Month: February 2014

Dream Pink: The Appeal of Lolita

At the age of fifteen, on a school trip to California, I picked up a copy of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita in the airport bookstore. I was attracted to the book because of its cover: a creamy, peach-colored paperback displaying full pink lips, smiling with a secret.  This fascination with aesthetics was one of the first parallels I drew between myself and Lolita upon my reading of Nabokov’s novel, at only three years older than the heroine.

Humbert Humbert, the eloquent narrator, lures his step-daughter Dolores (Lolita) into his arms with promises of gifts and vacations.  As a fifteen year-old girl, I found myself attracted to the same things as Lolita. Colorful clothing frequently caught my eye during trips to the mall.  I was lured in, as Lolita is, by “dream pink, frosted aqua, glans mauve, tulip red, [and] oolala black.”  The idea of being able to transform oneself with the mere change of a fabric color had me feeling whimsical, like a butterfly.

Vladimir Nabokov studied butterflies and frequently mentioned them in his works. In a way, Humbert hunts butterflies, too; throughout the novel he attempts to lure in the flighty, fragile object of his desire.  I was enamored: Humbert gives Lolita everything she wants!  Lolita’s fascination with “soft goods” like records, cosmetics, and clothing keeps her in Humbert’s arms.  He woos her by buying her things, and I found myself daydreaming of mountains of gifts.

An article by Eve Merriam from 1960, entitled “Lolita and Lollipops,” examines teen fascination with material goods.  In 1945, a man named Eugene Gilbert began polling teenagers under the Gilbert Youth Foundation.  His polls eventually allowed companies to expand their products to a new market: the teenager.  All of this took place around the time Lolita is set.  Teens could now read about the products they cared about in magazines targeted towards their age group.

No matter how I pleaded or stormed, I could never make her read any other book than the so-called comic books or stories in magazines for American females,” Humbert says.  Lolita would have been the target audience for magazines like Seventeen, which during 1959, had over one hundred pages of advertisements.  Young girls who were skeptical about the adult world relied on the information in these magazines to tell them how to act and behave in order to appear more “grown-up.”

Lolita “was curiously fascinated by the photographs of local brides, some in full wedding apparel, holding bouquets and wearing glasses.” What struck me about this is that the trip Humbert and Lolita embark on actually resembles a honeymoon.  The pair visits kitschy tourist traps and spends their nights in motel rooms, just like a couple of newlyweds.  This tour of America struck me, at fifteen, as wildly romantic. “Neatly overlapping dark firs, interrupted in places by puffs of aspen, pink and lilac formations” and “tiny cushionets of alpine flowers” conjured up images of natural beauty best shared with a loved one.

I was so enchanted by the gifts and the whimsical road trip that I overlooked the horrific truth of Lolita and Humbert’s relationship: she is a young girl, and he is her step-father, and they are sexually involved.  He plies her with ice cream sundaes and hot coffee, but only after she “does her morning duty.”

As a writer, I am fascinated by Nabokov’s ability to make a character, who should be despicable, rather charming.  This is achieved through Humbert’s unreliable narration.  We as readers are initally only offered a glimpse into Lolita’s reaction towards Humbert.  We hear all about his ecstasy with only slight mentions of Lolita’s disgust.  Because of this, we may even see Humbert as bearing resemblance to a handsome movie hero; in the most honest portrayal of a young girl in the text, Lolita scribbles Humbert’s initials underneath a movie star’s photograph. Humbert’s own journal entries are as descriptive and eager as a teen in love for the first time. Although the sinister intention is there, affection wins out.

Just as Lolita is attracted to the aesthetically-pleasing materials in shop windows, Humbert is attracted to the aesthetically-pleasing nymphet.  As mentioned previously, he hunts and tracks Lolita like an object throughout the novel, and through his first-person narration, we are forced to experience his obsession and eroticism first-hand. The fact that the author has enabled his readers to feel curious about or aroused by this taboo is quite a feat, but Nabokov carries it off beautifully.  Upon my initial reading, I fell in love with the words, and dismissed any feelings of distaste I may have had on the real subject matter of this book.  I believe it was a Vanity Fair review that called Lolita “the only convincing love story of our century.” While that is a lofty title for a story to carry, I am so swept up in the beauty of the thing that I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles and yes, she does own a pair of those heart-shaped sunglasses.  You can read more about her here.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Ole Man Berkins: Breckenridge, CO

[Editor’s Note: Here at BiblioSmiles, we love hearing about bookstores of all kinds.  Do you want to share your magical bookstore experience, like Izzy is doing today?  Head on over to the Submit page.]

