16 May 2016

An Undying Love - Part One

Geeking Out, As You Do, At Book Culture

This is my take on the "physical book vs. e-book' debate that has been quietly raging for as long as Kindles ignited the conversation.  Let it be said, first of all, that I'm not trying to talk anyone out of using e-readers if it's their thing - this is my opinion only.

Let's narrow it down while we're at it.    I could go on about handwriting vs tablets for taking notes, etc., but that's another post for another time.  This covers my preference for leisure reading alone, and since I do a massive amount of leisure reading (sorry, dishes in the sink, I'll get to you later!), it holds a great deal of importance to me.

Once upon a time - actually February of 2012 - I bought a Nook Tablet from Barnes and Noble.  I chose it over Amazon, because I still wanted to support my brick and mortar bookshops in any way that I could.  At the time, I wasn't sold on using an e-reader, but I figured if it didn't take, at least I had my very first tablet, which was super handy for browsing the interwebs prior to purchasing a smartphone.  Also, it had a Netflix app.  I bought a pretty blue cover with a quote from George Eliot to seal the deal.

Honestly, at first I loved the thing.  Sure, it was pretty rubbish for reading the magazines I'd subscribed to - Victoria Magazine does not feel good on a screen - but I had access to comic books, and Free Fridays, which occasionally struck gold.  Reading wasn't terrible on the Nook. It was pretty cool when, on a dark bus ride from Philly, I was one of the few people able to continue reading.  It came with me to London that year, along with a physical book I'd borrowed from the library.

Even so, of the 60 books I read in 2012, only four of them were e-books.  Why?  Well, first of all, I work two blocks from a public library, so it's not like I lack access to books.  I own hundreds of books, and the TBR (to-be-read) pile never ends.   Nearly all of the e-books I read following the Nook purchase were free or under $5, because I couldn't see spending serious money on a digital entity.  It's not that I didn't respect the writers, but the item of purchase didn't seem tangible to me.  A couple of times I requested Early Reviewers books from Library Thing in the digital format, and though it seemed like a good idea at first, when one book disappeared not long after I read it, I was up in arms.  When I "won" ER books in paper format, the book was mine to keep, with the understanding that I'd review it.  Fine, I wasn't out any money, but I didn't like this arbitrary removal.

Some have argued that digital publishing gives many an opportunity to publish work that they couldn't distribute to the general reading public otherwise.  I understand that.  Anyone who has kept a blog for over a decade would have to understand that.  I considered doing the same for a novel I'd written, whenever I got around to seriously editing it (nope, still not done).  In the long run, though, I honestly wanted my potential readers to have the option of holding a physical book in their hand, to enjoy reading the way I enjoy reading. Again, just my opinion.

I bought my second tablet last June, and it's all a tablet should be (well, I have certain specifications that aren't realistic, so I can't complain). It has a Kindle app and a Nook app, and I've used them...once?  if at all.  I only download stuff from jw.org, for the most part.  I like the easy access to documents, but certainly not for casual book reading.  Anyway, my tablet has far too much heft, so I don't really carry it everywhere.

No, I love paper books, with hardbacks or paperbacks, Everybody says this, but I love the smell of books, old and new.  I'm allergic to dust mites, so at times certain bookstores bring out the Zyrtec, but like my cat love, it's generally worth the risk.  There's a kind of magic (yes, Queen reference!) in entering a bookshop and encountering hundreds of titles vying for my attention.  My apartment is overflowing with volumes read and unread, which is just the way I like it.  The ambiance is simply gorgeous, and frankly a nice tome at home makes a lovely dance partner with a pretty teacup.  I'm still a pairing aficionado.  I daydream about owning a tea/bookshop, though I'm terrified of owning a business.

To sum up, I love books wrapped in paper (and leather, if I'm honest), and I'm not alone in this.  I like turning pages and hearing it crinkle.  I love finding receipts and photographs and leaves in used or library books.  I rejoice in small poetry collections.  I don't tell people with e-readers that they're doing anything wrong, because they are not, and I believe there is room for audiobooks, especially for people who spend a lot of time in cars, or who have vision problems.  If I did have worse eyesight than I already have, I'd probably be grateful for being able to enlarge a font with my fingers, as large-print physical books are usually cumbersome.   I do take umbrage with people who derisively refer to my preferred medium as "dead tree books", like my reading habits are what's killing the planet.  In response, I brandish my signed copies of Jasper Fforde novels, and know that Thursday Next would likely prefer jumping into physical books rater than e-readers.

Nevertheless, I have no problem sharing, in digital form, more evidence that suggests the print book love is not dying off:

Happy reading, folks!
Coming Soon: My Love Manifests Itself in London...

03 May 2016

Why I Love London

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this on my blog before (and I'm not about to sift through 11 years of posts to find out ), but I majored in Travel and Tourism in college.  Soon afterward I accepted my first full-time job, which was as a travel agent at Liberty Travel.  I was not a very good travel agent.  I mean, I tried, but the main problem lay in the fact that a career in sales is not suited to my personality.  So why would I have attempted this industry?  I wanted the perks, of course!  And there were some, but not enough to make it worthwhile for me. 

