"One's life is more formed, I sometimes think, by books than by human beings; it is out of books one learns about love and pain at second hand."
—Graham Greene, Travels with My Aunt
I've been thinking about the great reading experiences I've enjoyed in the last few months. What makes a reader? Is it the ability to sit quietly and fall completely into a narrative? Is it the genuine enthusiasm that we feel when we hand a book to a friend and say, "You've got to read this!"?
What makes a book collector? Love of the reading experience, love of a particular author, love of a single title? A bit of madness can't hurt. Surely the answer has more to do with emotions — desire, yearning, delight — one usually associates with sex or food. It is not a surfeit of money or shelf space that compels us.
I've been thinking also of the generation growing up with eBooks, with the Kindle and iPhone and online gaming and the social network of Facebook. Most likely, most will grow to find real friends beyond the portal of computer screens and text messages; how many will discover the book?
There have been many memorable partings in history and in literature. Some were melodramatic, some overwrought, and a precious few that were perfect. This is my last bi-weekly posting on the subject of rare books for the "pages" of Powells.com. Thanks for reading.