If there is one thing to which we have more than enough access it’s information. The elderly among us may have resisted smartphones, Twitter, Facebook, and dozens of other kinds of social media that flood us with distractions but don’t worry; if you are conscious there is little chance you will not hear about a major happening.
The downside of TMI (too much information, for the uninitiated) is that we have a limited amount of time to absorb the trivia that floods into our devices. While few would dispute that the overall benefit outweighs the aggravation of dealing with inconsequential data I would suggest that we are in danger of overlooking a centuries-old method of expanding our world: the printed book.
The e-reader (Kindle, Nook, and the like) are a huge convenience. One can have at the click of a button hundreds of books in an instant. Those who use them to read have surely had the experience of recalling an interesting fact, phrase, or name some twenty pages previous. It was at the top of a left hand page, you may remember, but finding it on an e-reader is quite clumsy. There are ways to highlight such entries, but when reading it you had no idea that you would want to refer back to it. The book held in your hand offers less of a challenge in locating the interesting passage.
Books have an ambiance that is lost in electronics. Visit a small town library and on entering there is a distinctive aroma. It is comprised of a combination of long-ago printed pages, tens of thousands of them, some not opened for decades. From youthful years of long ago, the elderly may recall the pot-bellied stove the warmed the village library.
Neurophysiologists say that smell is among the most evocative of memory. Think about library paste in the first grade (you have to be > 70 to even have a clue). It smelled so good that rare indeed was the child who had not scooped up a finger-sized sample for a tasting while the teacher was busy at the blackboard.
The heft and feel of a book sends a message of its own. Heavy in the right hand, there was a lot of work to do; heavy in the left hand, the end was near. That brings a certain sense of loss when the reading is so delightful the completion of the book is an unwanted happening.
Book clubs are popular. Years ago they may have been around, but not in the profusion of today’s reading public. Some are constructed about a topic of mutual interest, comprised of members of particular age, or some other demographic that cements a common connection. It is helpful when the members can agree on a book to be read but that is not always the case. Sometimes disagreements of selection will unpleasantly escalate and become acerbic. A sense of bonhomie is an excellent antidote for such problems.
Here’s the take home message: However one reads, the book is a window to the world. By e-reader, online, an old-fashioned book with real pages, singularly or in a group (even read aloud), there is no place one cannot go. When eyesight is dimmed to the point of frustration, the audio book is a more than satisfactory substitute.
The days of forced marches through an incomprehensible textbook are gone. BTDT—been there, done that. In front of us is a limitless horizon of new worlds accessible to nearly everyone. As aging takes its toll, there is yet another advantage—you don’t have to buy any more books; just read the ones you don’t remember, which will be an increasingly large number as memory folds into a tiny box. Your inner library will increase in value. Trust me on that!