Why am I bringing this up now?  Well, I believe that some may have the misconception that I'm not altogether interested in travelling.  Am I fearful of flying?  Not really - I have issues with motion sickness, which is easily rectified on a flight, and crowded, cramped spaces are not my favorite, but otherwise I'm okay with flying.  The smell of an airplane actually excites me when I sense it elsewhere, as it holds so much promise.  However, I am known for usually singling out one particular location, to what some may deem ad nauseum.  You don't have to search 11 years of posts to figure this one out.

I love London.  Absolutely love it; and any year that consists of a visit to London automatically becomes one of my favorite years, despite other difficulties/heartbreaks/depressive periods/passing out in the office bathroom incidents.  Does this mean I disdain travel elsewhere?  Nope - I have a decent bucket list that tops off with Italy, Iceland, Japan and the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and keeps on going.  So why don't I go anywhere else?  Well, I do, sometimes, and would do so even more given the time, money and willing travel companions. At times, all it takes is for a BFF or sibling to relocate, and I'm off to the websites checking fares (Texas, anyone? Florida?)

Anyway, I'm going back to London - yep!

Again?  You may ask.  Why?  I mean, I shouldn't have to explain myself.  The Doctor, one of my favorite fictional characters, has the ability to go anywhere and still finds himself more often than not in London.  Still, let's look at why I love this particular location, and why I am returning there once more, in no significant order.

I did not excel in history as a subject during my school years.  I'd like to blame the teachers, but they may have been working with a limited curriculum.  When I was in my twenties, I began reading historical novels and non-fiction histories with quite the passion.  With the exception of a few biographies, I didn't get in American history until my thirties.  Perhaps I'll turn to African history in my forties - anything's possible!

Of course, British history remains my favorite, and London is bursting with it.  The streets just sing their stories, and the plaques on what feels like every block, telling you which of your favorite writers once lived there keep one well informed.  All you have to do is walk...
St. Paul's acting all coy...
Something New Yorkers and Londoners have in common: most of us enjoy a good stroll, at a nice, quick pace. I clocked 30,000+ steps one day on my Fitbit on Trip 9, and I took in so much.  There are guided walking tours, or you can just make it up as you go along.

This is the one that gets the most confusion from people..."but British food is the worst!".  Well, personally I disagree, I think Britain took a while to emerge gastronomically from all that rationing over half a century ago.  I consider British food (most of it, anyway), to be comfort food, and on top of that, London is one of the foodie capitals of the world.  So there.
Cozy fry-ups for the win!

Saving Those Pence
Just bear with me.  London is a pricey town, just like New York.  Real Estate is obscene, and the exchange rate has me reaching for the smelling salts.  Even so, if you look, if you just make a tiny bit of effort, I promise you, there's bargains to be had in dining and shopping.  And if the weather's good, you can have a reasonably priced picnic in one of their epic...

Central Park is my homeboy, but I have to say, London outclasses everywhere I've even been with the sheer magnitude of park space. You never have to wander far to escape the hectic city pace.  Some parks are more about trees and general greenery, some have sweeping views of the city, some are floral delights, and most have a variety of duckery and geese (and some crazy swans) that one never find in CP.  I mean, I love me some mallards, but come on!  So at nearly every point of one's wanders in London, you can take in some fresh air, or just relax on a nice bench (yes, some royal parks have fees for this, but whatever), and chill with a good book.  Speaking of which...
All the Bookish Things
Many of my favorite books take place in London, at least at some point - it corresponds with my loving history and the English classics.  British literature is food for my soul, and I am satiated in London.  One can visit the homes of favourite writers (follow the plaques!) Also, there are more bookshops to explore than I can even list here.  In my last few visits, I still encounter book ("real" books - more on that in another post) readers all over the Tube, and elsewhere.  They're here in New York, too, but it just seems more visible - perhaps it's the rose-coloured lenses I see through in the UK.  Oh, and there's a book barge - which I can't wait to report on!!!

Derping with Sherlock, as you do...
This corresponds with food, because most of the things I like to eat in London pair well with tea.  The tea itself, even the grocery store bagged ones, seem to taste better in London and the rest of the UK that I've been to.  Perhaps it's the water - it does make a difference, after all.  A decent cuppa is more available everywhere, too.  Not every Londoner is a tea drinker; in fact, there's a mass of coffee chains we don't see in the U.S., but it's still everywhere.  This pleases me.

This also goes for all of the U.K.
I like pub culture, and I'm not even a big drinker.  There's something cozy about it over there - I mean, sure, there's places where people get drunk and act out, but there's plenty of spots to just relax with some friends or a book.  Some pubs have bookshelves to choose reading material, and not as ironically as you might find here.  I don't count Shoreditch in all this, for all my love for their cat cafes.

Art Stuff
Museums everywhere, and most of them free admission.  Some decent gift shops, too.  I always return inspired.

And let's not forget the Day Trips: Greenwich is counted in this, though it's a bit close for that reckoning.  One can take a train to Cardiff, Oxford, Bath, Hampton Court, and countless other places that are pretty cool, and be back before dark (at least in the spring and summer months.)

Finally, they film a lot of my favorite British telly in London (and Cardiff, did I mention Day Trips?)...I could run into a Sherlock filming, or at least visit places they previously filmed at.

I think you know what to expect in upcoming posts!