So lately, I’ve realized that I like to read books with my cell phone. No, I never have caught on to reading books online. I love the smell of paper, ink and a hint of dust or must. No, as an old-school reader, I love books. But I also love the luxury of Googling about whatever I might encounter in a book. A while back I read The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson and Googled the blue people of Kentucky.
And when I read Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, she argued that first contact in North and South America resulted in the death of 56 million lives, by violence and disease. That accounted for 90 percent of all the lands’ original inhabitants, actually changing “the amount of carbon in the atmosphere,” an outcome no one could have imagined then. That was hard to believe until I Googled her source, Alexander Koch et al., “Earth System Impacts of the European Arrival and Great Dying in the America after 1492." (I admit it was just an astract, but the actual report would probably have been over my head.)
When I read The Brutal Telling, another of Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache mysteries, I wondered whether Emily Carr was a real artist. I Googled her and found that she was. I also discovered that her paintings of British Columbia and its indigenous villages were mesmerizing. So I bought a novel based on her life and a jigsaw puzzle of one of her paintings – so this winter I’ll have more projects.
And this week, as I renewed my practice of reading, my cell phone has also played a role. Reading The Other Bennett Sister, Janice Hadlow’s account of Mary, the reticent and plainest of Elizabeth’s sisters in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, I found myself in the midst of a conversation about poetry. I Googled William Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey,” which I hadn’t read since college (remember the Norton anthologies of poetry?). And that prompted me to pull a couple of books of poetry off my shelves, reread some favorites and a few new ones.
I may be the last reader of physical books who refers regularly to my cell phone as I turn the paper pages before me. But now, with a couple of clicks, I can illustrate and footnote every book I pick up. That’s another way to reinvigorate my reading habit!