My love affair with books

Wanderlust Blog of the Week award

I’ve been very generously given files of books to read on my computer. I’ve got all the classics – from Carroll to Chekhov and from Kipling to Dickens; I’ve got all the titles by my favourite author, E M Forster; I’ve got poetry by all the greats, too.

I’d been desperate for a good read for a while, as English-language books are sparse in South America. I came from England last year with a ration of two books that I managed to stretch out over a few months, but by the time I hit Argentina, I was in need of a novel. The bookshops of Buenos Aires had small sections of ‘Pocket Books’– a euphemism for English books – but my eyes scanned and scanned the spines to see nothing but modern trash written by unknown authors. Finally, on a dusty hostel bookcase, I scavenged a 1986 copy of The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles. A young Meryl Streep’s face peering out from the cover reminded me I had seen the film version years back, and somewhat enjoyed it, so the book must be worth a go.

The battered book stayed wedged down the side of my backpack as a mammoth voyage across the continent ensued. When I finally settled in Cusco, had time to unpack, and even more time to sit and read, I at long last opened the cover of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and turned those first, delightfully aged and yellowed pages. I brought the book up to my nose and drank in the musty smell from the antiquated paper. And I settled down into what was to be one of the best stories I’ve read.

Would I have enjoyed it half as much if I read it on my odourless, clinical laptop screen? I don’t think so.

Since bookless, I have made several attempts to start reading my favourite books from their computer files – A Room with a View, Howard’s End, Through the Looking Glass, Wordsworth’s poems. But something just isn’t quite right.

Of all the books I have read in my life, I can remember the physical book as well as – or even as part of – the actual story. I remember my 1970s series of Famous Five books that lined my childhood bookcase; the big old hardback copy of Peter Pan and Wendy with its colour plates; and then I remember my first borrowed copy of Wuthering Heights; and, for me, A Room with a View will always be associated with a sturdy hardback borrowed from the library that I got sand between all the pages as I read it on the beach one summer between college years.

So now I have a vast digital library full of great books, but will I ever read them? I suspect not in that form.

No, not for me the Kindle, iPad or any other electronic device to read my stories; no, I’m going to wait for the next crumpled, fusty tome abandoned on a shelf and with which I can delve deliciously into another time, another place.

Rachel with The French Lieutenant's Woman in Cusco

Rachel with The French Lieutenant’s Woman in Cusco


This post appeared as Wanderlust’s blog of the week.


6 thoughts on “My love affair with books

  1. I hesitate to say this but never say never. I also said the same thing about 4 years ago. I couldn’t imagine giving up my precious books. I’ve been an avid reader ever since I could read. Nothing better than escaping into the world between the front and back covers. Alas, (I can’t believe I just used that word in a sentence:-), my eyes have gotten older, my nose more sensitive to the musty smells, etc. I’ve been a Kindle addict ever since.

    Though I don’t wish that on you at all. I just wanted to share. I hope you have the good fortune to enjoy those paperback and hardback treasures for a lifetime:)

  2. How funny! I’m reading Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman right now too. I’m not quite with you on it being one of the best books I’ve ever read, but I completely agree than the hard, cold screen of the tablet doesn’t match up to the hand-warmed, tear-soaked pages of a book. And to see the cracked, colourful spines of loved books lined up in a row… Well, that’s something a simple Arial-font, on-screen list can never live up to.

    • Hey Em, What a coincidence!! I’m a sucker for passionate romances and with his references to Victorian life which I find fascinating, I loved it.
      And yes – there are few sights more pleasing to the eye than a bookcase full of books! 🙂 X

  3. Yes, I understand. I have a Kindle but definitely prefer the feel of pages.

    As for good reads – have you read “The Shadow of the Wind” and “The Angel’s Game” by Spaniard, Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Absolutely superb – mystery, history, romance?

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