Over my winter break this year, I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Breckenridge, CO with my family. My older sister arrived earlier than I did and when I got there, she asked me to meet her at Ole Man Berkins Bookstore. The store is located off the main street, at the back of a small alcove of shops. When I walked into Ole Man Berkins, I was swallowed up into used book heaven. This shop has it all: books organized by genre, music, vintage clothing (read: flannel), handmade art and greeting cards for sale, instruments ready to be played, coffee, and a sweet dog that begs for your attention. When you purchase a gift certificate to Ole Man Berkins, the owner of the shop handwrites the amount you purchased on a piece of recycled paper in his unique, ink-penned handwriting before “laminating” the certificate in packaging tape.

I was able to purchase a haul of books for pleasure, as well as many books that I needed to acquire for my spring semester at NYU. The employees at the store even asked me to copy my reading lists for my classes so that they could try to track down some of the books that they couldn’t initially find. The people that work at Ole Man Berkins make you feel like you’re perusing your best friend’s bookshelf rather than making a commercial transaction.

Ole Man Berkins is definitely a hidden gem in Breckenridge and I had to pull myself out of the mountains of books just so I could hit the slopes on my snowboard! If you’re ever in the area, this place is a must!

Check out Ole Man Berkins’ official website here. The store is located at 326 South Main Street, Breckenridge CO 80424. You can contact them via telephone: 970-453-1326.

(Photo credit: homepage)

Izzy Skovira loves writing, dogs, food, and photography. Read more about her at or connect @htothe_izzzo.

Being Patrick Bateman

To preface this review, I feel it would be best to know the mindset I had going into American Psycho, the renowned novel by Bret Easton Ellis, which was later adapted into a film. That is to say, I really didn’t have one. Before downloading the novel onto my Kindle, the only things I knew were:

1. The book had appeared on a list titled “200 Books to Read Before You Die”

2. The movie was good.

When I first brought up the subject of reading American Psycho to my friends, they all immediately assumed that I was reading it for a class. There was no possible way I was choosing to read this book on my own accord, as that would simply be psychotic (heh). So with my previous knowledge and that incredibly telling fact in mind, I ventured into the world of NYC in the 1980’s, where American Psycho’s main character resides.

And I loved it.

The story is written as a first person narration from the main character, Patrick Bateman. As we go through the first few chapters and scenes, we gather information that aids in the discovery of exactly who he is. We learn early on that: he’s a playboy, with an almost overwhelming harem of girls at his disposal (literally, as we find out later); he’s a yuppie with a near-infinite amount of money; and, most importantly, he’s obsessive about his financial status in the world.

Instead of learning about the other characters in Bateman’s world, he exerts all of his energy observing and, in turn listing for the reader, every item of clothing the others are wearing. Every. Single. Item. He spares no detail on the designer or styling. By the end of American Psycho, you will have easily doubled the amount of designer brands you can list off of the top of your head (and you probably still won’t be able to afford a single one). However, by the end of those first few chapters, you’ll find yourself skimming over the drawn-out details, desperately looking for any character traits that aren’t attached to a price tag. And once you reach the conclusion that there aren’t any, you’ll begin to see the world as Patrick Bateman sees it. He is completely numb to everything and everyone, only seeing other people as materials and objects.

As a dark humor satire of the yuppie lifestyle, American Psycho is brilliant. As readers, we thrive on connecting with our characters, gaining feeling and empathy towards them. But without knowing any of the traits of the characters beyond their social status and outfit choice, we are able to become as apathetic about them as Patrick Bateman has become.

