A Book Lover’s Nightmare: Damaging Books


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.

How do you like to keep your books: in pristine condition or are you more relaxed, like I’m becoming?

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  • Reply
    13 August, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    I hated dog-earing until university, where I soon found it was a great way of taking note of key passages and quotes! Now I do it for a lot of what I read. It’s a wonderful way of making a book feel very unique to you; as though you’re giving a part of yourself to the book. 😊
    Emily recently posted…A TOUR OF MY BOOK STACKSMy Profile

  • Reply
    13 August, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    I used to be a “pristine-condition” sort of gal, but life is too short, and I like my books to look well read, and well loved

  • Reply
    13 August, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    I love the look of well-loved books. I have always cracked the spines of my books, but I rarely dog-ear because I just prefer to use bookmarks and if there is a passage I really love then I just underline or highlight.

  • Reply
    Lucie @ Wishes and Pages
    14 August, 2018 at 10:29 am

    It’s such an interesting discussion, I went through so many stages on that topic. I didn’t mind that much when I was younger (my Harry Potter books look so loved, the title is almost erased on The Order of the Phoenix), then “had” to keep my books in pristine condition when I started buying them myself. However, these days I’m starting to mind a little less when I break a spine or things like that. Well, with the exception of the Penguin English Library editions, though, I would be mad at myself if anything happened to them! It might be linked to the fact that I’m buying more second-hand books than I used to though and I also love finding quotes highlighted by previous readers or trying to figure out why they dog-heared this page or that one. 😊

  • Reply
    14 August, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Growing up, I used to keep my books in pristine condition. I never ever cracked the spine, never creased or folded any pages and I certainly never wrote in the book itself. Fast-forward to now and I just don’t care haha! I rarely keep the books I read – unless I give them a 5-star rating – so most of them either get recycled or donated. Why bother keeping them in pristine condition if I’m probably just going to get rid of them once they’re read?

  • Reply
    14 August, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    I’d much rather see a book that looks well-loved than one that looks as if it hasn’t been read. I’ve never been picky with my books, but I’ve even started to make notes in the margins if I felt like I had something to say about the book. I also like the saying that when you’re looking for books second-hand, it’s the more damaged ones you should look out for.
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  • Reply
    15 August, 2018 at 3:43 am

    Haha! My first thought definitely was of you tossing books in a bonfire and laughing maniacally. 😂

    I’ve changed my opinion on this “issue” so many times. When I was younger, I didn’t care about the condition of my books. My paperbacks of Harry Potter are extremely rough around the edges due to how often I’d read them.

    However, I remember when the 7th book came out, I let my sister read it first and she dog-eared one of the pages and I honestly felt she had wounded not only the book, but also me on a personal level? Haha! 🙈

    And to this day I’m still in this rut of keeping a book in pristine condition as if it’s a holy relic (despite it being a book I bought and paid for).

    Although I don’t get up in arms when others do it. Like, it’s not a slap in my face if someone dog-ears their own book. But I’ll still be forever upset at my sister for doing that to our Harry Potter book. (Even though she made us a HP themed bookmark to make up for it.) 😅

  • Reply
    16 August, 2018 at 8:38 am

    I can’t bear cracked spines, but I can cope with dog ears! I am terrible for carting my books around in my bag, my truck and sometimes a coat pocket in the winter so my books can get a little worn 🙂 However, with certain books I am so precious about keeping them perfect!

  • Reply
    6 September, 2018 at 10:02 am

    I used to strive to keep my books pristine. I was careful with spines (and if something happened to the spine I’d buy a second copy of the book to have the “untouched” copy on my shelves), never put even a pencil dot in my books; however, in the last couple of years I have started to love the “loved” look of read books. Broken spines on paperbacks make me happy and I love annotating books that I know I will keep and cherish.
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  • Reply
    12 September, 2018 at 9:22 pm

    Try our book starwars: infinite darkness

  • Reply
    Jordan Bennett
    5 October, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    I have always been the type of person who wanted to keep my books as nice looking as I can. Yet after reading your blog I found that I love how you explained the value of the ware and tear on the book. I also love your suggestion about the dog ears for your favorite parts of the book. You have defiantly made me reconsider the damage of books.

  • Reply
    Alyssa Casey
    24 October, 2018 at 12:39 am

    I’m more relaxed with it!!! I just did a blog post talking about my views on it and it was inspired by yours after reading!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Isaly Holland
    27 November, 2018 at 4:30 am

    I used to want to keep my books in great condition years ago but every since I got into used books I realized that my books are going to have history and special markings that make the book even more amazing. Even if I buy a brand new book I think adding little markings or damage is going to happen. I actually find it exciting when I reread a book and see my little heart next to my favorite quotes or if I noticed that I left a few pages with dog ears as reminders.

  • Reply
    Claire E. Hourigan
    3 February, 2019 at 3:39 am

    Let me first say, I think it’s so awesome that you are classics-buff too! Right now I’m trying to read the Brontë sisters, while juggling reading assignments from my 3 Literature classes. 😂
    I loved reading for as long as I can remember so I can’t imagine damaging my precious treasures. If I could, I would try to preserve them forever. But…I’ve started to appreciate the wear I’ve seen in my books. It shows they’ve been loved. Shouldn’t all books look that way?
    Don’t get me wrong though; dog-eared pages are still a pet-peeve. 😂

  • Reply
    28 August, 2019 at 12:02 am

    Ugh, I am one of those people who loves to keep their books in pristine condition. Most people around me seem to not care, but books in “damaged” conditions get on my nerves. As an avid library user, that peeve can get kind of annoying. What I do like are books that are annotated, seeing those sticky notes on the edge of the pages is so satisfying to look at!!

    On another note, your writing on this blog is literally amazing! I know that that’s what to expect from an author, but, this writing is probably better than some I’ve seen in other books!
    Poppy recently posted…How I Annotate Books For SchoolMy Profile

  • Reply
    2 October, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    I love keeping by books perfect and might get just a bit irritated at people who start by opening a book and breaking the spine but I really should stop being so precious about them!

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