A sentence I love in a book that I love is from Lauren Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit, and concerns an itinerant jockey, Red Pollard, who always carried a few volumes of poetry.
“These books were the closest things to furniture that he owned, and he lived in them the way other men live in easy chairs.”
My plan for life in China was to live the Pollard life. I may not be sleeping in horse stalls, but I’ve been uprooted, and somewhere safe and warm is easy to find in a book.
As a lifelong book lover with a snobbish streak, I always sneered at e readers. A screen can’t compare to a page, I would scoff. You’ll never catch me dead with one of those. But the amount of reading I crave in a year is immeasurable, physical books are heavy, my luggage was limited, and English libraries aren’t a thing. I packed one softcover Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Christmas morning found me clutching a brand new Kindle, my lifeline for the next twelve months.
I immediately loaded it up with comfort food to fight homesickness, your Richard Adams, your Louisa May Alcott. I downloaded challenges, like War and Peace, hey you never know, I do like that Leo and a year just might be enough time to dive into those footnotes. I downloaded an absolutely terrible self published YA book from a sports blogger I like.
Nothing will replace books. I miss turning pages, I miss holding a book in my hands. (I miss libraries most of all.) But a Kindle is nice. I can read in bed with the lights out, I can read on the subway, I can hold thousands of pages and thousands of years of words between two fingers. I see a hundred new faces a day, but I carry old and new friends in my favorite books. (My newest read is Villete, which is the eerily appropriate story of a 23 year old woman who travels to a new country to teach English, although my experiences have not (yet) involved any hot doctors or Frenchmen.)
I’m several time zones away from my birthplace, but I’ll always carry home and a million possibilities in my books.