This hateful apathy is what leads our dear Patrick down the path of becoming one of literary history’s most deranged and monstrous characters. With absolutely no regard for humans at all, Bateman goes on to kill, torture, eat, and then fornicate with (often in that order), many characters throughout the book. This is, of course, explained in graphic detail that I fear no amount of cute cat pictures will bleach out of my mind. I’ll spare everyone the gritty details, but let’s just say that I agree with the countries that exclusively sell this book shrink-wrapped like an adult magazine with a big red sticker on the front, alerting the would-be-readers that, “Hey kids, this book is real messed up. Don’t read this. Like, ever.”

Trying to explain the horrors without actually reciting the crimes in the book, however, only seems to act as a sales pitch. My pleas of “I ALMOST PUKED WHILE READING IT TODAY. DON’T READ THIS,” are seamlessly translated to my friends as “THIS BOOK IS AMAZING,” and they are left more curious, rather than terrified, of what awaits inside of the novel.

Folks, it’s absolutely the most horrifying thing I’ve ever imagined. Human Centipede? The first murder of the book is more violent than the whole film. Serbian Film? I’d give that a 9.9/10 in terms of graphic violence. American Psycho takes an 11/10. Seriously.

So, I’ll leave it at this. As a novel full of the darkest of dark humor, satire about the materialist yuppie culture, and a firm understanding of apathy towards life, American Psycho comes second to none. At the same time, Ellis has created the perfect human monster out of Patrick Bateman, placing this novel in a caliber of violent literature I did not think existed. Do I regret reading it in all of its gory details? Not in the slightest. The lens in which Ellis allows his reader to view the world is so fascinatingly well done and terrifying that you’ll begin to feel your own world outside of the book morphing as well. Although the seemingly excessive graphic violence of American Psycho may give the book a bad reputation, the absolute dread and discomfort of viewing the world through Patrick Bateman’s eyes is a terrifying trip that I cannot recommend enough .

Spencer Schilsky is a scholar by day, salesman by night. You can follow the adventures of Spencer and his cat on Twitter: @SpenRobSchi.

Ink Addiction: The World of Lit Tattoos

How far are you willing to go for your love of literature?

If you’re here and reading this, I’m going to assume you’re already spending late nights in bed promising yourself that you’ll go to sleep after just one more chapter. Or… two.

Right now, at least in the sprawling metropolis of New York City, it’s more common to see a twenty-something with a tattoo than without. Even the women who work in corporate offices will let the wings of a bird peek out on a collarbone, or show off a rose on their ankle, or a Celtic knot on their neck. So it’s not really particularly surprising that our own tribe (yes, literary nerds are a tribe, embrace it and come to the dark side) has decided to pay homage to our passion by permanently marking our bodies.

It’s kind of perfect, isn’t it? Because we’re plunging needles filled with ink into our skin, and ink is what the words on pages are made of. Well, aside from electronic-readers, but shh, we all still have to staunchly pretend we only read physical books, printed on actual paper. (Let me cover my Kindle’s ears while I say that.)

Getting a tattoo representing a piece of our favorite novel is a way to carry the story with us for our entire life. In good and in bad, on your happy days and your darkest, the words that whispered to you on the page will be with you. It’s sort of spiritual, in a super nerdy way.

So, of course, both of my tattoos are literary. You can find hundreds of bookish tributes on Tumblr (see here and here), if you’d like to geek out to your heart’s desire.

I classify lit tattoos by levels of subtlety, or rather a scale that goes from “Sshhh, secretly geeky book tattoo”  all the way up to “HEY I’VE GOT A BRILLIANT BOOK TATTOO COME TALK TO ME ABOUT IT AND LET’S GO HAVE LIBRARY PLAYDATES AND ADVENTURES.” My tattoos fall towards the secret end of the spectrum, but I’d be down for some library playdates if anyone was wondering. Just saying.

Let’s talk about the levels. Because clearly you need a lit tattoo.

Super Secret Reference Tattoo

 Blink and you’ll miss it. My first tattoo looks like three spiders, or asterisks, or if you’re a Ghibli fan, the little sootballs that eat stars. (Seriously are these not adorable?)
You have to be a fiercely devoted book geek to understand the reference of this tattoo. In the corner of every page in every Harry Potter book, these three little stars dot the corner of the pages. Super Secret Reference Tattoos are so minute or obscure or deeply-embedded in the novel that only you or others in the know will catch the reference.

