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Well-Read: Why Real Books Will Always Matter

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Introducing Well-Read, GoLocalProv's weekly column of all things related to reading, from best-selling books and authors both local and national, to the best reading-related events. At the keyboard: none other than Robin Kall, whose Reading with Robin show on WHJJ has delighted readers both here and far.

As an avid reader, I am often asked which e-reader I prefer to use. When I reply that I don't have an e-reader, the reaction is usually one of surprise. How is it possible that I do not have the latest thing to hit the book world? I interview authors weekly on my radio show, attend book events, host authors when they come to town and am a member of a monthly book club.

While I am most definitely a fan of technology and appreciate the many conveniences provided by things such as the cell phone, computer and microwave, the e-reader is something I am unwilling to embrace. I have heard lots of arguments that are pro e-reader from the ease of packing an e-reader for the traveler, to the added bonus of not having to decide ahead of time which titles you'd like to enjoy. Not all titles are available, but the ones that are, require on a few clicks on the device. Not enjoying your selection?  No problem, simply choose another title!

The physical "choosing" of a book

One of the things that I so enjoy about choosing my next book is the process of perusing my shelves which are full of inviting book jackets. Whoever came up with the "don't judge a book" theory must have had an agenda. The various books calling out to be chosen for this very moment in time when I am hoping for just the right book. I have to study my choices and having the covers out is helpful in a way that scrolling through a

list one at a time could never be. I like to read the blurbs on the back of each book and see which authors have given their endorsement. Chances are if there are several of my favorites declaring their praise, I'll like it too!

Cracking open a book's spine for the first time... Getting comfortable with the feel of the pages, the type set and the size of the book... For me, these are all part of the joy that is reading a book. Sometimes filling in the margins with thoughts or ideas or dog-earing a page. Many of my beloved books are signed to me by authors I've met - some of whom have become friends.

Glancing at the book jackets of what people are reading

When traveling, one of the few things I still find enjoyable about the experience is noticing what my fellow travelers are reading. Whether at the train station or airport, walking down the aisle of a plane or train, crossing a hotel lobby or lounging around the pool, I love glancing at book jackets in order to see what people are reading. If it's a particular favorite or I know the author I will often approach the reader and start up a conversation. I have had some of the most interesting discussions doing exactly this.

Once, on a long delay in the Montreal airport, a bunch of us detained travelers chatted up Jodi Picoult novels. This made the delay less stressful as we exchanged titles with each other until our napkins were overflowing with suggestions. A recent vacation spent relaxing around the pool found a group of us in an impromptu book club. A couple of people were reading Kathryn Stockett's The Help and those nearby who saw the enthusiasm of the discussion wanted in. When I see someone with an e-reader I am curious about what they are reading but not in the same way as when I see a book cover facing in my direction.

Cabbies reading books as they wait for a fare

As I write this piece I am traveling in some of the oldest cities in Europe - Prague, Vienna and Budapest. The rich history of books is everywhere, from the antiquarian shops to the flea markets filled with tables of books. People are sitting in the cafes reading, cab drivers are reading their books as they wait for their next fare. This got me thinking even more about how much I enjoy the feel of a book and how important the written word is to our history, our culture. The love and reverence given to these old books, their importance understood so many centuries ago. The Old Town in Prague boasts some of the oldest collections of religious books dating back to the 1200's. To bear witness to the fact that the pages and type have stood the test of time leaves me in awe (even if i can't read one word of it).

As a rule, I am a believer in the "never say never" theory. But for now, as it relates to reading, the e-reader does nothing to kindle my desire and the only nook I am interested in is the one I create for myself with book in hand and a steaming mug of coffee!

Reading enthusiast and all around "book-pusher" Robin Kall can be heard live Saturday mornings from 7-8am on Reading With Robin WHJJ 920AM. Also streaming live at www.920whjj.com. Follow on Twitter @robinkall, and Facebook - Reading With Robin.


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