In the summer of 2011, I received a Kindle as a birthday present.
Now, to understand the impact that the Kindle made on my life, it’s necessary to know one pertinent fact: I live in Beijing. At the time, (conditions have since improved) my book sources were limited to pirated street-peddler copies of Barack Obama’s Dreams of My Father and Ken Follet’s The Pillars of the Earth. Or I could take the subway an hour downtown to browse the ‘foreign language bookstore’ which offered row after row of dusty, water-stained classics, unappealing to say the least (you try reading Dante’s Inferno while in the midst of your own personal inferno known as the Beijing summer). Even the hippest English bookstore at the time offered only a limited selection of not-so-latest bestsellers.
So imagine my delight when I realized the little device in my hands (so light! so handy!) could unlock for me the vast bookshelves of Amazon (yes, yes, I know, big bad killer of indie bookstores — hey, read the paragraph above, will ya?).
I was delighted. My credit card? Not so much.
The face of evil has a very convenient one-click payment option.
One of the first few books I read on the Kindle was George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. Reader, to this day, that experience goes down in my personal history as one of the most satisfying reading experiences of my life, like eating a super good ten-course feast (yes, I know I’ve likened reading to eating in two consecutive posts — I’m considering starting a food blog too. Kidding).
It was glorious. It was a long, hot summer of languid days consumed by the intrigues of Westeros, of endless subway rides plunged into the depths of Winterfell, of ignoring my boyfriend’s entreaties to get my sweaty paws off the damn Kindle and rejoin the human race for like five minutes, for the love of God.
By the time I finished the feast, I wasn’t just full, I was engorged. (Incidentally, such a vaguely obscene word.)
Which is all a very long-winded way of saying that my Kindle very quickly became the best friend of my reading life. But then as the months passed and book after book burned a hole in my credit card and filled my Kindle and entertained my days and nights, I realized something: I wasn’t just reading books, I was consuming them.
I would buy a book on Friday night and be done reading it by Saturday. I didn’t skim or skip pages and I always was a fast reader, so it wasn’t like I didn’t enjoy the book. It was more like the Kindle somehow made it too easy to read. When you read a physical book, you prop it up on your knees or pillow or cat or whatever, taking the time to turn the page. If you’re reading an old book, two pages may stick together, glued by the residue of a thousand hands, and you’ll have to peel them carefully apart. If you’re reading a hardcover book and you’re like me, you will wrestle with the dust jacket, valiantly trying to keep it in place before giving up and slipping it off.
All of this makes for a slower reading experience.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my Kindle. If my house was burning down, I would grab my boyfriend, my journal, my Kindle and my purse (and not necessarily in that order either, the boyfriend might have to save himself from the blaze). But it’s undeniable that while there is much to be gained from reading on the Kindle (carrying your entire library around, anyone?), there are some things that you lose as well. And one of these is slow reading. The Kindle, for some reason, encourages me to chomp through books the way the Langoliers chomp through time. (Bonus points for geeks out there who recognize the S. King reference)
So this is what it is: this blog is my own personal exercise in reading slowly, paying more attention to what I read and on a broader scale, living a more considered life. I don’t want to speed through my reading anymore than I want to speed through my life. I want to take my time. I want to think about the things I read and the things I see. I want to sit up, to pay attention, to find the substance in what I read. To read and write and live meaningfully — that’s what Buried Beneath All The Lies is about.