I think I’m preaching to the converted when I say that there is something quite special about opening a new book for the first time, whether that be new from the bookshop, or new to you having already had a good few reads. But I think we all have quite differing opinions on what makes good ‘book etiquette’.
Before uni, I was a book saver. I’d read books even over five hundred pages long without barely opening the spine enough to read it, and certainly never creasing it. I’d be so careful that it barely looked read by the time I’d finished with it. Uni, however, did something to me: I was reading constantly, and I’d never be without a book in my bag, just in case I had five empty minutes sat at a bus stop or in between lectures without friends. One day, I chucked my current book in my bag along with other uni essentials, purse, phone, pad, pencil case, and when I next came to read it, I’d carelessly creased the whole cover so it was sticking out. Now at first, I was devastated and cursed myself for being so careless. But then, I thought, maybe there was something quite nice about the fact it had acquired battle scars along the way.
Now I’m not saying that I’d deliberately break a spine or fold down pages to mark my place, but also I’m no longer as bothered if my desire to have a book with me whenever bag space will allow means I take a few casualties. Sometimes I think in a desire to keep things pristine, we forget the reason we bought them in the first place: to enjoy them.
There is, of course, writing on books too. Someone on my course once said that she inscribed the top of the first page of her new books with the month and year she read them, and wrote down if someone had given her it as a present, and I thought that was a really lovely idea. And for a while, for books which I had acquired in an unusual fashion, e.g. the books I was given through doing work experience at magazines, I did the same. I was also reluctant, at first, to highlight textbooks, but as my Mum (also originally equally as adamant as me that books should be preserved) pointed out, I was causing myself a lot of extra work by writing out long passages and awkwardly arranging a book I already owned at a photocopier that was too small to fit the pages in properly. So a few chapters have acquired a neon green pen (though I must admit, I do still find something a little wrong about doing so).
Overall, I probably fall somewhere in the middle. I have acquired books, sometimes through family members, sometimes through car boot sales, second hand book stores or charity shops, which have had inscriptions in them, and I have been so excited to imagine the story behind the writing. Who were these people, and what was their life like (particularly if it’s an old book)? But a book is something special, and I still do cringe at the thought of unnecessary dog-earring, and when comparing like with like, I’d always be more attracted to the cleaner copy.
How do you feel about your books? Do you keep them spick and span or are you happy for them to look as loved as they are?