I’m done with my Kindle. It lays uncharged on my bookcase, a dead black rectangle. I missed some deadline for updating its technology so it probably wouldn’t work right even if it was charged. I let it die. It was no accident. People came around with food and water, offered to call 911 and start CPR and I just said no. No, it’s better this way.
More than being done with my Kindle and its sleek, smooth technology self, I am done with Kindle crack. It was the Kindle as the purveyor of Kindle crack that I had to kill off. My supplier. The vivid glowing screen in the middle of the night, a new book title flashing, all the books Janice would like based on what Janice has already read, each new book cover tantalizing in a new way.
I could read this. I would think. And this. And this. And this. Click Buy. Click Read Now. Stop and start a hundred books. Find the book just mentioned on the radio. Click Buy. The book read by a cousin of your friend who is a librarian. Click Buy. Did I buy this already? It looks different. Click Buy. Instantaneously cerebral.
I read a lot, I would say to myself. No, actually, Jan, I would answer back, you buy a lot. Those are two different things.
So I quit the midnight madness and made two resolutions. First, I’m only reading actual books. You know, the things with covers and pages that you keep for years and loan to other people and carry on a plane because you can no longer be bothered with gadgets. Kids have gadgets. I’m going to carry my book. And have people envy me.
Second, I’m buying the fewest books possible. I couldn’t resist buying Louise Erdrich’s new LaRose. The minute I read the review, I was on Amazon (another click bait swamp) and it was mine in 30 seconds. But other than that, I’m devoting myself to a) Little Free Libraries; and b) the Public Library. I am done with ceaseless acquisition and I am taking my place in the circle of book life.
This week I took two books from Little Free Libraries including Jane Hamilton’s The Book of Ruth and Camilla Lackberg’s The Hidden Child and I dropped off five of my books at a couple of others. I love encountering a Little Free Library on a walk. I stop and browse, conscious that people might be watching me from a high up window. It’s why you did this, I think, why you built this adorable Little Free Library that looks like a Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouse, it was so people would take books you didn’t want anymore and read them and then pass them on. So I am here for you, making your sharing dream come true.
Once, when a friend had suffered a terrible tragedy, I took her Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Somehow, in my mind, I thought Strayed’s story of her mother’s death and the long, difficult reckoning with its reality would somehow resonate with my friend. It’s foolish to think that a book could help anyone with the kind of sorrow my friend was experiencing but I gave her the book anyway. Because I had nothing else to offer, basically. That was the reason.
A few years ago, the same friend built a Little Free Library and set it up on her front lawn. She told me about it shortly afterward. “Your book is in there, Jan.” And that made me happy. That she remembered I’d given it to her and she passed it on. Never mind whether she read it. No matter. Its value was in the giving.
So that’s my deal now. I’m done buying. I’m going to let people give me books and then I’m going to give them books. The circle of book life. What could be better?