I have a secret. A big secret. One I’m scared to admit. Ready? Deep breath in. I’ve started damaging books.
Before you begin to imagine me with fifty billion books burning on a bonfire or cutting up books in some kind of weird ritual, let me clarify: I’ve stopped being so precious about the condition my books are kept in.
I used to keep all of my books in pristine condition. No creases on the spine, no bent covers, and definitely no dog-eared pages. I used to say that cracking a book spine was like cracking a human spine: it couldn’t be done without inflicting severe pain (on both the book and the reader).
Now, though? I really can’t be bothered to be that precious about it.
There’s something almost magical about reading a book and finding a page or quotation you love, folding down the page with adoration so that you can remember where to find it again, and moving on until you find another section that you fall for. It’s not just an emotional experience; it’s a physical one. The action of folding the page down, as you move to get the crease just right so that it doesn’t cover any of the text, as you quickly press it down so that it stays in position, feels exhilarating to me.
Wear and tear also shows deep love for a book. The original editions of my Stonewylde books are so battered now that I have to be careful that they don’t fall apart in my hands as I read them. I’ve read them so many times, turned the pages so often, that the spines are ripped and teared; tiny fingerprint ink stains litter the margins.
And then there’s my edition of Emily Brontë’s poetry, which I take everywhere with me, so of course the glue is unsticking and I long ago accepted that the dust-jacket is destined never to again touch the book. I bought it secondhand, but I can’t imagine myself parting with it now because even though it has only a plain green binding and looks just like any other book, the memories contained within are pure magic.
I still can’t bear to hear the crack of a spine breaking and I have been known to hesitate before dog-earing a page, but I’m getting better.