This article belongs to Just Bee column.
In the English alphabet there are 26 letters, an assortment of vowels and consonants that make up the more than 180,000 entries in The Oxford English Dictionary. Yet these days, growing numbers of people seem to be more fascinated with a mere few letters. They are turning on the TV, connecting to someone else's PSP, or spending every waking hour on their PC.
There is a way, however, to embark on a cost efficient, energy-conserving adventure that includes all 26 letters and thousands of words, too! Let's pay homage to the alphabet in its entirety by turning off the PC and turning on a book instead.
Now, I'm not completely dissing technology. I am also acutely aware of the fact that you are indeed reading this article from your personal computer. For the technology-dependent, e-books are a feasible option. An e-book is the text of a particular book or novel that can be downloaded and read from your computer. There are also book readers, special computer-like devices that are used solely for storing and displaying the texts of books. Although these units are more portable and weigh less than most personal and laptop computers, like computers, they rely on battery power and various memory chips.
Even though I absolutely adore my personal computer and all its amenities, I never want to end my relationship with the reliable, quaint paperback book. Good old-fashioned books are easy on the eyes and extremely portable. They can get wet, even saturated in salt or sand and still be fully functional. And, in the event a book does get carried out to sea while you are dozing on the beach, it is much easier to replace than your computer or e-reader device. I derive pure delight in picking up a book and palming its cover; I feel most at home to the snap of turning pages and the slip of textured paper on my fingertips. I love how each and every book I have ever read, old and new, has that distinct "book smell" about it.
What do I adore even more about books? You don't have to spend money on them. They are highly borrow-able entities. Remember libraries? In this modern world, thanks to interlibrary loan programs, you can borrow almost any book from a college text to a high-interest bestseller, from a library, somewhere. Your librarian will locate the book and take it out on loan for you. You may have to wait a couple of weeks, but it is FREE. Friends and colleagues are another invaluable (and often overlooked) resource. From my friends and family circle, I have borrowed and loaned a plethora of books through the years.
What's more, sharing books with others affords the opportunity for engaging discussions about a wide variety of topics and themes. If you don't mind dipping into your pocket, booksellers such as Barnes and Noble and Borders offer great discounts and online promotions if you join their e-mailing lists. And students and teachers receive 20% off single-purchase books. Websites such as Half.com and Amazon.com offer many gently used books at notably discounted prices.
In my most recent adventure, I tentatively trailed a brave young woman named Mariam to the distant, raw land of Kabul, Afghanistan during the Cold War. I entered a world I knew little about, Khaled Hosseini's land of A Thousand Splendid Suns, and emerged from it awestruck, entertained and enriched. Don't be intimidated; books are not the enemy! Just take the time to select a book that is appropriate for your interests and ability. Ask your friends, family, teachers and/or public librarians for recommendations. It also helps to read the first few pages of the book before you purchase or borrow it. And if you want to read more, then you know you have made a good choice. If not, try again. If you persist in this practice, you will be sure to find a winner soon enough. Then, all that's left for you to do is invite this new friend to accompany you as you bask in all twenty-six letters of our glorious alphabet.