She is Too Fond of Books, and it Has Turned Her Brain

(attributed to Louisa May Alcott)

I can't remember a time I could not read. Literally can't remember not being able to pick up a book and get lost in the story; I started reading at 2. I made a specialty of rushing through my schoolwork so I could have free-reading time. I knew every book on the shelves of the Lower School library. When I was young I would finish a book, and then immediately flip it back around and read it again. Books were always scarce — not because my mother would not buy them for me, but because it was hard to keep up with my book-a-day habit.

Wherever I lived, my library card was one of the first things I obtained. When I travelled the world, my backpack was always heavy because it was half-full of books, and I eagerly exchanged the ones I had just read with other travelers. The cafes where people left free books — nirvana. And I remember standing in the Hampstead Waterstone's, looking at all the tables of books and feeling an endless sense of possibility.

It's different now, somewhat, and I give both the blame and credit to my kindle.

I got my first kindle in the hazy first years of Beatrix's life, where I spent a lot of time pumping. It was one of the only ways I could make it through and keep my sanity. One of the first things I loved was that, at that time, I could buy pretty much any book for $9.99. You have to understand; I had almost never (as in I could count on two hands and maybe have fingers left over) purchased a new-release hardcover book before then. When you read a lot, paying close to $30 for something that will only last a couple of hours is simply not sustainable. Having a kindle brought me into a new world of reading all the hot new titles.

Since then, although prices have jumped, I have become extremely savvy with Amazon price-watching and with navigating my library hold list, to the point where, of the 60-70 books I read a year, almost all of them are relatively new releases.

I like the thrill of the new, don't get me wrong. But I am not sure that this is actually a good thing.

When I look over my Goodreads list, and awful lot of them have only 2-3 stars. There are probably only about a dozen truly exceptional books I read in any given year. There are a lot of mediocre ones.

What's the reason for this? Have I simply already read most of the amazing books, the truly life-changing ones? Are newer titles just inherently weaker than the classics? Does the electronic format, while giving me more access, make me less discerning? Or would this have happened anyway, as larger stores like B&N become the norm (I'm guessing not, since the print copies I buy still usually come from indie stores.) Am I just paying more attention to it?

Is more less?


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