How Do You Treat Your Books? Does It Matter?

Nikki

I’ve been thinking for a while about the way books and reading are fetishised. I have a lot of thoughts about it that range from the harmless appreciation of a pretty and/or meaningful thing to an unnecessary obsession on a specific physical representation/format of a story. I’ll just say, I’m not precious about my books. Yes, I’d usually prefer them to be in good condition, but I don’t sweat it if they’re not. I don’t write in my books, but more because I find it inefficient and tedious to squash my opinions between margins that because I can’t bring myself to sully the ‘sacred’ pages. For me, books are just the way to disseminate stories or information so the packaging of that story doesn’t really matter. And, actually, films and books aren’t really different to me which is maybe why I took to audiobooks so well? I don’t know…

I’m actually a sentimental person and there are books that are difficult for me to part with. But when I’m being brutally honest with myself about the fact that I’m not a re-reader* and will probably never come back to them, it makes it easier to empty my personal library into the charity shop, even if it’s still a struggle to let go of some books. I think this makes me a great friend if you like books though! I’m happy to give away books I’ve read even if were bought new at regular retail price. (I don’t even have a copy of my favourite book anymore because I gave it away to my dad because I thought he would enjoy it.) I’m not likely to read them again so, regardless of the money spent, it’s wasted just looking pretty and taking up space on my shelf. I just think of that money as the cost of that one time experience—for better or worse (though if it’s the latter, there’s the battle of “should I sell it to make the money back?” and the ‘responsibility’ I feel of warning people not to waste their time with it! haha).

I can’t really imagine many scenarios where I would buy a book I’ve already read for free from the library or borrowed from a friend. Even if I loved it, there has to be at least a plan to use it. And as someone who isn’t a re-reader*…I can’t really guarantee that to myself. On top of all that, in the past decade I haven’t been in the same house for more than 2 years (sometimes less) so I can’t be lugging around dead weight. And recently, I’ve been courting minimalist ideas (which is more about having just what you need (including hobby/fun/etc items), not having as few things as possible) so books I’ll never go back to feel like baggage.

*Not really intentionally. I just never seem to feel like it/don’t get around to it/prioritise new stories.

….But that’s all besides the point! The actual books I have, I don’t understand treating them like they are holy tomes. They’re physical items; earthly possessions. Despite what Marie Kondo says, I am not an animist(?) and I don’t believe books and other inanimate objects have souls and/or feelings. Yes, they can bring joy butI feel like the crazy reverence kind of takes away from what a book is really about (it’s story!) and focusses on its vessel. For me, that kind of ‘book love’ is superficial and hollow and largely just for show. I’m not hating on anyone who goes down that route, but I just can’t understand it (though I find it interesting). I feel like a dissertation could be written about this where the meaning of the book has been skewed away from its true meaning to a shallower one that is only about its representation. We want to focus on what the book is suppose to mean to us rather than what it actually means to us. It’s all about the idea of the hobby rather than the thing itself? That all sounds way more cynical and judgemental than I mean it to…I just lack the right words! But I am fascinated…probably because I can’t relate. What do you think??

Claire

I might be guilty of what Nikki notes as fetishizing books. What I will say is that I am very much precious about my books but I will also note that I don’t limit this attitudes to books in general. For me, everything I own is precious and I contribute that attitude to having to move around a lot when I was a child and having to constantly get rid of or give away much of what I owned. So now, if I own something, it’s very precious and I’d like to keep it.

For me, books have always been my friend and I like to keep them. I don’t stress if they go brown or dusty, that’s called Age. I don’t like cracked spines though, I will scream if I lend someone a book and the spine is cracked. Actually, now that I think about it I’ve seen two levels of preciousness:

  • New: I tend to hold these in the highest esteem and I think that’s because of the money I spent on them. I am less likely to lend out new books and certainly less likely to give them away or sell them if I ever get tired. Maybe it’s because I have a pretty rigorous purchase policy (policy is: read first via library or borrowed from a friend, if I like it then buy it), so every book I own is a carefully curated/selected book for my library (which is a mountain of boxes, I own no bookshelves). I do get distressed if pages are torn and I hate to see torn covers.
  • Preowned: I am less precious about these. I keep them but if I were to say nah to one of these books, I feel no pressure in keeping it. I will give it away or sell it if needs be. I lend these out quite often.

However my obsession with books has a line: I don’t spend hours organizing them, I’m pretty random about it. I also don’t care if it’s neatly ordered or chaotically stacked. I don’t need cute bookends or little figurines on my shelf (I don’t think i’m much of a decorator actually, it’s about utility!). I love to see people put that effort into their bookish surroundings but I can’t.

