Ok so first up This isn’t a ‘physical books are better’ thing- I’m not a snob, if you love your ebook reader of whatever brand then I’m fully going to cheer your corner, Reading Is Fundamental as I have drummed into my girls (perhaps in a RuPaul tongue in cheek tone though!).
Equally if you can only manage to enjoy stories through audiobooks then that is wonderful too, because you are still immersed in stories and creativity that enrich your world, I salute you.
However, my personal preference has always been physical books and lots of them and it’s not just the smell or the tactile experience. For me, there is an emotional connection to the physical book.
Even as a child I had stacks of books crammed double rows into and onto my 6’ bookcase- aged 8 my Enid Blyton collection alone was around 76 books.
When we bought our first house – the only upside of the credit crunch being plummeting house prices- we immediately populated the wall of the knocked through lounge-dining room with Billy bookcases for my collection and more upstairs in the study for my teaching books and more mystical collection. The Discworld books lined the top of a sliding storage cabinet and another hidden collection of Cookery books.
Books have always been a big part of my life and although they produce a storage problem that I know I’m incredibly lucky and privileged to be be able to indulge in, I would still rather be overrun with books than not.
Why? For me, my books are a carefully curated collection that tells the story of my life.
The Karin Slaughters, William Shaws, Lynda La Plantes and so on all remind me of my love of mystery and crime, and how exciting it is to pick those clues and red herrings apart whilst seeing a darker side of humanity with hope. I used to reread these thriller writers and more quite a lot as stress relief in the holidays when I was a teacher- so they remind me of that down time and release from high pressure, but keeping my mind sharp.
My cookery books tell a tale of trends, celebrity chefs and food habits over the years and also how much food styles have changed and embraced different cultures and how I’ve moved away from celebrity written tie-ins yet Delia’s Classic Collection and Nigella are eternally useful.
Just running my fingers across the spines of my well read Discworld collection takes me home to a wonderland of imagination that made me fall in love with reading again after years of feeling reading had to be worthy to be worth it.
The few books I have retained from my childhood sing of joyful hours sprawled over furniture or the floor off on adventures on Kirren Island or trying so hard to prove I had telekinetic powers like Matilda whom I so desperately resonated with.
A personal book collection whispers of our hopes, dreams, loves and losses, where we have fallen for trends (my YA dystopian books!!) and where wonder shines a light out of the darkness – my MG collection.
My husband is occasionally intolerant of the books because it’s not just me anymore, the girls have their books too and yes, they are everywhere.
But I encourage them, for me it’s important they have access to Ten Little Pirates which I read and sang so often to Littlefae that our original was worn out before Tinyfae even came along.
It’s important that the Princess Poppy, Princess in Black and Isadora Moon books are treasured alongside the Claude’s and Mr Penguins the latter whom I had to read three times in a row the first day we got it (which is no mean feat!), the girls are just as sentimental about many of their books with so much love for the creations between the pages.
For me though I was struck between the similarities though between my books and my husband’s music collection.
His music collection similarly marks a story of a life from 90s pop he enjoyed the first time round though probably never admitted it in public, to the 00s emo (ok that might be mine) his discovering classic rock bands and being persuaded by me to embrace 80s hair rock too (totally my dad’s fault playing me Bon Jovi and the like to school in the car- but it meant I knew most of the soundtrack to the early seasons of Supernatural) the music that you bought because it was hyped and everywhere that summer, the collection of Christmas songs even the obscure ones like a copy of Bjorn Again Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Cheeky Girls Have a Cheeky Christmas. A soundtrack to a life.
Much like my books are the pages and stories that accompanied and inspired my hopes and dreams around me as a child and when I left childhood behind, as I wandered London as a student, as a far too young bride-to-be, as a young teacher wobbly in herself but determined to do the best, the books I collected for my daughter as a brand new mother, as a pregnant woman struggling with a very complicated pregnancy, as a mum with post-natal depression and PTSD, the books that taught Littlefae to read (she refused Biff Chip & Kipper so we had to be creative) and as the woman desperately putting herself back together and finding magic and empowerment back in the Middle Grade books I never wanted to leave in the first place but had felt pressured to by teachers to read books that are socially worthy instead of for pleasure.
Books tell the story of our lives as much as the narratives within, some have to be let go, some clung to for dear life and that’s why for me it is so important to be surrounded by books as much as to read. Much like scent can remind us of the past, I can be transported to a time in my life by rereading as well as to other worlds and why books can be such a comfort.
Of course having ebooks does solve some of this
storage hoarding issue, and I occasionally wish ebooks didn’t give me migraines but if I’m completely honest I would still want my physical books for the memories trapped in the pages whispering along with the stories.