Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Why Books Should Be Abused

When I first started blogging about books, watching Booktube videos, and reading other book blogs, I was somewhat shocked to read about all of the people who take pristine care of their books. Some don't write in their books or underline their favorite quotes. Others fear loaning their books to friends due to worry about the condition their beloved novels will come back to them in. Some readers have mentioned how they don't even crack the spine of their novels, which to me is one of the most satisfying sounds and could almost be as therapeutic as cracking your own spine. When I get a new book, hearing and feeling that soft crack is beautiful. I was shocked to read about this phenomena of keeping books intact mostly because I don't protect my books, like, at all.

I've considered writing a post about my careless book owning habits, some of which would make a lot of people cringe, for a while now, but didn't really think about it until yesterday morning, when I pulled my current read, The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes out of my tote bag. I just got the book, a brand new review copy, not even a week ago. Like everyone, I can't go anywhere without a book, and on Sunday, I went to Lollapalooza after work. I had mostly forgotten about the book in my bag while I was in a haze of post-work exhaustion, excitement over getting to see The Cure, and I'll admit, one too many Lime-a-ritas. So when I got it out on the train the next morning to read, I noticed the busted up bottom of the cover, and the pages that were stained pink from my stashing of Straw-ber-rita cans in my tote when I couldn't find a trash can. Instead of sobbing over the fact that my once pristine and brand-new-looking book had been violated, I just loved it even more and carried on. The Shining Girls has been an intense read full of nausea-inducing violence, so I found it appropriate to be as banged up as the time-traveling murderer Harper Curtis, and it even looks a little bloodstained like the victims he leaves behind.

I buy a lot of books used, so a lot of them look well-worn and very loved, but I found a couple of examples that started out new and each have a memory. My copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling is over twelve years old and it looks as loved as it is. Through the years I've read and re-read it, borrowed it out, and continued loving the world of Harry Potter. The front cover is coming unhinged, and the pages feel more fragile, and it smells amazing, like old, used books should. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins was my first real introduction to "college-level reading" when I was in 11th grade (I think.) It was mandatory reading for my AP Lit class and I hated every second of it. I remember dragging it to the beach and wishing it would be over. I thought it was dry and not engaging enough for me, and the spine is cracked from clutching it and folding it over and over in frustration. Then, there's A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, which started out as frustrating, but ended up being one of my favorite books of all time. There are highlighted passages, barely legible notes scribbled in the margins as I tracked certain patterns and themes, and the spine is cracked from reading and re-reading some of my favorite passages. I have only owned this book for a little over a year and it looks years older.

When I loan my books to friends, I tell them to feel free to underline their favorite parts. If it comes back a little more battered than it was when I handed it off to them, I love knowing that they carried it around with them and it got a little injured in the process. When I get books from the library or a used bookstore, I love reading underlined passages and notes because it creates two stories: the one in the pages, and the mystery of how another person was interpreting the book compared to how I did.

To sound a little cliche for a quick minute: reading books transports all of us into so many different worlds. It gives us new lives to try on and then put back onto the shelf. I feel like my books deserve to be given a life just like they give me one. Now every time I see my pink stained copy of The Shining Girls, not only will I think of the gruesome thriller, but I will think of fulfilling a dream of seeing The Cure and curse Lollapalooza for serving the worse selection of beers ever. I will forever love battering my books and seeing the 'scars' they acquire on their journey with me, much like I've received my scars along the way, too.

Books too full of so much life and story to sit on a shelf with uncracked spines and with no story outside of their pages to show for. So please, don't be scared to abuse your books. Don't be disappointed if a page becomes dogeared or you cannot resist underlining a quote you are certain you could have tattooed on your body. If that makes you love your book less, then feel free to give them to me.


  1. This is exactly how I feel about books! They are just as much about what's in the pages as they are about me and the time I spent with them. We all get banged up when we're out and about, living life in the world. It seems strange not to extend the courtesy to the book.

  2. I've never thought of it this way:-) Thanks Lit Girl!!