In Defense of Dog-Earring

I have a confession to make: I am a book monster.  I dog-ear pages instead of using bookmarks. Most of my paperbacks have bent spines and many of my hard covers are missing their dust jackets.  I take copious notes in books, highlighting and underlining quotes that strike my fancy. I know I am hard on books, and I have been accused of book abuse, but I maintain that rough handling is a sign of profound appreciation.

I think we can all agree on the intrinsic value of books. They open our minds to new ideas.  Books transport us to distant lands and historical events.  They grant us the opportunity to see through someone else’s eyes, real or fictitious. Books allow us to both escape AND ground ourselves in reality.  Shouldn’t such precious gifts be treated with reverence?  Yes! Yes, of course! But just as there are many different readers, there are also many ways to pay homage to the written word. Here are just a few:

  • Build a book shrine (aka your personal library)
  • Obsessively catalog, rearrange, dust, and organize your books
  • Restore antique books
  • Sniff books when no one is looking (or when they are….no shame in bibliosmia)
  • Participate in book clubs
  • Write book reviews
  • Attend author talks and book signings
  • Wear literature themed clothing and accessories
  • Decorate your space in framed quotes, book calendars, literature themed coffee mugs
  • Immerse yourself in online fandom communities
  • Read and write fan fiction
  • Attend book festivals and conventions (don’t forget the cosplay!)
  • Work at a bookstore or volunteer at the library (even better, FOPL!)
  • Upcycle books into unique art and craft pieces
  • Get bookish tattoos
  • Spill coffee on your books

What! What?!? Spill coffee? Okay, ***Breathe*** I’m not advocating using books as alternatives to paper towels. I don’t tear out pages for fire tinder. My goal isn’t to deface books, and I don’t sit around scheming up ways to send traditional book lovers into apoplectic sock. I simply think that getting personal and familiar with books sometimes has the side effect of wear and tear.  When I thumb through a beat up book, I tend to be intrigued instead of horrified.

Now, just so we’re clear…I’m kind, in the traditional sense, to library books. I return books to friends in the same condition I received them.  I understand my proclivity towards book abuse is not universally shared, so I behave ‘normally’ with borrowed tomes.

Why then, do I continue to bend spines and draw pictures in the margins? Because engaging on a visceral level with what I’m reading increases my appreciation for the book. Yes, I know my motley library has almost no resale value.  Should I donate my books to the Friends, the vast majority would get sorted directly into the recycle bin. But make no mistake; my books are my most treasured possessions. There are greater crimes against books than spilling coffee on the covers. The greatest crime against books is to leave them unopened, untouched, unread.  So, enjoy books and honor them as you see fit.  But above all, read them.

*Originally published November 29th, 2017 on www.facebook.com/Friends.CincinnatiLibrary/notes/

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