Molly at My Cozy Book Nook has a great post about why she writes in books. I myself don’t tend to mark-up books as I’m reading them, but it’s not because I feel any sort of taboo about writing in a book; I just never think about doing it.
One interesting result of participating in the recent BBAW reading meme is that I want very much to remember to occasionally write in a book now. I’m one of those people who actually likes to find books at used bookstores that have been marked up – it’s like getting two enjoyable things for the price of one.
Molly’s post is really wonderful, giving readers an insight into why she writes in books, what books she does write in, and how she does it. In her BBAW reading meme post, she also gives a link to Mortimer Adler’s essay, “How to Mark a Book” (link goes to a pdf file).
After reading Molly’s post, I got to thinking about my own relationship with books. From an outsider’s perspective, I suspect I look like I have quite the cavalier attitude when it comes to my own books.
I dogear like crazy, unless I happen to have the opportunity to read a book through from beginning to end in one sitting. I have no compunction about breaking the spine of a book that otherwise stubbornly refuses to shift into a more comfortable-feeling position in my hands. And I’m a snacking reader. I grew up munching on apples as I read (I can remember feeling quite fond of Ariadne Oliver, the apple-eating mystery writer who shows up occasionally in Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels).
Note: If you’ve lent me a book, though, not to worry – I only do this kind of thing to my own books. Honest.
The books in my house that are the most comfortably-used-looking also tend to be the most well-loved. A crease in the spine means I’ve read the book; several creases? I loved it. Fold lines in page corners are reminders of when I had to put the book down; they also mean I intended to pick it up again. I like comfortably used books the same way I love old wood furniture, whose lines and markings suggest so much more – a history of every day events, impressed into the wood as time marches by.
The tactile feel of a book, its pristine pages, that new book smell – all of that is lovely (there’s nothing much better than wandering around a bookstore, picking up books, feeling their newness, the smoothness of their covers). But when I look at a book I’m about to read, I’m never really seeing its cover, its bulk, its physical aspects. Instead, I see the story, one that might (or might not) grab hold of me and take me along on a gorgeous, glorious ride.
The anticipation! Each one just might very well be that next truly magical read.
I’m also very fond of giving away books when I’ve finished reading them. If I think you’d like a book I’ve read, you’re not going to be able to leave my place without that book in your hands. I never keep track of who I lend my books to, so when friends come over with a book I’ve lent them previously, it’s like an unexpected surprise.
Of course, if I really do want a book back, I say that, too. But usually it doesn’t matter one way or the other to me.
There’s no pressure to read it, either. Since I usually don’t remember who I’ve lent a book to, you’re not about to get a phone call or email from me saying, “Well? Was I right or was I right? Didn’t you just LOVE it?”
I kind of figure if the book’s meant for you, you’ll love it. If not, you won’t. Neither will I cross your name off my friendship list if we don’t share the same taste in books.
Mind you, none of what I’ve said above applies to my art books and other “coffee-table” type books, or to non-fiction. Non-fiction books are my reference library, so I need to keep them on hand. And big glossy colourful books get the museum treatment around here. I like to pour over them, and revel in the colour and feel of the pages, and yes, sniff appreciatively that new-book smell that never seems to fade. And I keep them, rather than lending them out.
What about you? What kind of relationship do you have with your books?