Monday, May 24, 2010

ON BOOKS ~ Book Marks...



This week is the big Book Expo. of America conference in NYC.  And for those of us not able to attend, there is a very nice companion conference online called Armchair BEA.  So you'll be seeing a week full of bookish posts here at The Bumbles Blog.  As I was pondering what kinds of book topics to talk about, I got to thinking about how passionate and possessive some readers can be with their books.

In my world growing up, there were always books around.  Some were ones that we owned but a lot of them were ones we borrowed from the library since we moved a lot and packing boxes full of books can get heavy.  It was clear that borrowed books were to be treated with respect and care so that others after us could enjoy the pages as much as we did.  But we were also allowed to do whatever we liked with our own books.  I always wrote my name on the inside flap - "Property Of Molly" or some such declaration.  Partly because it felt nice to claim something - but also because I didn't want my pesky little brother stealing them from me.

In my school years I learned how to create my own books - how to write stories, how to bind them, how to cherish them.  I also learned how to sneak my mail order books from Harlequin Romance into the house before my mother found out.

Throughout my college years I turned my assigned and bought books into working reference notebooks - scribbling notes in the margins of the pages, highlighting passages, dog earing important page corners and every now and then taking out my frustration towards the contents by chucking it across the room.

I am always amazed at readers who won't crack a book's spine, frown upon folding the pages or find notations in a used book horrifying.  For them books are more than just the words inside and the stories they transfer into your imagination.  They are pieces of art, clean and crisp, giving the sensation of the first read, no matter how many times you've read it before.  I can respect that school of thought - but it isn't me.

I like my books to be broken in.  I like them to take on a bit of my personality as I experience the story inside.  Books that aren't a little ragged on my bookcase are books that I haven't read yet, or didn't get all that excited about when I did read it.  The ones held together with rubber bands around them are the ones I have loved the most.  I don't like to replace them with clean versions.  I enjoy turning the yellowed pages that are barely hanging on to each other, crinkled and filled with passages underlined in fading pencil.  They are nostalgic - reminding me of all the times I've read them before - that summer at the beach, or after a loved one died or when I was falling in love.

Those books are my comfort in many stages of my life and I cherish and respect them as much as those who likely would cry to see what I've put them through.  It doesn't mean I am careless, it means I care so much I can't help but leave my imprint on them.  I still treat my borrowed books with extra special TLC, just like I was raised to do.  But I can't help but smile when I check one out that has pencil notes on the pages - it must be a good read for someone to have been moved that much to leave their mark.

17 comments:

jehara said...

I have always been a dog-ear reader. In the past I have never been able to keep up with bookmarks. It has only been recently that I rediscovered the joy of bookmarks and am doing a better job of hanging on to them. I don't write in books, but I love buying used books and finding penciled in passages or starred words or other such markings. I do mark my poetry books and cookbooks. I don't worry too much about my book spines or getting stains on my pages. I am clumsy just as I am neat. I spill stuff. I read anywhere and while doing things I probably shouldn't like eating or bathing. I like books that have imprints of readers on them too. Glad to know I'm not alone in this. :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

Oh The Sound and the Fury! I've got my copy in my TBR Challenge pile! My books are pretty well-loved (especially ones from my youth). I don't write in them ever, but I've broken spines and dog-eared pages.

Bit quiet around here, isn't it?

Susan said...

I'm afraid I fall into the category of book reverence and keeping them pristine. The feel of the book is just as much part of the experience as reading it is. I have been known to buy a book, not for the story, but for the feel of the paper, the heft when I hold it, the smell of it, a beautiful font, gorgeous art on the jacket...I know, I'm a little strange.

Mary said...

When I was a kid I always wrote my full name AND address. Not sure where I thought my book was going but I was going to make sure it would find its way back home!! I came across my copy of Little Women and it has my personal info (from when I was ten years old) as well as a note saying who gave it to me (a christmas gift from my brother - I don't remember him giving me a book - EVER). I love that!

I don't worry about cracking pb spines, etc. They're usually easy to replace if I need to.

Nice post!

Candy Minx said...

Great post!

My books get fairly broken in...even when I try to be careful...but i read with vigor!

I used to have my first copy of "Blood meridian" and it had pages falling out...and post it notes and it looked like a crazy person owned and read it! Oh well a crazy person did own and read it...hey!

Dave and Tami said...

I'm with you - my favorites are dog-eared, worn and stained. I still have my well-used copies of Charlotte's Web and Harriet the Spy from my youth. I have been known to underline passages - but usually I jot them in a notebook. I consider books as friends and some of my friends are looking pretty worn, too :)

Emily said...

I buy two copies of the books I love. My hardbacks don't get lent out and they stay nice. But, the paperbacks can be trashed and lent out and well loved. :")

Janet said...

I'm with you! I'm a dog-earer, an underliner, a note-maker...and I love when a friend borrows a book and agrees with what I've liked!

Kathleen said...

I'm with you. I like my books to look like I've read them and don't need them to be in pristine condition.

Thornie said...

Books! I am a multiple personality when it comes to books, as I am in most of my life. Some books I tear into without thought, scribble notes in the margins and stuff in purses while dashing out the door. Others I approach with delicacy and reverence. I tend to purchase paperbacks of all my comfort books; they are much easier to read in the bath and I don't worry about drowning them, as I would with a first edition, or even a cherished copy of something I've owned since my childhood. Happy to see you Bumbles!

Gwen said...

I am one of those anal people that you mentioned. (hope that you don't mind me using that word, but it fits)

I can see what you are saying. By loving them so, you are adding your own tale to the story. I have never thought about it that way.

I don't think that I will be able to change my ways, but at least I will understand the next time I come across a dog eared page or an illegible note.

ds said...

All of my most favorite books--in paperback--are spine-cracked, dog-eared, binding-loosened chunks of memory and desire. Hardcovers I tend to take slightly better care of, which here means that the corners of pages are turned down very gently and no writing is done (borrowed) or only lightly in pencil (owned). Hopeless, isn't it? And yet I get just as great a thrill from the paper & type & design as Susan...letterpress, whereart thou?

The Armchair BEA is such a great idea & I can't even vicariously enjoy that, as I'll be fetching the CS. Bother. Have fun!

Melina said...

What an interesting post. I have started using note cards as book marks.

Lynn said...

Lovely post, Molly. I agree, a well-loved book will not look pristine and unread (at least not in my house). I love to pick up used cookbooks at book sales and find the occasional food splatter or notation in the margin. It lets me know some cook somewhere used the book and perhaps enjoyed a wonderful meal with loved ones. Sniff.

Sun Singer said...

Writing my name in a book seemed important, historic even, as I looked at the older books on the shelves and saw that they contained not only the signatures of my mother and father, but grandparents, aunts and uncles as well from years into the past.

Malcolm

kaye said...

I love your thoughts on leaving your mark on books. I've always been a "non spine-breaker". I love a row of matched books on the book shelf.

I do have a set of study scriptures that are marked and dog eared. I have been enjoying my kindle because I can underline and make notes as I read. It's almost like a journal.

nice post!

stacybuckeye said...

Is that your copy of The Sound & the Fury? I love it! None of my books are pristine, although if they are signed by the author I do take extra care. Not sure why, really, maybe because I love them a little extra?