Monday, December 27, 2010

Best Christmas Gift EVER!

I have been an avid reader since I learned to read, probably around the age of five or six.  When I was in high school, my mother would take my brother and me to the library about once a week and I would come out with a stack of books as high as I could carry.  I can remember asking my mom if she would check out the romance novels for me because I was embarrassed to be reading "that kind of book" and my mom telling me that if I was old enough to read it, I was old enough to go up to the counter and check it out.  I had a part-time job one summer actually at the library and thought I had died and gone to heaven.  My job was to put away the books that had been returned and I can remember completing this task and then picking out books that looked interesting and sitting on the floor behind the stacks enjoying the printed word until the next batch of work came my way.

I'm way past the embarrassment phase of book choice and have outgrown the romance novels I thought were just so cool as a teenager, but amazon has made obtaining books as easy as a click of the mouse and I admit (rather guiltily) to utilizing that one click business to fill my house over and over with books on every subject.  I am ashamed to say that I am not a classics reader.  I much prefer books that are written within the last, oh, probably ten years in language that is easily understandable.  I have made an exception for Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, The Scarlet Letter, and Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.  Actually, The Bell Jar is written in a much more modern way, as was The Good Earth, another phenomenal read and great classic.  I hope to eventually work my way through some of the more difficult books that are on that list.

There was my forensic psychology period, which I think I am totally over at this point.  Reading about the dark, evil things that people are capable of can be entertaining to a point, but if you're not a really perky person to begin with, reading those books can make you downright morbid and who needs that in their life?

A friend recently loaned me a book called The Help, which I think is probably destined to be a classic and which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I also discovered a wonderful writer named Emily Giffin and have devoured two of the four novels she has published.  And of course, there is my need for new Stephen King work on a regular basis.  I have been with him since Carrie was published in 1977 and I would like to think I have read everything he has put out in novel form.  I made the unfortunate mistake (before realizing how important his work actually is to me) of donating or selling approximately half of his books that I had bought or been given and am now in the replacement stage.  Every year for Christmas, I put his new book that comes out without fail in November on my list, along with a few of the ones that I am missing and, slowly but surely, am regaining my collection.  I noted on his acknowledgments page in the new book today that he has published over fifty novels.  Can you imagine such an accomplishment?  Stephen King is one author I will always have to have in hardback.  Justin managed to find a hardback copy of Eyes of the Dragon for me this year from an independent seller.  The guy also had a signed first edition, but wanted $2,700.  I drool at the prospect of owning all 50 novels, first edition, hardback, signed by the man himself.  It will never happen, but I can at least have copies of all the books.  And if you buy the one that comes out every year, you're bound to get a first edition, something I realized with delight after Under the Dome was released last year.

As a book lover, I was slightly (okay, highly) skeptical of this Kindle device that Amazon so proudly unveiled a few years ago.  I've always loved the smell of a bookstore or library and the feel of a book in my hands as I turned the pages.  How can you enjoy a book on a screen?  When my all time favorite author started a book called The Plant and put it out in E-format, I actually printed it out just to have a copy.  I don't know what happened to my printed version, unfortunately, seeing as you can no longer get access to it.  It was a great story which he never finished, to my knowledge.  And one which I wanted to read on paper.

So when this new invention came out, I was firmly in the camp that said I will never read my books on a computer screen.  I just could not imagine it.  Then my mom bought one and got one for my dad.  My parents are also avid readers and my dad's taste is extremely eclectic.  Seeing as how they are a generation above me, I figured they would not have the slightest interest in books on a screen.  But I was beginning to waver when I found out they both had these devices and loved them.

As a surprise for Christmas this year, Justin decided to get me a Kindle.  I was still going back and forth on whether I would like it or not.  After we opened the gifts on Saturday morning, Justin began the task of getting my little device hooked up to our internet connection so I could download a book.  A task which should have been relatively easy, but, seeing as how the Kindle is not an Apple product and our network has multiple users (have I mentioned how many electronic devices my kids think they need?), it kind of turned into an all day project, complete with cursing and swearing and kids coming downstairs to ascertain why they no longer had internet access.  A blessing in disguise, since they don't come out of their rooms very often.

After finally fixing whatever the problem was (and props to my incredibly intelligent husband who knows so much about computers and networks and these complicated things I would never have figured out) he handed me my little device and I proceeded to see if I could figure out how to work it.  And discovered it was unbelievably easy!  You can shop the Kindle store on your Kindle.  It will actually bring up the New York Times Bestseller List for you and give you the option to just put it on your Amazon account if there is something you want to buy.  Okay, I'm game.

I downloaded John Grisham's latest book, which is number two on the current bestseller list and was immediately won over.  The only complaint I had was that the screen is not lit, meaning I couldn't read sneakily in bed after Justin went to sleep.  I spent the next 24 hours devouring a book on a little computer screen approximately 4" X 6" and marveling at how fantastic this little gadget is.

For the last 34 years, I have always said that the best present I ever got was the ice skates Santa brought me when I was 12 years old for Christmas.  We lived in upstate New York at the time and right across the street from a little boat dock that the kids would shovel off when the snow and ice hit around Halloween and play hockey and skate.  I used those skates on probably a daily basis the entire winter while we lived there.  I even used them after we moved to Virginia at the local ice rinks and was proud to have my own skates instead of needing the ones that other people had put their stinky feet into.  I might actually still have them somewhere in the junk area known as my basement.

I believe the skates have finally been knocked out of first place in the present department by this amazing little device.  I could easily get hooked into never letting it out of my hand and running up my credit card bill in order to read everything new that comes out after a ten second download.  The icing on the cake is that the books are actually cheaper to download than to buy in the bookstore.  And easier, because you never have to leave your living room.  For an agoraphobic bibliophile, this is heaven on earth.

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