How the Kindle Can Save Your Life

A few months ago, my ex-mother-in-law gave me her old Kindle when she upgraded to the new model. The first book I downloaded on it was last year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, The Short, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz. I finished the book on a roundtrip Metro-North ride to Grand Central.

Now, the strangest thing happened, or rather, didn't happen while I was reading this book. No one noticed what I was reading. Nobody asked me what I thought of the book, whether I liked it, whether I didn't. This was incredibly disorienting, reading in public and creating no reaction. An entire part of my brain that I hadn't even known about shut down -- the part that is self-conscious about what I’m reading, and what people think about what I’m reading.

Call me intellectually vain, a snob. But I'm one of those people who makes snap judgments about you based upon what you read. Sit next to me on an airplane proudly sporting a copy of the latest John Grisham or Nora Roberts, and I will give you wide berth. Clutch a Jhumpa Lahiri or a Malcolm Gladwell, and settle in.

When my ex-mother-in-law gave me the Kindle, she extolled its virtues. She suffers from cancer and needs books that weigh very little. So the Kindle is perfect for her; she could reread Gone With the Wind on it if she wanted to.

Yes, the Kindle is light. Yes, the Kindle is portable. But this is what I consider the most wondrous aspect of it: You can read in public and no knows what you are reading.

- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Judaism - Master Your Metabolism: The 3 Diet Secrets to Naturally Balancing Your Hormones for a Hot and Healthy Body - The Secret - Getting Things Done

This is a partial list of the books I now have downloaded in my Kindle.

At home, my bookcases are crammed with the classics from Austen to Zola; in non-fiction I love Didion and Derrida (okay, just Didion), but I’ve always had a healthy respect for self-help and how-to books. They have guided me through many a personal crisis. I used to buy these books sheepishly at the bookstore, have to set aside time alone and at home to read them, then hide them in the back layer of my bookcase.

Now, I just read them in broad daylight whenever I want to, whenever the need arises.

At last, reading as it should be: A personal choice. Absolutely private.