When Merrick got married, there was a wedding dinner after the ceremony and one of her husband’s friends gave a little speech and mentioned that Philip is extremely careful with his books. This friend said that when he borrowed Philip’s books, he didn’t open them to more than a 90 degree angle so as not to break the spine.
This kind of blew my mind. I really had never realized people tried not to break the spine. I also worried that maybe I was haphazardly breaking book spines all over the place without even realizing it.
If I borrow a book from you, I will be careful with it. I’ll try and return it in as nice of shape as you gave it to me (I know you’re doubting that now. . . ).
But my own books?
They are for reading, for loving to pieces, for lending around.
I read while I eat, I shove my books in my purse or bag, toss them on the backseat of the car, stack them up precariously next to my bed, and let Ella turn the pages (she’s amazingly careful with them, which I know means that she’ll probably rip fifty pages out of something tomorrow).
The aide at my library in Boston was horrified by my habit of putting books opened, face-down. I . . . didn’t even know you weren’t supposed to do that until she commented on it.
My mom turns down the corner of the page to mark her place, which I know some people find horrifying (I don’t do this myself but it’s because I’m too lazy).
My favorite books are very well-loved looking. The back covers are falling off, the pages are worn and the edges are fuzzy. I like them that way.
I don’t hoard my books (except for a few precious ones, like my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection or my Louisa May Alcott set). I like to let people borrow them.
Gretchen, who I’d never met until Saturday, came over and picked out a number of my BEA books to read. I was delighted that someone else could enjoy them (the fact that she brought me half a dozen donuts didn’t hurt either; neither did the fact that she kept oohing and ahhing over Ella, who took a real shine to her).
I don’t think of my books as an archival library. I weed my books ruthlessly, I give some away, I sell others, I donate many of the advance copies to the local library. I use them and then, if I’m done with them, I find another home for them. I let Ella take them off the shelf and look through them.
I get joy out of my books being read, looked at, flipped through, turned over, being loved. And if that means they don’t look crisp and new, well, that’s a price I’m more than happy to pay.