What are the signs of a well-loved book?
Is it the dog-eared pages, the notes scribbled in the margins, or the heavily creased spine indicating that the book has been read more than once?
Or is it the pristine hardback that sits on your bookshelf without a speck of dust and hardly any signs of use?
I think about this a lot because my own bookshelves are filled with both types of books. Some have very obviously been read many times over the years and others look virtually untouched. What’s the big deal?
- Have I ever dog-eared a page? Yes.
- Have I regularly used things that are not bookmarks in place of bookmarks? Yes.
- Have I written in and highlighted parts of books? Yes.
But does that make me any less of a book lover?
No two devoted readers would agree, is my guess. I definitely have some books on my shelf that are in extremely good condition and the reason why is, frankly, a mystery. In most cases it’s probably because they are hardbacks with nice covers that I didn’t want to ruin, so when reading I took extra special care not to disrupt them.
But over time, if I read the book more than once, the chances of the cover becoming a bit battered and looking worse for wear increase. I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing. I have found that it’s usually the paperbacks that get the most wear and tear over the years, and yet it doesn’t bother me as much as it might to other self-proclaimed book lovers.
I do draw the line with where I take my books. I’m not a bathroom-reader, a transit-reader, or a doctors-office-reader. I don’t carry books with me “wherever I go” because “there’s always time to read” as they say. I don’t think that’s true (sorry) because the when and the where of my reading time is as important as the book I chose to spend it with. I prefer quiet spaces and I prefer to read at home. I would read in a library (and do every day at work) but hardly anywhere else. Am I less of a book lover because I don’t carry my books with me constantly? I think not but again, others might disagree.
What are your thoughts? What are the signs of a well-loved book?