Books are created to convey and preserve information. The job of telling and retelling stories, and consequently the effort taken to have the stories committed to memory, is delegated to the book. This is very easy to understand. But what is more complex is the prescription, which is as Latour defines it: “the behavior imposed back onto the human by nonhuman delegates” (Latour 301).
In general, the easiest answer to “what behavior is imposed back onto a book reader?” is that now we (book readers) have to hold onto all these books. We have to turn the pages, read the words, and store the books once we are done.
For example, I have a shelf in my room for books. It is divided into eight squares, each deep enough for two rows of books. Four of these shelves are underneath my desk, so I put “non-important” books on them. In the top left corner of the top four shelves are all of the texts I have from IB; Kafka on the Shore, Battle Cry of Freedom, The Stranger, Biology for the IB Diploma, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and an unfinished copy of the The Lords of Discipline are all lined up very nicely.
Underneath this shelf is a shelf full of books I want to read but haven’t yet. Casual Vacancy, Once There Was a War, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and many many others wait for me to read them. And this is where a stranger kind of prescription happens: when I am sitting at my desk doing homework, I look over these books and I feel a soft wave of identity crisis coming on.
In a huge way, books prescribe back on their readers an identity that they cannot part with. When I read The Lords of Discipline, I gleaned a little character in me named Will McLean who reacts to the events in my life the way Pat Conroy wrote him to: with serious and selfish consternation. After I read Siddhartha I was left with a miniature ferryman in me who only ever wants to sit by a river and listen to the voices of nature hum “Om.” The books we read, or even simply hold onto, are an extension of our minds and hold with them a power to influence and change us.