Well-loved books

I have a confession to make. I dogear pages. I leave books open, pages down on tables. Sometimes, I underline passages or make notes in the margins. I have read three paperbacks to death and had to replace them. These are heretical acts to most readers. Of course, I don’t do any of the above to library books or books I’ve borrowed from others; I only torture my own books. Since I’m being confessional, I’ll also add that I like the look of worn spines and furry cover corners. Books are meant to be read a loved. Books that sit, pristine and untouched, on the shelf make me feel a little sad.

I blame my English professors for this. I wasn’t always an abuser of books. They taught me that, to truly interact with a text and engage with an author, you have to be constantly responding to their words. The best way to do this was with a pen in hand so that I could argue and agree and compare what I was reading as the urge occurred. After a few years, I stopped seeing the books, the codices, as sacred. The content is the important thing*. (I also started to see students who’d used the copies of novels and anthologies that I bought used from the university book stores as idiots. Whoever marked up my old copy of The Scarlet Letter was so very wrong about so very much! If I ever find that student, I will slap them upside the head with my corrected copy.)

The downside is replacing books I’ve loved to death. It’s hard to find a copy of some of them. I found a new copy of Tim Powers’ Declare at a used bookstore in Salt Lake. I replaced my copy of Jurassic Park—which I’ve read at least fifteen times and which still bore stains from the orange I was eating the second time I read it—with a lovely new hardback from Barnes and Noble. I’ve gone through two copies of Good Omens in less than a decade. But you know what? When I buy new copies, I help keep them in print so that new readers can find them in the bookstores. That’s more than worth the cost of a new paperback.

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* Of course, if I lend you one of my books and you hurt it (more than I have), I will dogear you.

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