Time and Space and the Digital Book

Everyone should have a long book on their Kindle that they otherwise would never read.  Then, when you don’t feel like starting a whole new book on your Kindle, you dig into a small piece of your long book.  And stop.  As the years pass, you may eventually finish your long book or not.

via What is your long Kindle book?.

The thing I like most about my tablet is that it can easily hold an enormous library of classic books. As it was suggested above, this is not only a pleasant efficiency, it amply provides for a lot of puttering that can happen anywhere, not just in the stacks of the Central Library.

This was how I read “Saint Joan,” by George Bernard Shaw. I probably never would have bothered to bring it home from the library, but I found this for free online and it sat on my tablet for months before I opened it once, out of curiosity while stuck on a subway train. And I loved it. It’s bright, funny and, perhaps best of all, fairly short. I read it in a day, and it is that kind of discovery that makes digital books so worth it, if you ask me.

To wit, my Kindle app has 18 books, not just one long one. Most of which were free, and my Aldiko app has more than 70, all of which were free. It is more than a little satisfying to scoop up my tablet and head to an appointment — or just walk over to the overstuffed chair in my bedroom — knowing that I am sure to find something of interest in a mini digital library of nearly 100 titles. Even if it is only for a few minutes.

The highlights of which are, in no particular order:

  • A copy of “The Unquiet Grave,” an interesting vanity project by Cyril Connolly that was beloved, for some reason, by my favorite author, Patrick Leigh Fermor.
  • The Book of Disquiet,” by Fernando Pessoa, whose rambling, episodic style may be the perfect book for reading in small bursts over a long time.
  • Both volumes of William W. Freehling’s “Road to Disunion,” which for some reason I am so charmed by that I will spontaneously read a few pages of it some afternoons for no good reason.
  • The unabridged “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” by Edward Gibbon. I read the Penguin, abridged edition, and loved it.
  • Bernard Bailyn’s “The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution,” which is livelier than the dreary title.
  • An anthology of poems and shorts by Kahlil Gibran, whom I have an unnatural affinity for.
  • Christ Stopped at Eboli,” by Carlo Levi, which is maybe one of the best travel books.
  • Richmond Lattimore’s translation of the “The Iliad,” and Robert Fagler’s translation of “The Odyssey.” I’ve read both a few times, most recently “The Odyssey” as part of a MOOC on Coursera.
  • The Praise of Folly” by Erasmus, which was a book that I had heard so many people talk about that I had to see it for myself.
  • “Pride and Prejudice,” by Jane Austen, which spectacular and so much better than the still-it’s-pretty-good BBC miniseries.
  • A complete works of Shakespeare, through which I recently read “Richard III,” in part because I recently saw the show at the BAM and in part because they just dug the poor bastard up.
  • “Swann’s Way,” by Marcel Proust, which I have not yet cracked but have always wanted to.
  • “Kim,” by Rudyard Kipling, which is probably a boy’s book but is so good that I do not care who knows it’s on my tablet.
  • “Political Ideals,” by Bertrand Russell. I got into him after reading his “History of Western Philosophy,” which is highly recommended.
  • About a dozen by Charles Dickens, who really is brilliant. I read “Bleak House” last year, which is long and complicated but brilliant, and even better than the also-it’s-pretty-good BBC miniseries.
  • And, now that I think about it, half a dozen or more Edgar Allen Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald and J. S. Le Fanu. And Mark Twain. And Oscar Wilde.
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