IF YOU COULD OWN JUST ONE BOOK
The other day I left my computer in the middle of a writing project to look something up. I actually left my chair, pulled a book from grad school from my bookcase, scanned the index, and turned to a page that suddenly looked familiar, marked up with notes I had left like breadcrumbs. I hadn’t done anything like that in years.
Once upon a time, a writer and scholar had to have a personal library. Ready access to the world’s knowledge, and your personal collection of it, was essential, to productivity. Either you spent a lifetime collecting, curating, and caretaking physical books, or you had to camp out in a library, preferably one like the New York Public or the British Museum Reading Room.
Today, though, a Google search is usually much more efficient, and often superior, to tracking down physical books to find a needed passage or detail.
That made me wonder: As so many of us strive to unclutter our lives or move toward a paperless world, and as pundits predict the demise of the physical book, are there any books we still need to own? Could we be satisfied with only digital access to literature? And if we do need any physical books at all, which ones are really worth keeping?
Surely once in a while there’s still no substitute for holding that physical page in your hand. Maybe you have some visual memory of its content. Maybe you annotated it years ago. Or maybe it evokes some ineffable emotion.
So, I’m tossing out the question:
If you could own only one physical book, what would it be, and why?
You only get one book, but you can still get anything you want digitally or in a physical library. But you only have one book of your very own, to have and hold whenever you so choose. So, what would it be?
Please share responses via the comments section below, the contact form on my website, my Twitter account (@terraziporyn), or the Late Last Night Books Facebook page.
I’ll share some of the answers in next month’s blog. In the meantime, cheers!
TERRA ZIPORYN is an award-winning novelist, playwright, and science writer whose numerous popular health and medical publications include The New Harvard Guide to Women’s Health, Nameless Diseases, and Alternative Medicine for Dummies. Her novels include Do Not Go Gentle, The Bliss of Solitude, and Time’s Fool, which in 2008 was awarded first prize for historical fiction by the Maryland Writers Association. Terra has participated in both the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the Old Chatham Writers Conference and for many years was a member of Theatre Building Chicago’s Writers Workshop (New Tuners). A former associate editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), she has a PhD in the history of science and medicine from the University of Chicago and a BA in both history and biology from Yale University, where she also studied playwriting with Ted Tally. Her latest novel, Permanent Makeup, is available in paperback and as a Kindle Select Book.
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