Reading Without Hands
I’ve loved to read since I learned how as a little girl. Reading has always informed and even transformed my days, my nights, and my life. With a book in my hands, I’ve traveled the world. I’ve parachuted from low-flying planes into war zones and wildfires. I’ve tracked down and caught murderers and terrorists. I’ve visited other worlds and other dimensions, ridden on the backs of dragons, and traveled into the most daunting wilderness. And all of it I’ve done without ever leaving my chair.
As a result I love books themselves. I love those blocky rectangular things made of paper, cardboard, glue, and ink. Hardcovers, paperbacks, venerable old leather-bound volumes: each has that intoxicating book-scent, a certain, solid heft in the hands, a mysterious and promising presence. And large or small, fat or thin, wonder fills them all from the first page to the last.
I simply can’t imagine living without books. What would I do with my free time? How would I go to sleep at night without a story first?
There are times when reading a good book is the only way I can distract myself from the joint pain my rheumatoid disease so frequently causes. I depend on reading in the same way that I depend on the drugs I take to treat the disease and the ones I take to help relieve pain.
But because of rheumatoid disease, my hands have become persnickety. They growl, gripe, and finally holler angrily when I try to hold a book open for longer than a minute or so. Try as I might to ignore the pain, I have to stop reading and put my book down.
It used to only happen occasionally. When it did, I was frustrated, but the flare usually only affected one hand at a time. I managed to find a way to keep reading, propping the book somehow and using my good hand to hold it open and turn pages. But several years ago my wily, mean-spirited old rheuma-dragon changed tactics. Instead of going after just one hand with his hard, blunt teeth and sharp claws, he went after both at the same time. Because he was widening his attack, the pain was more diffuse, but no less disabling.
So for a while I was forced—forced!—to stop reading books. I was heartbroken. I missed them terribly. My world seemed a lot smaller and far less colorful. I felt like I’d lost an old friend.
And then my family gave me an e-reader as a Mother’s Day present. Overjoyed, I purchased my first e-book and began reading. It was different experience to a paper and ink book, but I quickly got used to it. The e-reader was lightweight and easy on my hands. I could prop it on my lap and simply press the small button on the side to turn pages. I could make the text larger or smaller. I liked it a lot.
A couple of years later, the tablet-style e-reader came out. I upgraded. Now I could read books and simply swipe across the screen to turn a page. I could choose different background and text colors. It still wasn’t like reading a real book, but it was a very acceptable substitute for a bookworm like me.
And then I tried audiobooks and fell in love.
I loved being read to as a child. As an adult, I’ve loved listening to the occasional storyteller on public radio, but the opportunity was always a matter of serendipity. It depended on my being in the car with the radio on at just the right moment. But with audiobooks, I can listen to entire novels from start to finish whenever I want.
For a bookworm with arthritis, all this new technology is a gift. I’m so grateful!
Check-in: As we start a new year, how are you feeling?