I started reading All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriot a couple of days ago. I needed something warm and loving, and I knew that this book could give me just the snuggle I was looking for.
For my birthday, my parents gave me All Creatures Great and Small and All Things Wise and Wonderful. Where is the middle book, you might wonder? I already had All Things Bright and Beautiful, having salvaged it from the top shelf of my grandmother's house. These two new, fresh, clean cut hard covered books were at odds with the old, brown paperback.
Between its pages are pressed flowers and the smell of folded woollen clothes and talcum powder. These new books didn't have a particularly booky smell yet. They were so clean that inhaling their smell left me with a cold, prickly nose. I felt, as I began, that the new book was too impersonal. That the text was too black, and the paper too coarse and white. I felt like an outsider. Have you ever experienced this before?
But the queerest thing happened. As I went on - as I read deeper into Herriot's world - the book itself changed. The cover bent to mould against my hand, and the pages took on the fragrance of my breath as I sat bent over a cup of tea to read. I melted in deeper and deeper, until I became a part of the book's shape and aroma.
I never realised the truth of this before. It astounds me that such a revelation has taken so long for me to realise. That new book, while changing me as it become a part of my life, was changed by me as I became a part of its life. My hand fits it, my smell is made more special in the paper. That is true beauty, I believe with all my heart. And I think that is a mighty good explanation of why electronic books will leave us emptier.