Before you start yelling–yes, I know, that was a controversial title, but bear with me.
Recently, Ava @ Bookishness and Tea had a post on her blog where she wondered if being a book blogger has made her shallow. Basically, before becoming a book blogger, she didn’t care what her books looked like, but now that she is incredibly protective of her books’ physical appearances, sometimes to a ridiculous extent.
I connected with a lot of the things she said. I love having my bookshelves look pristine. I love it when I get a new copy of a book and it is perfect, and I’ve gotten angry when books I’ve ordered come less-than perfect, even if they are still in pretty good shape. I never read books with the dusk jacket on because I want it to stay safe so that it will be forever gorgeous on my shelf.
However, I also love it when my books get worn out. I actually pride some of my favorite books in being so worn that you can barely read the spines. Which got me thinking…
Why do I simultaneously love perfect and well-worn books?
Loving perfect books is simpler to understand, so I’ll start with that one. This applies to hardcover books more often for me, because it is actually possible to keep dusk jackets pristine (basically, never let them leave the house). Hardcover books in shiny dusk jackets are gorgeous–I think all of us can agree. They photograph well, look cohesive when they are a part of a series, and give bookshelves an air of “aren’t you jealous of how pretty I am.”
Sometimes I try to keep books in pristine condition because I know that they will be important to me. If I can tell that I love a book from the beginning pages, or if it is part of a beloved series, I am more likely to take care of it as I read it. I’ll have visceral reactions to getting food smudges on pages or accidentally crumpling pages. It is a way to show respect for the book, to keep it in good condition.
However, I cannot keep all of books in perfect condition. I read in the morning while I eat breakfast, so there are some crumbs/smudges on my pages. I’ve never been one to dog-ear pages or write in books, but my books do get crammed in my backpack, under my lunchbox and pummeled by the constant in-and-out of binders and notebooks through my backpack. Paperbacks get their covers bent, some pages get accidentally smeared. And for the most part, this sucks.
However, some of my favorite books–the ones that I should logically want to look perfect–are absolutely destroyed. I’ve considered re-buying them to have nicer copies, but even the idea of replacing these worn-out books freaks me out. I love how worn these books are.
For me, a book being worn-out means that it has been read over and over. Most of my favorite books have been read by my sister, my mom, my grandmother, and me. I’ve also reread most of these books at least twice, probably three times–and my sister has done the same. The wear doesn’t come from not loving the books or accidents, it comes from love.
A book cannot be read upwards of a dozen times without showing it. Spines break. Covers fade. My favorite book even has a page that has completely fallen out and is tucked into the right place like a bookmark.
Then there are the intentional marks: favorite quotes underlined, favorite scenes bookmarked with Post-It notes. Happy faces and hearts penciled into margins. Little details you missed the first time you read it discovered the second and marked for the third.
In these crumpled pages and broken spines are signs that these books have been loved, not just by me, but by my entire family. There is history trapped in these books, and to replace them in the name of cleanliness would destroy that history. When I see these worn-out books, I smile, because they make me remember just how much I’ve loved them throughout the years.
So yes, if I buy a book today, I want it to be perfect. I want it to stand proudly on my bookshelf. I’ll be angry if the pages get smashed or if the dusk jacket gets bent.
But if in five years that book has been read so many times that its pages are marked with love and its spine is broken, I’ll also be happy. I’ll be proud. And don’t you dare take it away from me.
What do you think? Are any of your beloved books worn out? I’d love to hear your thoughts!