by Barbara D'Amato
Putting aside the book I was reading face down, splayed open to hold my place, I got up to go make coffee. My friend said, “You shouldn’t treat a book like that.” I didn’t snap back that it was my book, bought and paid for, to handle as I wished, but I did ask why.
“Because you’ll crack the spine.”
Well, now, I buy books to read. I dog-ear them, as well as crack spines. Sometimes coffee spills on them. Sometimes I sticker passages I need to find later. Sometimes I even bracket paragraphs in pencil.
I have friends who treat their books with great care. It’s their choice, but they remind me of a friend of mine who traveled on business a lot and had the idea he needed to look good when he was traveling. When I’m traveling the look I aim for is Don’t Mess with Me. He had a set of matched luggage made, something extra wonderful, covered in kangaroo hide. On his first trip with the new luggage, he discovered that he cringed when the suitcases bumped down the luggage carousel or when a child playing tag in the airport lounge crashed into them. So he ordered zip-on canvas covers made for them. Now he was traveling with dreary-looking canvas luggage.
I love my books. But I don’t want to be preoccupied with their physical welfare. I pretty much love some of them to death.
Books are meant for reading. Of course if I owned a signed first edition of The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, I wouldn’t crack the spine. But I wouldn’t read it, either. It would live on a shelf, wrapped in archival paper.
Many years ago, two author friends and I and a bookstore owner appeared on a local television show. The interviewer said to the bookstore owner, “You obviously like your books so much. Aren’t you sad to sell them?” The bookstore owner was nonplussed just for a second and then said, “Well, they can always print more.”
How do you read your books? You can snarl at my bad habits if you want.