My perception of books was shattered in first grade. A friend and I were arguing about the extinction of dinosaurs. “It’s right here!” I yelled pointing to the book in my hand.“A meteor crashed, cooled the earth, and killed all the dinosaurs.“
My friend countered with a book of his own. Volcanic eruptions had blackened the sky with ash and cooled the earth, he recited. Locked in stalemate, we appealed to a higher authority. Our science teacher told us that the books were just one person’s opinion. No one knows why the dinosaurs died but other species lived. Each of our books were speculation. To this day, scientists still don’t have a unified view.
In that moment, books lost their authority. Each book has its own insights and biases and that’s what makes them so fascinating. When you read, you have to sift through the stream of sentences to pan for the bias and the insight.
If you read The Things They Carried and then The Sympathizer, you’ll have studied diametrically opposed perspectives on the Vietnam War. The Dalai Lama’s My Spiritual Journey and Christopher Hitchen’s God is Not Great each advocate passionately for a different view of religion and spirituality. The breezy, crisp punches of Hemingway’s stories oppose the gangling vines of Faulkner’s endless lexical Amazons.
Since then, I’ve read as much as I can. I’ve also read lots about how to read books: speedreading, skimming, memorization. None of them have translated into reading more.
But one thing has: an electronic library card tied to a Kindle. You can get one online, signup with your mobile phone number and start checking out books in less than five minutes.
Books can be expensive. $10 for a paperback, $17 for a novel, $30 for a new release. Pretty quickly, you can spend more on books each month than a fully loaded cable subscription.
Instead, you can borrow an ebook or audiobook for free. It appears on a Kindle a few seconds later and disappears on cue, returned to the library in the cloud, right on time.
The due date is a motivator to finish the book. And the price means you can keep up on all the advances in dinosaur extinction.