Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Long Lost Love: Cuddling Up with a Good Book

By Charles D. Springfield

Recently I found myself in a very cash-poor situation. In New York City, that’s actually not a hard place to find one’s self. Trust me! A nice apartment cost on average about $2,000 a month. A small, rail cocktail at a bar usually starts out around $7. Top-shelf alcohol can start out at $12 per drink. A movie is $12, sans the popcorn and drinks. And a typical lunch will cost anywhere from $10 to $20 unless you just want a quick bite to eat on the run.

So after a few months of enjoying living in the city – and waiting on some anticipated checks – I found myself on a tight budget. And I mean tight.

One great thing about NYC, however, is that it does have its fair share of free events and activities. I enjoyed a free concert in Union Square one afternoon. I saw a free Lady Gaga performance at the Today Show Toyota concert series. There are free and “pay-what-you-want” days at several museums. Free classic movies sponsored by HBO are shown at Bryant Part every Monday night during the summer. And there’s Shakespeare in the Park with professional actors like Al Pacino and Jesse L. Martin.

But for me, going out usually means I’m going to spend some money at some point. I might see a magazine that attracts my attention on the street. My girl Sherri Williams has a story featured in August 2010 issue of Essence magazine with Janet Jackson on the cover. I had to pick that up. The temperature has been in the 90s for most of the summer, so you have to stop to pick up an ice coffee, iced tea or ice cream. If I see a cocktail lounge that seems fun and has a drink special, I’m going to be tempted to enter.

So rather than staying in to be a major couch potato watching tons of re-runs and over-the-top reality television, I opted to go through my belongings, dust off a book and aim to get through it until my financial situation improves.

Since I haven’t read novels or followed best sellers lists in years, the only new books I’ve bought were about succeeding in business, finding your true self and health/fitness. All of those categories worked for me, especially now. When money is tight and options are limited, why not use this time to jump start a mini life makeover to improve myself mentally, emotionally and spiritually; get and stay in shape; and learn how to be more successful as a businessman.

I cracked open the first book and something happened to me that hadn’t happened in years. I stretched out on the couch and got fully immersed in a book. The pages continued to turn and the hours continued to pass on by. I forgot how clever writing, interesting subject matter and/or mind expanding advice can REALLY pull you in to stick around for 300-plus pages. And I loved it.

Whether the television was on or off, whether nearby New Yorkers were at each other’s throats in the park for whatever reason or if a series of panhandlers were trying to squeeze some non-existing coins from me, it was all irrelevant. All that mattered was the book I was reading and what was yet to come in the next chapters.

At the end of the day, the most amazing thing about the experience was that it reminded me of something that I loved to do once upon a time, whether I had money in the bank of not. And it inspired me to take a deeper look back into my history at retro hobbies and activities I once loved and make some of them a part of my current existence.

PS. I’m still reading A LOT.

New Ways to Fall in Love with Books Again

Sitting in bed, at a coffee shop or in a park may not be the ideal way for many people to experience the magic of books. There, of course, are audio books available on CD and through your favorite mobile music device that provide an alternative way for consuming books. But thanks to modern – and ever changing – technology, we are now able to enjoy books in innovative and exciting new ways.

Kindle: The Kindle Wireless Reading Device was one of the first-to-market gadgets that allowed consumers to download and read books practically anywhere – up to 3,500 of them. The new generation Kindle devices boast an all-new, high contrast e-ink screen, new sleek and lighter design, built-in Wi-Fi and free 3G wireless. My good friend Esther, who travels for work all the time, received a Kindle from her husband and absolutely loves it. It is sold through and starts at $139. Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6" Display, Graphite, 3G Works Globally - Latest Generation

iPad: The iPad has multiple uses: computing, music and video. But Apple wants consumers to know that it’s a “novel way to buy and read books.” Once you download the free iBooks app, you can browse and shop for books on the iPad. Unlike a paper book, you can tailor iBooks to suit the way you read. Turn iPad to the portrait orientation to view a single page or view two pages at once by rotating it to landscape. This device is on both my sister’s and my wish lists. The iPad can be purchased through Apple stores or online. The device starts at $499.

Nook: With the Nook, offered by Barnes & Noble, consumers have access to more than one million e-books, newspapers and magazines. Owners can read books any way they want by adjusting the text size to suit their needs. It uses Wi-Fi or 3G+Wi-Fi to download titles in seconds. And it stores up to 1,500 books with the existing 2G memory and additional memory can be added to store more titles. It even allows consumers to play Chest and Sudoku. Book lovers will love that the device is connected to one of the largest booksellers in the country. The Nook is sold through Barnes & Noble and other retailers and starts at $149.

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