Another example is this chapter header symbol from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, sported by Peter W. Knox.  It’s a subtle homage, but one that holds a lot of meaning to Peter (read his post here).

Middling Geekiness

So this would be something that people may faintly recognize as literary but are unsure. Like having the dark mark from Harry Potter on your arm, or a Roald Dahl illustration of Matilda, or Valgar Morghulis from a Song of Ice and Fire. My second tattoo would fall under this category. It’s a word written in the brilliant JRR Tolkien’s Elvish script. Some might think it’s just Arabic or another foreign language, but others will realize the literary reference. I spent hours making sure it was perfect by the way. I didn’t want to be someone with a symbol meaning Chicken with Broccoli tattooed on my body, and go around for years thinking it said Love.


 Any quotes from novels or poems would fall under this category, I think. This is playing on hard mode. This is so committed that you’re broadcasting how these words echo to the very imprint of your soul, and people are going to make judgments based on that. Some might make fun of your choice, and almost no one will ever understand fully what it means to you or why you chose it. My best friend has a quote on her ribs and I admire her for it.

I don’t have any of those ones. Yet. There’s a lot of skin on my body and a lot of life I haven’t lived yet.

What about a tattoo of an actual book?  Show off your love, and get something so obvious it smacks you (and others) in the face.

Would you ever get a literary tattoo?

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at Brilliant Buckets.

Literary Landmarks: Books That Made Me

I’ve always been a reader. Books have shaped me. They’ve molded me into the writer I’ve become.  While my favorite novel has been the same for nearly twenty years, it seems that throughout the years there have been certain books which stand out in defining my nature as a reader, having pushed me down the path I’ve taken. The following are the ten novels that serve as landmarks in my reading life, along with the year of publication and the age at which I first read them.

1. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)
Age Read: 5

This is the novel that I learned to read on. My mother read it to me as a little kid and I’ve read it on my own probably a dozen times since. It remains the most vivid reading experience in my mind, for this story reached inside and planted a part of itself within my soul. The narrative is simple, straightforward, and easy for any child to relate to. Sara Crewe, an imaginative little girl with a voracious appetite for reading and magic, is left at a boarding school while her father is abroad. When he dies, she is left with nothing and must make her own way. She is courageous. Spirited. Charming. At the time, I believed myself to already possess her few vices and desperately aspired to develop her attributes. She was my role model, and I doubt I could have found a better one.

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
Age Read: 11

When my father discovered that his beloved childhood saga, The Lord of the Rings, was being developed into a three-part film series, he insisted that I read the novels prior to the first film’s release. He even prepared questions to ask me afterwards, which really just served as an excuse to discuss the books. It was by far the most enjoyable assignment I’d ever received. In the evenings I would lie in the family room while my father made dinner, trailing after Frodo as he left the Shire. Marveling at the largeness of Middle Earth. Fearing for the life of Pippin, for as my favorite character I believed his life was certainly in jeopardy (my favorite characters have always suffered a poor survival rate). I don’t think I fully grasped how big the world really is until I read The Lord of the Rings. It taught me the meaning of bravery. A noble heart. Terrible danger. Perseverance against fear. It was my first introduction to the Fantasy Epic. Surely a little piece of my heart is buried on a quiet hillside of Middle Earth.

3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
Age Read: 16

I like to believe my love of anguish comes from this bitter tale of revenge. As a kid I’d often pass this novel in the bookstore, pointing it out to friends and family as “the longest book ever written.” That’s how it always seemed to me. Strong. Infinite. As a teenager I finally got up the courage to purchase the novel and once I started reading it I couldn’t stop. I carried that thing around everywhere. I read it in class. Drama rehearsal. Stores. Home. On the floor at a friend’s house. I couldn’t get enough. From this grand, forceful novel I learned about the depth of character, despair, and the human heart. The reading of the classics peaked for me with this novel and I have yet to find anything else like it.

4. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1817)
Age Read: 16

Catherine Morland is not stupid. I’ve always struggled with female characters, or books written for women in general. I’ve always liked Jane Austen though, and the thoughtful, intelligent protagonist of Austen’s first novel is a perfect example of why her work means so much to me. Catherine isn’t easily swindled. Or bullied. She knows her mind and, while occasionally foolish in her flaws, it is refreshing to find a young heroine whose flaws are her own and not the result of outside manipulation. This dark novel, which is quite aware of the ways in which it explores Gothic tropes, is unique among Austen’s work. It is also important to me because it was in fact Austen’s first novel and, as a writer, I’ve always had a soft spot for an author’s first work.

5. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy (2005)
Age Read: 18

McCarthy. Is. A. Literary. Badass.

6. Passing by Nella Larsen (1929)
Age Read: 21

In college I took a course called American Women Writers, and while studying for my degree, no novel stuck with me the way this one did. Short and completely unknown to me prior to studying it, the novel explores the relationship between two black women in the 1920s, one who’s used her light skin to “pass” as white all her life and one who’s chosen to hold onto her identity as a black woman. Larson’s work is articulate, concise, original, and knows how to shock the reader in the most unexpected ways.

7. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)
Age Read: 21

I read this novel back-to-back with Ordinary People, which took a significant emotional toll. My college roommate went out one evening while I was sitting on the floor, and upon her exit I began reciting Sylvia Plath’s poetry aloud. Just to hear it echo in the quiet. Feel the rhythm in my bones. Just as A Little Princess appealed to my little, imaginative self as a child, Plath’s novel appealed to the conflicted young writer in me.

8. Ordinary People by Judith Guest (1976)
Age Read: 21

This novel has the biggest heart in literature. When young Conrad’s brother dies in a tragic accident, Conrad’s tries and fails to commit suicide. One of the most striking elements for me is how the novel begins after Conrad returns home from the hospital. The book is not about the painful events that took place, but rather how he and his family move forward from those events. Guest provides the most natural portrait of the human condition I’ve ever known. It taught me on both a structural level (as a writer) and emotional level (as a person). Though not necessarily a perfect novel, it is indeed a powerful one.

9. The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin (2012)
Age Read: 23

The eloquence of this novel is immeasurable. The prose. The narrative. The pages are rich with heartbreak and beauty and the complications of everyday life.  This book represents how remarkable literature can be, and it is always nice to be given a reminder like that.

10. Night Film by Marisha Pessl (2013)
Age Read: 23

To date, this is the only novel I’ve ever read that felt as if it was written just for me. It perfectly blends my love of literature, cinematic history, conspiracy, and horror in one delectably jarring package. The work as a whole is a committed force of nature. I’ve never read anything like it, and I doubt I ever will again. I possess an acquired cinematic taste, and Night Film most certainly fulfills that.

I’ve always been a reader. Books have shaped me. They’ve molded me into the writer I’ve become. While this list does not include all of my favorites, and there are even a few I’ve preferred to some of them, these are novels that serve as landmarks in my reading history. They note moments that influenced my writing and future reading, along with my perspective as a person trying to understanding a vastly indecipherable world.

I’ve always been a reader. Always.

Emily Ruth Verona received her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Cinema Studies from The State University of New York at Purchase. She lives in New Jersey. For more visit or follow her on Twitter @emilyrverona.

Books That Made Me Sob Recently

It’s often said that we use books to escape. They help us push aside our troubles and forget all of the little things that bother us, even for a moment or two.
Sometimes I think I use books solely for the purpose of making myself cry.
Losing yourself in a good cry is cathartic, and I highly recommend it.
If you’re in need of a weepy, mucus-filled, puffy-eye fest of your own, and you’re looking to fall in love with a story at the same time, I can recommend three books in particular that I’ve read in the past few months. But please, don’t forget the tissues.

 Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
A snippet from the synopsis calls Me Before You a “heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
Moyes’ writing is breezy and easy to read. The downside is this: I finished this book much faster than I would have liked!
The majority of the book’s narration is through the POV of Louisa Clark. She is chatty, and pleasant, and incredibly comfortable in her hometown. When she loses her job at a cafe and interviews for a caretaker position, she gets a real wake-up call.
She becomes a companion for Will, a thirty-something quadriplegic who, before his accident, was a high-powered businessman with a taste for adventure. Wheelchair-bound and entirely dependent on others, Will is a shadow of his former self. Louisa soon learns that her position in Will’s life holds a weight that she may not be prepared for.
This is a stunning book. It’s painful, but inspiring, and life-affirming. If you’re looking for a book to make you laugh, and cry, and want to get out there and live: read Me Before You. It will not disappoint.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald were the “it” couple of the 1920s. Fowler describes the luxurious, booze-fueled early days of the Fitzgerald marriage in such charming details that I dreamed of tagging along. I loved reading these accounts from Zelda’s perspective, as she makes herself over into the flapper of Scott’s stories.
Therese Anne Fowler paints a portrait of the Fitzgeralds that is relatable and touching. Zelda, a beautiful and outgoing young woman, is swept into Scott’s exciting life. Despite her family’s misgivings, Zelda marries Scott. This decision ultimately shapes the rest of her life.
As the years pass and the Fitzgerald’s marriage is challenged by financial hardships, emotional breakdowns, and the presence of one well-written (if infuriating!) Ernest Hemingway, Fowler showcases a marriage that struggles, despite the odds. What we have here is a pair of people who are both brilliant and deeply troubled. They achieve success, but they must also live with depression and failure. There is so much emotion in these pages. I couldn’t put this book down.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Once again, the author of The Kite Runner delivers another thought-provoking, powerful story about love and the choices we make. Hosseini’s newest novel focuses on a myriad of characters from around the globe. He masterfully links the narratives together, and this kept me saying “aha!” whenever I made a new connection between narrators.
What begins as a story about a father’s choice and the strong bond between a brother and sister becomes so much more. The reader is shuffled back and forth through time and place, from a small village in Afghanistan in the 1950s to modern-day San Francisco, even stopping in France and Greece. The scope of the novel seems huge at first, and overwhelming in its number of characters and their hardships, but at a certain point: it all just clicks.
“Human behavior is messy and unpredictable and unconcerned with convenient symmetries,” the novel states. As the tears roll, you will understand so much about the fragility of relationships, the implications of selfishness, and the strength of love.

I think this is something that I’ve come to understand from all three of these books.  Books that elicit emotional responses, in my opinion, are doing their job right.  I’d gladly cry for any of these books again.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she cries way too easily over fiction.  You can read more about her here.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

A Concession

Some of my earliest memories are in a shelf in the library.

Back in the ’90s, in a room where there were no kids’ books, I found a home. An empty bottom shelf, rounded out on one side and tucked away in the darkened corner near where they would eventually add in a bathroom that wasn’t behind the front desk and a permanently frowning librarian. It was rough, cheap, Home Depot quality wood; I could snag my sweater on the edge if I wasn’t careful, and I collected sawdust on my knees and in the creases of my palms.  It was a small, hollow little space, and if I curled myself up around a pile of books I could disappear, maybe even nap, if I was ever bored enough to.

I was never bored enough.

I don’t know when I learned to read, but it almost seems like once I picked that first book up, the rest was historical fiction. I went through middle school and high school gaining a back problem that would follow me all the way here into my 20s, possibly because I would stuff my already stuffed bag full of manga and books and sketchpads and notebooks I didn’t need.

My point, you guys, is that I kind of like books.

Which brings me to 2014. I have watched the progression of technology for the past decade or so with a bit of rapt fascination. They say that Cleopatra lived closer to the moon landing than the building of the pyramids and I understand that, I feel it straight down to my bones, that we are moving faster and faster and this carousel will eventually halt and toss us into some kind of Tomorrowland where we have hoverboards and a lab-grown chicken in every pot. For the most part, this is exciting.

But at what cost? We’ve watched libraries suffer. We’ve watched bookstores close (Remember Borders? Borders was a Goliath – imagine what happened to all the Davids?), and I’ve scoured Going out of Business sales with a mix of reverence, glee, and trepidation. To me, books are almost everything. It’s that feeling I get as I leave a store, feeling its solid weight in my palm, knowing that somewhere inside of it are my new favorite characters, my new highlighted lines, my new memories. You don’t get that with a .doc.

