Years ago, I shared a flat with a non-reader. In fact, Carmen went so far as to say books scared her. She would cast my five sets of bookshelves a wary glower, then retreat from my room to her world of chrome and found objects. One day, I returned from work to find my cookbooks piled in the closet. Carmen knew in her gut that books did not belong anywhere near the kitchen.
She isn't an ignorant person. She can read; she's an artist and an incredibly creative person. But books - and reading - hold no interest for her. And the physical inactivity of reading bores her silly. (And believe me, she is silly enough.) Information and entertainment, for her, comes from televisions, movies and music. Not books.
I, on the other hand, am a reader. My five bookshelves have grown to eight. Books are my crack and my solace and my teachers. Barring an emergency, I cannot make it through a day without 45 minutes (minimum) in the morning, drinking my coffee and reading (or re-reading) a book.
I've spent the last month working on an estate sale in Georgetown, in a house that has been in the same family for 120 years. And there in the entrance hall was the most beautiful 7 x 8 foot set of mahogany and glass bookshelves. Full of the books a family collected between 1890 and 1950. Mostly novels, some books of knowledge, and of course the pre-requisite mid-century Readers Digest condensed volumes.
The vast majority of these books were charming children's novels from the early part of the last century. And tucked amongst the pages were little treasures - postcards, birthday cards, and other mementos. These books were read. Enjoyed. Treasured and saved for nearly a century in that phenomenal glass and mahogany home.
I understand these people. I am still, 10 years later, puzzled by my former flatmate. Non-readers are as foreign to me as, well, seafood on a pizza. It doesn't make sense. People who don't need to read the book because they saw the movie. People who don't read because they had to read too much in school. People who don't read because they just don't have the time. People who don't read because they are too busy writing. People who don't read because books are scary.
It's a fundamental divide. As elemental to me as religion. And though I try to have compassion on these people, I find it a trial because I have no empathy for them. Only pity. It's a puzzle. Maybe there's a book out there that will help me understand them.