Monday, December 28, 2015

Who's Reading What on the High Seas

My friend Don and I have just returned to the real world after a ten day hiatus from the news. Except for our stop in Cartagena, Columbia, there was really nothing I wanted to see between Ft. Lauderdale and the Panama Canal. When I cruise, it's the days at sea, with nary a sight of land, that please me the most. There's nothing that beats lazing about on the balcony with a good book while the sound of the sea slapping the ship's hull forms a metronome in the background.

One of my shipboard pass times is to find the deck where I can walk a complete circuit and spy on what my fellow sailors are reading. The advent of ipads, kindles, and nooks has put a damper on this particular quirk. Based on what I saw, the old standbys like Baldacci, Flynn, Grisham, interspersed with a new Adrianna Trigiani and an Erica Spindler, along with a sports bio, "Lefty, An American Odyssey," I was pretty disappointed. Where are all the deep thinkers, I wondered. Then I had to laugh at my old book-snob self.

What had I brought along? "Death of a Red Heroine," by Qiu Xiaolong, the first in the Chief Inspector Chen series that Don, my resident Sinophile, discovered a few months ago and has been devouring. My second book was an assignment from "Library Journal," a novel to be released in April- review due Wednesday and not even begun - called "Alice and Oliver," by Charles Bock. The third was a potential book for my Florida radio program, "Under a Dark Summer Sky," a fictional account of life in the 1930's Florida Keys for the black families who had come to build Flagler's railway.

Product DetailsProduct Details

We had a delightful lunchtime discussion with a retired University of Toronto professor (who knows Margaret Atwood!) and his wife about print vs. digital books. The professor and I ganged up on Don, who is all digital, all the time. I'll wager that he has well over a hundred books on his ipad. I obsessed over the sensuous pleasure I felt upon opening Knopf's gorgeous edition of "M Train." The paper was like velvet.

Our professor worries, and studies back him up, that children whose first experiences with reading are digital, will, over time, lack focus and have difficulty retaining what they read. Don, on the other hand, loves being ecologically in the vanguard and gets off on the way he can immediately detour to Wikipedia whenever something comes up in a book that he questions or isn't sure about.

Print versus digital was also the subject of a chat we had at lunch with Philadelphia journalist, Bobbi Booker. A mover and shaker on the Philly scene, Ms. Booker works for the oldest black newspaper in America, "The Philadelphia Tribune," and had plenty to say about the demise of print media. If you're worrying, you can stop. The news from the bridge is good. People are reading, writing, and talking about reading and writing. Later this week I'll post my top ten favorite reads of the year - not the best books written - just the ones from the hundred and ten that spoke to me.

No comments: