Friday, October 19, 2012

why the f*ck friday (16)

Welcome to WTFF. In which I attempt to answer a single question--normally a thought on a book or a bookish subject--that I've been pondering for the past week. This week it's "why the f*ck are you such a purest?"

When I was younger I used to abuse my books. I'd leave them in cars so the spines would melt, I'd drop them in the pool, I'd have an ice cream in one hand and a copy of Hitchhiker's in the other; the pages sticky with sugar.

Sometime later I stopped doing that. I started cherishing the little square things. Keeping them safe, making sure I didn't dog-ear pages, and I would never, not a million years ever, write in a book or highlight a passage. That was a cardinal sin to me.

Yet sometime ago I stopped doing even that. I started to abuse the fuck out of my books again. I started highlighting. I started underlining. I started to write in the margins. I started to break the spines from cracking open the same book of poetry over and over again.

I'm not that extreme about it.
I spilled coffee on them and didn't care. I took them to the park and let dogs chew on them while I wasn't looking. I abused my books. I stopped thinking of them as sacred little squares that needed to be protected. I started considering a well-read and well-abused book as something to be proud of. I would laugh at my sad little copies and state "I read the fuck out of you. You were great."

Yet. Some part of me still feels a little naughty for doing this. Some part of me wants to take that old battered copy and make it new again. I still keep some books (signed copies, special editions) in excellent shape. I still protect them.

I'm not a full blown "don't crack that book open too far" purest, but I do appreciate shelf wear and tear. Surely I'm not the only one? So this week's question is: why the f*ck are you such a book purest?


  1. I am a purist! I can't help it-I think I have always been. A book is treated with reverence-treated like gold-respected!! I'll be honest- your picture made me cringe in horror. In my defense I am a librarian-I can't help the way I feel. But I enjoyed the f*ck out of your post! LOL!

    1. Really? I'm thinking for Halloween I should have a "book torture chamber" for librarians. In it people would be dog-earing pages, highlighting passages, and returning the books.

  2. I tend to ride the fence a little on the purest issue. I like to take care of my books, to some extent, but don't stress out if they get a little wear on them. Keep in mind, I normally buy used books. And if I do but a new release, it's something I'm desperate to read and do keep them a little neater looking. I'm a huge fan of borrowing books from the library. If I borrow a book I treat it better than my own.

    1. I take care of the books that matter to me. I agree with the library thing. I can't abuse a book that's been loaned to me. That's just a huge no-no.

  3. I cannot for the life of me write or highlight in a is impossible. It's such a distraction.

    If I want to remember something I just jot it down in my notebook and ponder it later. What if I lend my book to someone? Then they'll be influenced (in some way, good or bad) by my thoughts. Or vice versa if I borrow a book with marking in it. How annoying!

    1. I hate it when I get used books and it turns out there's highlights in it. But if it's one I've already read I feel like I just got bonus material. Like extra insight into it.

      Good point. I am finding that the Kindle (even with its note taking abilities) to be a bit of a relief, but at the same time horrible. I have a green notebook I write things in now.

  4. You really got me thinking with your post. I admit to being a purist and tend to reiterate to my mother to use a bookmark with my books. Plus I tend to buy a full series in the same format. So if one is paperback then they all are, etc.

    I don't typically write in books unless its a journal. I don't know that I am against it, but I do not usually think to myself to write or underline in them. I do not mind breaking spines but I do try to keep from having them bend in half when I can.

    I never really had a ton of signed books because where I lived (in IL) authors I enjoyed reading never came to my area. Now that I am in Portland I have a stack of signed books and will be keeping them in the normal place among my other books. Funny enough that is back at my parents house after I read them. All my bookcases are there. I'll show you a photo of the storage I have here and you will understand why.

    After all this I guess my reasoning would be that I tend to keep them neat because I do enjoy loaning my books to friends who love to read. I want the books to be in a good state. I try to keep my belongings nice because I don't have a ton of stuff but what I do have is good quality and that is how I treat my books too.

    I do think that though everyone has their own way of keeping their books and I would think if a book is worn and written in then it's well loved and enjoyed by its owner.

    1. I would've never thought you were a purest, Mel.

      My mother once returned a series of books to me, and every spine was broken. The only disappointing part was that I hadn't read them yet.

      I am starting to develop a stack of signed books... it's... fun. Photo away!

      I don't have many friends who read, or borrow books from me, so maybe that's why I don't have a problem with it.


    2. Oh I spelled purest wrong haha but yes I am in many ways. I'm sure April and I will email about it at some point.

      I have photos on Flickr of my bookcases at my parents too. I'll send links.

      I have more friends I swap books with now in Portland. There are so many book bloggers here ifs crazy,

  5. Interesting question. I love to annotate. But I also don't keep books anymore. I winnowed my collection down to about 30 books (excluding the ones on my Nook). Somewhere along the line, doubtlessly coinciding with my 3rd move in 3 years and job at the library, I let go of owning books, all but some reference and a few beloved books from childhood, which have been annotated, patched with book tape, dropped in the tub, etc.

    1. I have been in the process of doing exactly that! I've gone from around 600 down to 150. Which is a huge feat for me (my ereader saves me a lot of space).

      Debra, me and you are kindred book spirits.

    2. Dig. Most people freak out when I tell them I get rid of books, like I'm defacing sacred temples on the weekends and kicking puppies as well. But the power of the library is strong.

  6. This: "I read the fuck out of you. You were great."

    Absolutely. I love old books, I love annotated books, I love to LOVE my books! I have special copies for sure, but overall I love to look at my bookcase and sigh over my old, battered, annotated copy of Wuthering Heights. When I meet someone who takes their covers off of their hardcover books and opens them so slightly that they can barely read the pages I just want to ask them why the fuck they are so uptight?

    To me, I love the hell out of my books and one glance at my favorite shelf will show you just how much.

    1. "why the fuck they are so uptight?"

      I often wonder the same thing. Are they even going to read it again? Or is it going to sit on the shelf for 20 years without getting a little love?

      Same here.

  7. This is a good question. One of my favorite ever for WTFF.

    1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE buying second-hand books. I don't mind if they have writing inside the cover, but I cannot stand and won't buy them if they are written in/highlighted in the text. It is a quirk of mine. I never did it with textbooks in school and I don't do it with books now. I can't explain it, really.

    2. I usually only write in my nonfiction books, which I will read over and over and over, but that is because up until fairly recently those are the only ones I really bought for myself to keep. I typically would read fiction from the library. For my favorites - like Donald Miller books, for example - I have a marked up, bent up, read-this-one-over-and-over copy of one with tons of bent-in-half and dog-ear'd pages, and then I have pretty deckled-edges-and-french-flaps copies. That sort of thing, sort of like you with your favorite book. I'm not sure why I am that way.

    3. With my regular fiction books, I love to keep all of my favorite passages in one place, together, so I have notebooks. I currently have a little pink one that I keep that I write all my favorite passages in and I tend to go thru it occasionally and read it like it is its own book - because then it is like reading a piece of lots of the books I love. Dorky, I know. But if I pick up 25 books and find 25 quotes that I love, that takes forever. Plus one well-loved notebook that I carry everywhere with me - now, that's something special. To me, at least.

    4. I don't like to dog-ear pages of library books, but I have done so recently in one book because I didn't have my pink notebook with me to jot down the passages I wanted to move over. But I'll do my best to fix those pages before I turn the book back in. I just don't like damaging the books of other people. And I certainly don't want other people bending my pages or (GOD FORBID) bending my spines. If I do it, it's one thing, but I can't stand it when others do it. My book budget isn't high enough to replace books that other people screw up. I recently loaned a book to someone and it came back water damaged and the spine was broken in three places. I didn't say anything because 1) it was the first time it happened, so it was maybe an accident 2) this person is one that will at least discuss books with me and 3) in the scheme of real life (war, diseases, etc) that really isn't THAT big of an issue. But on the inside I was having a fit. She has about ten more of my books right now and I'm terrified of how they'll come back to me. I really need to let that go or quit loaning books to her. (She already had them before I discovered the poor state of the one I picked up.) Anyway, I digress.

    5. The quote I gave to you a few days ago has brackets, underlines, and stars around it, with words in the margin of the book it lives in. The page is bent exactly in half. When I go back and read that book (again) or flip thru it, it catches my eye. Not only that, but those two quotes are in my pink notebook and on index cards stuck in random places. Rather than mark up books (which isn't the BIGGEST of deals) I'd rather throw the quotes around to various places in my life and let them BE places I frequent. Like on my bathroom mirror, on my dashboard, inside my calendar/planner, etc.

    6. Being a book purist, as you call it, is one of those very personal things that is different for every person and I find that people judge people based on what "level" of purist they are. It's amusing sometimes and sometimes it is downright horrifying.

  8. I am an avid dog-earer, although I would smack someone with a ruler if I saw them bending their paperback book along the spine (and would call the police if they tried it with a hard cover!).

    I HATE highlighting in used books, but I love hand written notes, especially in non-fiction. Usually there are notes to look up particularly interesting points, or references to other ideas or topics. Which is great, almost a rebuttal of sorts to the author.

    Fiction is okay to have notes, as long as its not stupid things like "Is it going to be the butler?" or "OMG! I was waiting for that to happen!" I'd like the only commentary going on about the story to be in my own head, thanks.

    That said, I treat my books pretty carefully. But, then again, I hardly ever take them out of my house (reading in the car and airport are usually the extent), so my books live sheltered, spoiled lives, rarely exposed to the mean streets.

  9. It depends on the books. Like you I have a few psigned copies that I have in good shape for display. My copy of catcher in the rye that I have read 20 times however looks like it has been used as a drink coaster

  10. I am an e-book person. I can highlight, bookmark, and make all sorts of notes in my books which can easily be hidden or deleted.

    I do have a number of signed books, which I take very good care of. There are certain books and authors that I have gone out of my way to get signed copies. I read them very carefully and would not allow any of the things you mentioned happen to them. I am VERY selective with who I will let borrow them. So far my mother is the only one I have allowed borrow a signed copy.

    Any unsigned books in my collection are fair game. I lend them out to friends, co-workers, pretty much anyone who expresses an interest in reading them. I don't show these books the same level of care, but I still don't approve of abuse. Well read is one thing. Sticky, chewed on, or spilled on is something completely different.

  11. I buy a lot of used books and I hate when they're marked (unless it was given to me by a friend). Which is odd because I make notes and underline in mine and have been known to dog ear. (Tempted to email you a photo of my copy of Sherlock Holmes). I've gone through a couple copies each of Crime and Punishment, American Gods and A Tale of Two Cities.

    I am usually gentle with a book the first time I read it and keep it pristine because if I don't like it enough to reread it or don't like it at all, I either give it to a friend or donate it to the library.

    But since I work at a library I hate, hate, hate when people return books damaged and marked. Someone tried to return a book with a cover so chewed that pretty much the only part left was part of the scanning barcode. It's like "who are you kidding?"

  12. I've nominated you for the 2013 Liebster Award!

  13. I have two little sisters and mostly I tried to be a chilled out person but the moment they fingers touches my book I go ape shit and give the 3 year a death stare which doesn't make me feel too proud of myself but one glance at the mini library I tried to build for them in their room tells me I am one right cookie.

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  15. The same thing is kind of happening to me too, only the difference is that i NEVER destroyed my books, they were like expensive collectible jewels to me. I couldn't even stand the thought of them betting dog-eared. And i would get so upset if the cover of a book bot indented, even slightly. I cried once when i was younger because something had fallen on a hardcover book and had created a tiny indentation. Now, i still take care of them, i really couldn't stand the idea of having something spilt on them or having them ripped (my heart still pounds loudly every time one of my little cousins turns the pages of my books), but somehow i've grown out of getting extremely upset over them. I used to not carry them around with me because i feared they'd get ruined in my bag. Now i take a book everywhere with me in case i want to read. And although my preferred way of keeping track of the page i'm on is bookmarks, i no longer cringe to the idea of dog-earing my pages.

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