To Break or Not to Break, That is the Question

When I loan out books, more than one person has said to me – well, it probably won’t look like this when you get it back.

I understand. When most people finish reading a book, it looks like it’s been read.

Me … not so much.

If I can help it there is no broken spine (that already just sounds so violent to do to something I respect so much), probably no worn corners (unless it did A LOT of traveling on subways and such in my bag), and certainly no folded pages (except for one, and really only one in my whole collection that I can remember, exception – the Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver).

For whatever reason, I keep my books looking pristine.

In all honesty, I have never made the conscious decision to make my books look like they are, for the most part, unread (and trust me, there are times before the book journal and blog that I wish my read books showed a little more wear – I sometimes forgot what had or hadn’t been read).

I think there is something beautiful in a “broken in” book – well-worn is well-loved, right?! I see the act of people wearing in a book a sign that they have really taken ownership of it, made it their own. It’s fantastic to browse through a used bookstore and see the yellowed, dog-eared paperbacks lining the shelves waiting to be picked up and placed on new bookshelves.

And while I might add some of these used bookstore finds to my shelf, for the most part someone coming to my home, browsing my shelf would probably think I am just a book collector who hasn’t even opened the books on the shelf.

So should I make my mark on the shelf, crack the spine to lay claim to my book and show that “I have been here.” I just don’t know if I will ever be able to break the non-breaking habit.

Do you break the spine and/or fold pages in your books?

11 Responses

  1. I tend to be pretty good to my books although I might abuse a library book a little bit since there are some times when you have to smack it around a bit if the pages aren’t readable. I tend to use a bookmark a piece of paper usually but when it isn’t my book I’ll just flop it down right where I left off.

  2. I don’t break spines of fold pages – never have, never will. I hate how a broken spine looks, and I can’t bear to do it (unless I buy reading copies of my favourite books, which I have done for a few). I collect books, so I like to keep them exactly as I bought them – no nicks, creases, rips etc…

    I’m glad it’s not just me!

  3. I try very hard not to do either, but it does happen sometimes.

  4. I buy most of my books second-hand so most already have broken spines but the review copies I receive I try to keep as tidy as possible, unless it’s a small paperback and I need to crease the spine to see the pages!

  5. I’m very careful with my books — look they have never been read. I usually buy paperbacks because I like to read them better — more pliable and cheaper. If I do have a hardcover, I buy a mylar cover for them. However, I just loaned one of my books out, brand new, and it came back smudged, and part of the back cover had been bent. What!! Oh well.

  6. I am totally neurotic about it – I like books to look new!!! This is really difficult with my husband, who thinks books are coasters. And with his son, who think books should be kicked under the bed. But I keep persevering!!!

  7. Glad to know that I’m not the only one who doesn’t like to break the spine or fold down pages. Don’t really do it on purpose, but it’s just the way I read the book. And they look so nice on the shelf that way as well…

    I do sometimes cringe when I see a book lying face down…there are bookmarks so you won’t lose your place, so use them! *L*

    But in my defense, I’m not as bad as one of my friends who won’t even buy the book unless it’s in pristine condition. Only person I know who inspects the cover for imperfections by holding it under a light! Book lovers can be a demanding lot… 😀

  8. I like my books to stay pristine. And actually, people don’t borrow books from me as a result (which is okay by me because I’ve lent books before that have never been returned and that just makes me crabby about that friend, which I don’t need).

  9. I’m emailing this post to my husband, who will feel so validated by your perspective.

    You see, he lives with me. And I like to write in books and bend the spines (though I don’t dog-ear pages), and he thinks it’s just sacrilege. He wants his books to look pristine and to be “little trophies” when he’s finished with them.

    I personally don’t get it—if I love a book, I want to make it my own, but hey, it takes all kinds.

  10. Oh, goodness — I’m such a spine breaker! I don’t know when I started breaking them all left and right, but it’s actually gotten a bit ridiculous. Mass markets get the worst of it, of course — I bend those babies like there’s no tomorrow.

    It’s funny because I am really protective of my books… in most other perspectives! If I’m reading a hardcover, I always slip off the dust jacket first to make sure I don’t get any of my lunch on it! In fact, I’d say my hardcovers would be like yours — pristine, brand new.

    I love the look of worn, well-loved books, too — which is a good thing, because my books are always a mess when I get them back from my sister or a coworker! 🙂

  11. A reader after my own heart! My books literally look like they’ve never been read, even if I’ve read them multiple times. I learned to do that because when I was a kid my older uncle let me borrow his sci fi books and I learned to take good care of them so that my source to the kind of books I wanted to read would not be cut off.

    I read a great book earlier this summer called Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman. I highly recommend that you check it out. One of her many essays is about those who really abuse their books and those who don’t. She falls clearly in the camp that true book lovers actually break their books in because the physical object is not important, the story is. I myself couldn’t disagree with her more but loved reading the essay anyway! Very fun.

    For me I love books as objects as well as the journey they take me on and I could not dream of treating them poorly in any way.

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