Love is Hard; Or, Why I Love Beaten Up Books

A coworker dropped off a copy of Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson, in my office today. I am in charge of the literature and browsing collections at my library, which means that I am in charge of replacing damaged books. My first thought when I saw the book (pictured at right) wasn’t “oh no” or pity for the book. Instead, I was happy that readers at my library had essentially loved a book to death.

There are only two books in my life that I have done this to. I’m on my second copies of Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton, and Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. (I’m technically on my second copy of The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, but that’s only because my mother dropped a buttered English muffin on it and bought be a new copy.) For me, the biggest compliment I can give a beloved book is to read it until it falls apart on me. The readers at my library loved Mistborn enough that they checked this particular copy out 114 times. That’s a lot for a book at an academic library; few titles even come close to that that aren’t textbooks.

I’ve always gotten a bit annoyed at people who treat books as decorative objects or who get precious about their dear book-babies when they’ve been convinced to loan them to friends. Books are for reading! Sure, you might not want someone to drop a buttery muffin on your book but, hey, that means that you can send some money to your favorite author or used bookstore when you buy a new copy.

So, when I see a book with a broken spine, battered and marked-up pages, dog tooth marks, and scuffed covers, I like to give it a pat and a smile. It’s a book that found its readers and did its job: it entertained us so much that we kept coming back for me. These are the books that I always replace because it will be money well spent. These are the books I know I can safely press into readers’ hands. These are the books that I might pick up myself, if I haven’t already read them, because their wear is a big recommendation in itself.


  1. I’m probably a bit anal when it comes to the treatment of books. I don’t mind if by general overuse a book falls apart, but I hate to see someone pick up a brand new book and fold the covers right back so the front cover touches the back, thus breaking the spine and beginning the process of loosening the pages. It’s like finger nails down a chalk board to me. I just want to scream at them “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!??”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a teacher borrow my book during a lesson. She took the brand new copy from me and rolled over the pages, cracking the spine, so she could hold it with one hand as she taught. I was horrified, but I didn’t feel I could say anything.

      Liked by 1 person

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