The act of reading implies a certain level of luxury in and of itself. It means you have free time. Time to relax. Time to escape reality. Time to devote to something that’s not absolutely necessary.
But what I never really put a lot of thought into was just how lucky I’ve been and what a luxury books truly are. As someone who has always been obsessed with books – except during what I now call my “what was I thinking” period where books and I parted ways – I’ve had a wealth of books at my fingertips.
As a young child I was surrounded by books at home. Many of them my own. And while some of those books may have been borrowed from the library, there was never a shortage of books just waiting to be read.
I had parents who gave me books for my birthday. Parents who bought me books when I was at home sick from school. Parents who believed that reading was much better for the mind than television and so they encouraged my interest in reading.
And as I grew up, I was surrounded by shelves of books of all kinds almost everywhere I went. I had a library in my school that was filled with every possible book a child could want to read – and a few that they might not have cared so much about. I had a library in my town that, while small, still had an abundance of books that were new and exciting to discover.
And in the surrounding towns there were libraries of all sizes. And I had a library card at each and every one of them. I was never left wanting. There was never a wait list on an anticipated read. And if a book just so happened to be checked out at one of the libraries I visited, there was always another one close by that would have that coveted title.
Throughout my life I’ve never seen books as luxuries. They’ve been as necessary to me as air, food, water and love. But from the moment I started my blog my eyes were opened. At first I was mildly surprised, then shocked and then shocked some more. I never realized just how different other book lovers’ experiences have been than mine.
Whether they have come to enjoy reading later in life or were in love with books from the moment they laid eyes on one, it seems that not everyone I’ve met has – or had – the same access to those treasured tomes. I’d always blindly assumed that book lovers were those readers who had unfettered access and those who didn’t enjoy books were those who didn’t.
And I’m not one who’s blind to the differences in the wealth of nations and countries. But yet I never put a great deal of thought into the availability of books in countries as prosperous or more so than the country I reside in.
And my ignorance has not been from a place on high. I did not grow up surrounded by wealth and luxury. My parents were educators, writers, creators, artists. I guess I suppose I’ve been lucky. Lucky to have family who believes that the gift of reading is more valuable than something more fleeting like a video game or a fashion accessory. A book once read can never be unread. Those characters and stories become a reference point to a time in our lives. And while a toy gets broken, a fashion items becomes unfashionable, the love of a story remains.
Now that more and more bookstores have shut their doors I’m starting to see what a world without books is like for others. I took it for granted that all bookstores would be either within walking distance or a short drive away. I took it for granted that those stores that remained would have any current title I’d want to read. And I took it for granted that bookstores were an absolute. Like grocery stores, restaurants and clothing stores.
Many of the readers I have had the privilege to meet online don’t have bookstores near to them. And they don’t have libraries willing to carry every possible “hot” title. And even those who do have access to a bookstore, not all of them have bookstores as filled to the brim with the latest releases as those near to me.
Whether these readers of books reside in the same country as I do, or they live in one at a great distance, to them books are much more of a precious commodity than they had heretofore been to me. But with my newly opened eyes I see that what I once considered a staple, something as necessary to me as the air I breathe, is actually a luxury and one that I shall treat as such. And I will never take these books for granted in all the ways that I have always done.
And I hope with all my heart that for the remains of my days I will have these luxury goods in my life. Always available and always affordable and always something that I can call mine.
But now I’d like to ask you…
How available are the books you love? Are you able to get all the books you want on their release date – whether from the store or the library? Or do you have to wait and hope that the books you desire to read will be available someday soon?
Do you have to request nearly all the books you hope to have access to? Or do they eventually appear at your local store or on your library’s shelves?
And do you consider books a luxury or do they feel as necessary to you as food and shelter, air and water?