Booking Through Thursday: Conditioning

October 30, 2008 at 5:25 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 5 Comments

Here is my response to today’s Booking Through Thursday.

Are you a spine breaker?  Or a dog-earer?  Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them?  Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

I probably fall somewhere about 2/3 of the way to the pristine end of the spectrum.  Not only would I never dog-ear a book, but when I encounter dog-eared pages I unfold them.  I am so paranoid about breaking the spines of books that I’ve actually checked out an audio version of a book a friend lent me so I wouldn’t risk mangling her copy.  Watching other readers bend a cover back causes me to berate them – I just won’t have it, particularly when it’s my book.

This is what I don’t understand about book manglers.  It’s perfectly fine in my mind for people to do whatever they want to books they’ve bought.  If you want to write in ballpoint in the margins, dog-ear pages, leave the book face down on the edge of the bathtub, or do as my grandpa does and tear off the corners and then chew and swallow them, well, it’s your book.  But!  If that book belongs to someone else, or to the library (and, by extension, to me), then it had darn well better go back in the same condition in which you got it.  To me, though, it’s a question of wantonly ruining property, whether it’s a book or a sweater.

What’s important to me is the content of the book, not the physical vessel itself.  I certainly don’t see anything sacred about mass market paperbacks, and I see a point in the future when our cars may well run on Dan Brown-based biofuel.  Most of my reading material comes from the library, where the books are solidly bound and plastic-wrapped.  So I’m not as tender with them as I probably could be.  I carry books in my bag, use them to smash spiders, read them at the table and on the treadmill and even, once, on my bicycle (Absalom, Absalom!), which is easier than you’d think, but it started to sprinkle.  Anyway.  Any books to be found in pristine condition in my house are only that way because I haven’t read them yet.


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  1. Treating other’s property with respect is just good manners.

  2. Chew and swallow? Augh! Did he really? why? I have a habit of unfolding all the dog-ears I find, too. Library books especially. It bothers me a lot to see them.

  3. I used to eat bits of my books when I was a child – I’d tear off a corner and chew on it while I read. Many of my old kid’s books have pages with pieces ripped out of them as a reminder of that strange and appalling habit!

  4. My grandpa chews rubber bands, too. There probably isn’t anything that someone, somewhere, hasn’t tried to eat at some point!

  5. When I was a child, I did what JLS Hall did. Then, when I was first married, my husband shamed me out of dog-earing and kept me supplied with an endless supply of bookmarks. Now, except for infrequent underlining, I can’t imagining treating a book roughly.

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