Feature image from TOM PALUMBO, 1961
The other day I was running late to meet a friend for coffee. I had been up late drinking cafe patron with my sister the night before and had spent most of the morning making a deal with any god who will listen if I could just survive this day.
With a glass of Berroca in one hand and a half stuffed hand bag in the other I threw myself down at the table and apologised profusely. She took one look at me and said, with the wisdom of a sober woman, ‘You should have just cancelled, I would have.’
She then proceeded to tell me I looked like shit. Dam it! I lay my heavy skull down on the table, and resigned to the fact that I was there now.
She ordered me a coffee and started looking in my bag. ‘What are you reading?’ she asked, pulling out a weathered copy of Alain De Botton’s HOW PROUST CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE from my bag. What followed was a half hour conversation about reading, Proust, Philosophy, writing funny and how books can actually change your life.
As the coffee and wedges did their magic on my hangover, I could finally sit up straight. I felt enriched with food and fine conversation and was ready to take on the world again.
The conversations that begin with books poking out of handbags, books falling out on the train, and book cover’s shared on Instagram are one of the subtle and enduring reasons why I continue to by printed books.
While reading Tim Winton’s BREATH on the beach, a few people stopped as they recognised the cover. They felt bonded to me over our mutual reading and where inclined to stop and chat about the work. This practice of interrupting a person while they are reading may not appeal to many but it certainly appeals to me.
I am interested in hearing what people thought of the book, weather they finished it, and did they recommend it to a friend. They ask me what other books I like and we can chat about genre and taste and reading outside your preferences.
There is something there, when you recognise a book you have read in the arms of another, like you have caught them in a tryst and you cannot walk by without saying something, making it clear that you know.
The ebook is a really great way to take the entire Game of Thrones series traveling around Thailand. I should know, I did it. But it certainly isn’t a conversation starter. Perhaps I didn’t notice the lack of book conversations my kindle failed to spark in Thailand, given that I could not speak Thai anyway. But being back in Australia among a language I understand and book cover images I recognise, I feel a warmth and protection over of these random book conversations.
I live on the coast now but before I moved here I lived in Sydney for almost 12 years. I used to love that feeling on the train when you headed into the city and you could see someone reading a book you haven’t quite started, or a book you read a long time ago.
I remember when I would see a new release over and over again being read on the train, as it gained traction and notoriety. It reminded me to buy a copy on my way home. It is the best advertising a novel can have, to be open in the arms of another reader.
I love seeing what people are reading and I don’t mind saying it. I also love people seeing what I’m reading too.
I wonder if some time soon Kindle books will come with a small screen on the back, with an image of the cover of the book that is loaded, wouldn’t that be cool. Then maybe I will think about getting one.