and probably never will. It's always, "Let me just get you a Kindle this and a Kindle that". He even dragged me to a friend's place and made me touch it (it being the kindle of course you perv, God bless your dirty mind!) and all I ended up doing was ruin something on his Kindle. I somehow got rid of his bookmark on a page and messed things up big time. Basically our friend said to me, "You are not touching my Kindle again, woman!" (Kindle here meaning Kindle itself, now get out of my head, all you perveted people!). I try to explain to The Husband that I need to feel the book, because it's like a person. You fall in love with people and not with Siri and Cortana who are virtual and just respond like real people if you know what I mean. But he obviously doesn't know what I mean and consistently explains to me how they're trying to make the Kindle as close to a book as possible. It has the touch and feel of paper on skin. You can manually turn pages like you would on a book. I said, but what about the smell? I need to smell my books like a little perv. And he said that they're working on that too (Wha-?)! Soon you'll even get the smell of old books from a Kindle. I mean, what the fuck, dude? If they want to make it as close to a book as possible, then why not just make a book? I don't know. I don't get it. I understand the whole "let's save the trees" sentiment but what if book-lovers and publishing houses decided to plant one tree for every book they purchased/published? See, that makes sense to me. Anyway, the Kindle subject still happens to be a topic of debate in the Shankita household but something else that The Husband tried seems to be working on me.
He asked me to try out audible.com. He got me an offer for a 3 month trial period as opposed to the usual 1 month trial. And a few free books (I don't know the math, or how this scheisse works). But he asked me to be open minded for once and try the thing out. So I said okay. I can do that. Free trial for a month, no what's that you said? Three months? Okay. I can do it. So I started listening to an audiobook while going about my usual chores and I honestly didn't enjoy it. Because I was getting distracted and not paying full attention to the book. So one day, I decided to sit down with my physical copy of the book and listen to the audiobook at the same time. And you will not believe what happened next. It was like magic. There's no other way to explain it. I don't know how many of you may have had amazing teachers and parents who read stories to you. And by read, I mean actually read them to you. In a way that would transport you to another world. In a way that would make you see the things they were describing. When you read a book yourself, you tend to read in your own little mental voice which is sometimes, devoid of any emotion. But when a trained and talented narrator reads it to you, your own voice disappears and it's like the author and the characters are talking to you. The experience is surreal. I don't know if it works the same way with all books, especially those that are easy to read, the ones you can finish in one sitting, the ones with language as simple as the type you find on this html page. But the book I'm currently reading is slightly complicated in terms of plot, structure and language. It's beautiful and is a work of art. It needs your undivided attention for it to transport you into it's world. It needs work from your end and that's always the best kind of book. If I can write even a single sentence the way Dmitry Glukhovsky writes, by weaving magic with words, then I would consider myself to have grown and evolved as a person and as a writer. Add that magic to the voice and narration of Rupert Degas, and you will see what I mean. If you're new to this whole thing, then I would advice you against picking up Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky. But if you understand the emotion I'm trying to convey, then please do yourself a favour and read the physical copy with the audiobook playing in the background. I sat through 4 continuous hours of reading/listening yesterday, and to me, that's the best form of meditation there is. I even got a badge or award or something (Yay!)! I don't know if I'd enjoy reading every book this way, but I'm glad that I decided to be open-minded and tried this out. Who knows, I might even pick up a Kindle some day. Now calm your tits, Shane. I said I might.
Happy reading, everyone!