I realize I might alienate many of my readers with this post, but alas, against my better judgement, I proceed:
I don’t like books.
I don’t dislike books either. I am indifferent to books. In fact, there are many books I love, and I do appreciate the book for what it has done throughout history: codify language, document knowledge, spread knowledge among large groups of people throughout time, and bring forth a revolutionary era of collective linguistic and literary consciousness through which we may all identify ourselves. Books were the train in which knowledge traveled, and literacy was the locomotive that pulled it.
Truth be told, the book brought us the modern nation. The book is how we communicate with the past, and how we will continue to communicate with the future. The book is why opportunity exists for those who would otherwise be condemned to destitution by virtue of their birth class.
Books are pretty cool.
But liking books is kind of silly.
Again, going back to the train analogy – books are like trains: they take something and deliver it somewhere else. If the train is filled with people, fresh produce, and fluffy hats, that’s great. But if the train is filled with dog vomit…
…on second thought, I would definitely enjoy a train of dog vomit. And fluffy hats.
Anyway, whenever I hear people proclaim a love of books, it always sets off some sort of skeptical tic in me. A book is nothing more than a medium for transferring ideas from one brain to another, much like a spoon is medium for transferring soup from a bowl to a mouth. But when you talk about food, you don’t say, “Man, I love spoons.” You say, “I love Lucky Charms,” or “I love chili,” and so on and so forth.
Whenever I hear someone say, “I love books,” my brain hears them say, “I love spoons.”
“I always have to have a book with me.” -> “I always have to have a spoon with me.”
“Nothing like a hardcover.” -> “Nothing like silverware.”
“I love reading.” -> “I love consuming my food via spoon in particular.”
Now, if you actually enjoy the process of looking at words on a page among pages, then that’s great. Good for you. There are many other advantages to books: books don’t require electricity. Books don’t need an operating system. Books, when taken care of, can last forever. But there are many other mediums through which we can absorb information: television, computers, radio, braille, lectures, newspapers, and these other mediums do a pretty damn good job of accomplishing that goal.
And yet books are somehow irreproachable, as if the content of a book is superior to that of a movie. Which, often it is. But sometimes, it isn’t.
I suppose what bothers me most about proclaiming a love of books is the idea that it somehow makes an individual better if they like books. It’s a way of insisting upon one’s moral superiority and intellect. Again, this is an understandable impression. Books occupy a unique position in our human history. The patience and mental capability required to read are usually beyond that required to watch a movie. But a book containing Harry Potter knockoff tween fan fiction is no better than a spoon carrying Cheez Whiz. When you tell me you like books, the only thing it tells me is that you also like spoons, and moreover, that you think liking spoons sets you apart from the majority of people who don’t like spoons, and therefore liking spoons makes you pretty exceptional. After all, more people should like spoons, because spoons give you food. One day, society will forget how to eat with spoons, and we’ll crumble from within. But I’m fighting the good fight, me and my spoon.
Hey, let’s go look at spoons tomorrow. I have an antique spoon collection. Check out my first edition spoons. I always try to get new spoons in the original sterling.
Don’t get me wrong, spoons are pretty cool. I’m a pretty big fan of them. Same with trains. And Cheez Whiz.