So, for awhile at least, it felt almost like watching Alexandria burn, only no one else seemed to be smelling the smoke. With the advent of electronic books and their definite rise in popularity the past several years, it seemed like everyone else around me was going with the flow. With the Kindle, the Nook, and the mobile reading apps that sprung up everywhere, I would look around desperately at my own impressive, corporeal library, wondering why no one else seemed to miss this. The feel of paper, the heft of the actual object, the solidity of these stories that reading the on a screen seemed to just not offer. The idea of switching – as my friends did, as my professors did, and as my own mother (that Judas!) did – made me frustrated. What was I not getting? Why am I the only one who cares?

But then something happened, and the first crack formed in the defenses I’d constructed against this onslaught of electronic publication.

I moved to South Korea.

I came here for a year back in November, to teach English and generally just get out of the mid-mid-life crisis I could feel myself slipping into. It occurred to me back in August that something very bad was about to happen:

–          I was about to move halfway across the world.
–          I was about to move to a country where the primary language wasn’t English.
–          I was about to move to a country where Barnes and Noble hadn’t exactly permeated the market yet.

The second I realized this, I set the pitcher of steamed milk down, stared into the mindlessly crafted skinny vanilla latte I’d just poured out, and felt my heart stumble a little over its own shoelaces. Well, crap.

I went into panic mode. I specifically set aside every book I’d had lined up to read – just plain stopped reading – for the next two months, because I was suddenly working against a countdown. A countdown where, once that plane left the runway in SFO, I would no longer have any easy access to English books. I even went so far as to sell my own books, which I consider sacrilege, to be able to scrounge up enough cash to buy a copy of Winter’s Tale to read before the movie came out this year.

When I finally left for my new adventure, I had books tucked away in every possible crevice and cranny in my luggage. I’m pretty sure my suitcases were overweight simply because of my refusal to not bring them.

Those books lasted me a month.

Somewhere deep down inside me, in a part of my mind I try to ignore, that some would call “pragmatism” and I would really just like to call “wrong,” I knew what I had to do. Well, what my mom (Judas…?) had to do. And she did. I got a package a little bit after Christmas, and buried under all the underwear I’d forgotten on the counter at home (the past month had been fun) and a vacuum sealed package of Christmas cookies, was my brand new Kindle.

I picked it up, slid my fingers over its sleek edges, poked at the screen a couple times, and bit my lip.

I became what I had hated for so long…

…And I loved every second of it.

You guys are the first I’ve admitted this to… I really do love my Kindle. Don’t tell anyone, please, because my pride doesn’t like being wounded and it’s very embarrassing to rail against something for years and then find out you like it. It’s like the Great Red Wine Scandal of 2012 all over again.

But, there is this: yesterday, surprise bus schedule changes meant I had three hours to kill before my 4 hour bus ride to visit my SO. You know I love surprises.

I found my way to the cafe in the station, bought a latte and sandwich, and settled in to wait. The only problem was, I had planned on finishing my book (Divergent – I’m late to the game, irrelevant) on the trip there. Two and a half hours later, you guys, and I was still sitting in my cafe seat with a completed book and nothing to do for the whole bus ride.

Oh, wait.

It’s South Korea, of course, so even their bathrooms are wireless– I connected and went to the store, and bought the next book for 5$! It was sitting in front of me immediately and saved me from 4 hours of staring out a bus window and trying to ignore how sick I was getting from the old woman sitting next to me munching dried squid.

Here’s what I’m trying to say: the big scary future is now, and I suppose I should get used to it. I wonder if any of you have every felt the same kind of reservations over this change as I have. Where did you first realize your e-reader was kind of a necessity? Is someone out there still smelling all that smoke? What books should I download next?

On the bright side, I’m sure that my small nook in the library is much roomier when the only thing you have to hold is, well…a Nook.

Samantha Yellin’s body exists in South Korea, but her mind is always wandering elsewhere and really, it’s a wonder she gets anything done. More of her evasive procrastinating can be found at A Case of Writerlust.