Flurije Salihu is a PhD candidate and instructor at Arizona State University currently researching New Media and terrorism. She is currently reading Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series during her summer “vacation” and is waiting anxiously for the next Charlaine Harris book.
Like many of the other contributors to this blog, I’ve had a long and prosperous relationship with reading. One of my first memories, in fact, is of going to the public library with my mother and sister at the age of four (at which point I climbed onto a low shelf of books and yelled like Tarzan, much to my mother’s embarrassment).
My father has never been much of a reader, but my mother and sister and I have always shared books – even to this day, when I am a graduate student in Arizona, my sister a consultant in far-off Virginia, and my mother a plastics colorant manager in Tennessee, we swap texts, e-mail suggestions for new reads, or stick paperback copies of the latest Janet Evanovich into the mail.
This connective property of literature is what I have noticed most in my own life, especially in the past few years, throughout which most of my network of friends and family has become more frequent users of the Internet. It would seem as though this use of the Internet would be an anathema to the circulation of physical objects like books, but this is not the case. Facebook, especially, with applications like the Digital Bookshelf and Books IRead, puts our love affair with reading on display for all of our friends to see.
In fact, this medium gives us a wider audience to which we can declare that existing love affair. On my digital bookshelf you will find a diverse collection of authors, including Marshall McLuhan, Tamora Pierce, Nora Roberts, and Don Delillo, all of which declare my rather strange taste in literature to my diverse network of both strong and weak ties.
And, it seems that every time I sign on to Facebook, one of my other contacts, whether it is a former student, a friend from college, or a family member, has added a book into their own virtual display case or sent me a suggestion for an author or text that I might be interested in.
Nor is this just limited to sites like Facebook. I get and give suggestions for books through e-mail, instant messages, and even Puzzle Pirates, the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online game) that I play–I had a great moment not too long ago with another 15 year old player whose screen name was a character from one of my favorite authors when I was growing up. There are sites for our favorite authors, large communities of fan fiction writers, groups dedicated to the worship of single books or a series of books, or a compendium of books – anything that we consumers of literature could wish for.
We, lovers of texts, virtual or physical, can span distances and time with that love, especially in the digital age when technology affords us the opportunity to easily and quickly connect with others who participate in this universe in which words are transformative.
It doesn’t matter that a friend or family member or stranger is living in a different country, or working a different job than me. It doesn’t matter if she is married, or in high school, or a man or a woman, a girl or a boy. That love is still there – that connection that we have over a book that we have stayed up reading until three in the morning or grudgingly left at home when we went to school or work is both strong and timeless.