We are of the opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read. – Jules Verne
One day last September, after a weekend at home, I was gathering up my copy of The Return of the King to take back to school with me. My dad asked, “Do you want something to put that in? A coffin?” You see, the book is in about nine pieces. It’s kind of hard to handle now.
I have a thing about Not Writing in Books (unless you’re giving it as a gift and you’re somehow making note of that or you can get the author to sign it). I also have a thing about Not Folding the Corners of Pages to Mark Your Place. But aside from that, I really don’t care how books are handled.
No matter how careful you are with a brand new book, at some point, the cover is going to get scuffed, or a page will get bent, or rain will come in an open window and soak the entire thing. The more careful you’ve been, the more disappointing it is. So it seems to me that you might as well let the normal wear and tear of reading take place.
(Not that you should go out and purposely stomp on your book, or drop it in a bathtub, or tear pages. Find a happy medium.)
In fact, I kind of like the normal wear and tear. As you can probably guess from The Return of the King being in nine pieces, that book has been very well loved. My dad and brother have each read it once; I think I have read that particular copy eight times. The shape the book is in reflects all the love it has received. It’s kind of like stuffed animals in The Velveteen Rabbit: the more tattered books get, the more Real they become.
So that’s why I let books lie open face down to keep my place. It’s why I tuck them in my purse and backpack. It’s why I stack them in odd places. I show them my love by using them.