Referring to format: Hardback is desired but costly. Actually, owning a physical book is a bit like showing off for me. I have tons on my kindle but you don’t know what I’m reading. So, when I buy a book- in addition to it being a curated thing- it’s a testament to my interests as well as my personality. You’ll never seem me with multiple editions however, unless it’s Harry Potter, then all rules go out the window.

NameNikkixClaire

 

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11 Responses to How Do You Treat Your Books? Does It Matter?

  1. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves & Wrappin’ It Up November 2015 |

  2. Pingback: Claire x Nikki Review November 2015 | Bitches With Books

  3. Rachel says:

    Everyone is SO different when it comes to this – I definitely have difficulty letting go of books once I own them, and I used to be a rereader but I’m not so much anymore due to time restrictions. I still want to own my favourites though. The eyes aren’t the window to the soul, your bookshelves are lol. I do crack spines, I love cracking spines, but I don’t dogear, or like when covers get damaged. For me, that’s more about making a book last for as long as possible, especially because so many of mine are paperbacks. I know this makes me loving cracking spines strange, but I find spine cracking oddly satisfying. When it comes to writing in books, I could only ever do this in textbooks, but I’m doing a project with Alicia at Kernels of Nonsense, where we are annotating books and sending them around the world! You can check that out here – http://confessionsofabookgeek.com/2015/11/15/the-transatlantic-book-project/

  4. Jackie G. says:

    My books would give most bloggers the chills. I guess I have a tendency to be a little careless with them– turning the pages with Cheetos-dusted fingers, dog-earring pages, breaking spines. I don’t display my books, so maybe that contributes to this. I move around quite a lot too, so un-packing books is kind of a burden; I just keep them in their boxes until it’s time to read. Plus…it’s just a thing. It’s the story that means the world to me, not the vessel that carries it. I can replace books if they get damaged beyond recognition (my third Harry Potter book). I am sentimental though…which is why, despite pages falling from Prisoner of Azkaban, I cannot part with it.

    If I had to describe my books, I would call them well-loved.

  5. Pingback: Retrospect #99: November 22 | Word Revel

  6. Wendleberry says:

    For me, books are just the way to disseminate stories or information so the packaging of that story doesn’t really matter.
    I feel like the crazy reverence kind of takes away from what a book is really about (it’s story!) and focuses on its vessel.

    I agree with this so, so much. I think, generally, people automatically believe they should treat books with “respect” by not damaging them and keeping them in perfect condition, but honestly i don’t see what’s wrong (or disrespectful) about cracking spines, folding corners and marking passages.

    For me, signs of use are signs of love. Signs that someone has read a book, whether they enjoyed it or disliked it, shows me they’ve really engaged with the book. Books on a shelf in perfect untouched condition just look like decoration.

    I say this as someone who did like to keep their books in good condition (though i was never really bothered about cracked spines). It’s taken a couple of years of actually engaging with the stories held in books to get past the physical book itself, and feel comfortable writing in them, but i enjoy the stories all the more for it, now.

    I also prefer secondhand books, with signs of wear. And books with annotations make my heart jump with excitement–not only do i get the book’s words, i get its previous owners words and thoughts too! ♥

  7. Leslie says:

    I enjoyed reading both of your points of view – great “food for thought.”. I am a bit precious about books (yet the more dear they are the more page markers and underlinings!) However, as I age I am considering how to lighten my load and simplify my lifestyle. Another interesting thing that’s happening is that I’ve grown to be a more careful reader with maturity and so I am re-reading books that I sort of “inhaled without chewing” at an earlier stage of life. Re-reading has revitalized my appreciation of certain stories. Thanks for this post!

  8. Grace says:

    I tend to loan out a lot of my physical books once I’ve read them. Books are meant to be read and enjoyed, and if I think others will like them, I pass them on. I’m also not too picky about condition; generally, I like paperbacks because they’re a bit more durable than an e-reader, which means that I can read them in the bath or at the pool without worrying about ruining expensive electronics if I accidentally splash them. I view wear and tear as a sign that a book has been well-loved.

  9. moosha23 says:

    I’ve been reading this book called How To Read a Novel and the guy (John Sutherland) is a complete advocate for writing in margins (he says that’s the whole reason why there still are margins in books – to make them an interactive experience). Hardbacks are more durable (and, according to him, cheaper now than they were before) but paperbacks are cheaper. I think that I only like keeping books I know I will read again (perhaps because if I spend money on it, that book best be there for life).

    • Claire (BWB) says:

      OMG My friend who is an utter control freak got one of those books and she’s had such a tough and liberating time with it. It’s so hard to her to do the stuff to it but at the same time, utterly freeing.

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