It’s OK To Drop a Book in the Tub. But a Kindle? Not So Good.
I like books, and I don’t own a Kindle. I’ve seen ’em, and they’re not for me.For starters, good luck with your e-book thingy in the bathtub. I do some of my best reading a-soak, and I can’t imagine a steady regimen of warm, wet air is good for the gizmo. Plus what if I drop it? A mass-market paperback can survive a dunking. In fact, it adds character to the volume. My main objection to the e-book is more fundamental: I want to read a book, not a screen. If I want a screen, I’ll go to the computer or turn on the tube.Harrumph. I also like bookstores, which you don’t really need if you’re Kindling. I wander in bookstores with nothing specific in mind, and poke around aimlessly until something grabs my attention. And since we are approaching the Christmas season and I am in gift-buying mode, here’s a sample of what I found recently at Oblong Books in Millerton and House of Books in Kent: A slipcased edition of nine novels of the Harlem Renaissance (hardcover, $70). This set includes Jean Toomer’s “Cane,” which is one of the most underrated works of American fiction, with innovative structural modes that outdo any calculated piece of post-modernist blather. From the “Best American” series of anthologies is “Best American Non-Required Reading,” edited by Dave Eggers (paperback, $14.95). I looked hard at this to see if it was full of Eggersian present-tense stuff about undershirts and anti-depressants, and found to my delight a bunch of oddball items, such as “Best American Adjectives, Nouns and Verbs Used in Reporting on the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010.” Or “Best American New Entries to the O.E.D. Beginning with the Letter H.” There is a new trade paperback edition of Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” with an introduction by Christopher Buckley. As we head into a national election season Heller’s vision of doubletalk is especially relevant, and I will read anything by Buckley — even his grocery list. I also like the current events section at Oblong, where Noam Chomsky peacefully co-exists with Pat Buchanan, just a few inches away. At House of Books I spotted the Walter Isaacson bio of Steve Jobs (hardcover, $35) immediately upon entering. (It does not come with a black mock turtleneck.)Tim Riley’s biography of John Lennon is the best look at the man I have read, and I think I’ve read them all (hardcover, $35). It’s especially interesting about the Beatles’ years in Germany, and does not descend into hagiography at any point. And John Miller’s “The Big Scrum,” about the development of American football and Theodore Roosevelt’s efforts on behalf of the game, is vastly more entertaining than you might think — even if you don’t care about football (hardcover, $25.99). House of Books also carries those little “Moleskine” notebooks (starting at $8.98), which are the coolest notebooks ever. Far cooler than a Kindle, in my opinion.