In My Opinion

For book lovers, a good season in Miami

I’m on page 5,644, in Kindle pages, of the original The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe — and my Kindle tells me I’m only 59 percent of the way into the suspenseful tale of an English man whose irrepressible wanderlust keeps him sailing to new lands despite the perils of the journeys.

The only book that could possibly rival the feat of reading unedited and unabridged Defoe through shipwrecks and decades of isolation on an island menaced by cannibals is my life’s never-ending pursuit: making it all the way to the end of the battles of Miguel Cervantes’ Don Quijote.

Sadly so, Defoe is far easier for me. Early exile robbed me of some of my precociousness in my native Spanish, and so it is that reading Cervantes with a dictionary at my side always ends up taking a backseat to new reading. Crusoe’s awkward old English sentences, on the other hand, easily become an acquired taste.

He has been by companion for months — kept me sane through the presidential election and traveled light on vacation to New England.

I’m nowhere near ready to abandon him, despite all the new books and authors that will battle for my affections this week at the 29th annual Miami Book Fair International, when the city dresses up in literary couture.

And do we ever need the revelry this year.

Meeting authors (350 of them are here), hearing them read their words, and strolling through scores of vendor stalls full of books from around the world is the needed antidote to our battleground fatigue.

Adiós, mean season.

Hello books, essential fuel for the soul.

There are never too many books in a home.

Reading an old classic on a new medium is but a sliver of my literary consumption. I read even more voraciously “the real thing” — books on paper — in two languages and across genres and cultures. My prediction is that, no matter the packaging, books on paper will never die.

I buy more books than clothes. I’d rather read than watch television, which means the television sets in my house are forever stuck in the ’90s, but the books range from antiques to the latest work of a favorite author. No one visits me for my flat screen, but most people do end up admiring (sort of) my book collection.

Once, when a decorator put up fancy curtains in my house, he saw the packed wall-to-wall bookcase in my eat-in kitchen, the other nearby in the family room, and the amounts of books piled on coffee tables and side tables — books spilling into the guest bathroom and lining the halls — and he offered advice.

Pointing, as if my books were litter, he declared: “This has to go.”

I never saw him again.

Almost a decade later, he came to one of my book readings, and only then did I forgive his inability to embrace the power of books to decorate a life in magical, mystical brush strokes.

My idea of decorating is adding more bookshelves, upgrading my Kindle.

I know this confession qualifies me as a nut job, and perhaps I should be kinder, use more politically correct terms — eccentric, nerd, bookworm — as there are thousands of us out there.

But what people think of us is but a footnote in time.

We, the readers, are a tribe, never alone — and this is our week, the beginning of the good season.

Read more Fabiola Santiago stories from the Miami Herald

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