Handle with Care: My Book Rules

Before today’s post, a little public service (or lack thereof) announcement: I know I haven’t been posting much. Whenever the regularity of my posting on my blog slips below what I consider the minimum required (2 posts a week, me thinks) a sharp guilt begins to gnaw away at my insides and I fear that you, lovely blog reader, will abandon me, as all those insufferable How To Blog Right blog posts assure me you inevitably will. But things are happening behind the scenes (she says mysteriously) that may adversely affect my posting rate between now and the end of the year. I’ll do my best, but if I go missing for a few days, my Twitter stream starts to grow cobwebs or emails go unanswered, you’ll know why: I’m either knee deep in my mysterious commitments, or I’ve bought the final season of 24 on DVD.

Right. Anyway. Last week I mentioned that I spent a tiny fortune on the new Penguin Classic editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s works, the most beautiful books I ever did see. I was delighted to come across this “Making Of” video on the Penguin blog, my favourite part being the concern that these books end up in good homes:

My books are my most prized possessions. If the house was on fire I would grab (i) people, (ii) my Mac, (iii) my red leather bound, limited to 150, personally inscribed edition of Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly and (iv) however many other books I could feasibly carry. Books to me are like memories: a souvenir of the reading experience, a reminder of a certain time or place in my life, symbolic of that really bad day at work when the only light in my life was a 3 for 2 binge in Waterstones. My ultimate dream is to live in a house brimming with books, and to achieve that dream it means all my books must survive.

The following activities are expressly forbidden when anywhere near my beloved books:

  • Lending. Chances are they won’t come back and if they do, all manner of horrors will have befallen them. Buy your own or join a library. Just leave me and my books alone.
  • Aggressive reading. There is simply no need to crack the spine every time you turn to a new two-page spread, and bending the book back on itself so that you’re only looking at one page at a time is completely uncalled for.
  • Deliberate bending or creasing of pages. BUY A BOOKMARK, YOU SADIST!
  • Writing. If you must make notes, do so in a notebook. If you need to scribble down a note, do not reach for the nearest book. Most of my mum’s books contain shopping lists in the otherwise blank back pages – I’m all for recycling but that is just a crime.
  • Cover sticker roulette. Price tags and Waterstones’ “3 for 2” stickers always come off easily, but you can’t be so sure with “Signed by the author” ones. As there is nothing worse than a sticker that leaves half of itself behind (but not enough to peel off – ugh!) you’re better off just leaving them on.
  • Dust jacket abuse. Just because it’s not part of the book itself doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve your respect. Take it off while you’re reading for maximum carefulness. Also: using the inside flaps for a bookmark is only permitted at the beginning and end of the book; using it to mark your place elsewhere will only pull the dust jacket out of shape.
  • Coffee rings. BUY A COASTER, YOU SADIST!

  • Reading. Yes, reading. In special circumstances, books are not to be read, as the edition has been bought for gazing-at-adoringly purposes only. (I have previously read other editions.) Examples of this: my stunningly beautiful red and black paperback edition of The Stand, the aforementioned F. Scott Fitzgerald books, the signed edition of Generation A by Douglas Coupland which wears my personalized dust jacket,If I could put them in locked display cases, I would.

What do you do – or not do – to your books?

17 thoughts on “Handle with Care: My Book Rules

  1. Jenni says:

    It’s just like you’re inside my head reading *my* book rules! It’s so nice to see someone else saying the same things. I’m back at university at the moment and the writing one particularly is a frequent point of discussion between me and my coursemates. I can’t bear the thought of even pencil marks in my books whereas they all go to town with highlighters. Just the thought of it brings me out in a cold sweat!

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Yay! Someone else as crazy/sane as me… 🙂

      The worst for me is definitely the “aggressive reading” – when I see people bend paperbacks back on themselves I just want to rip (carefully) the book out of their hands because clearly they don’t deserve it. Oh, the thought of it!

  2. Rod Griffiths says:

    We sometimes buy two copies of books we know we’ll want to keep. One for keeping and one for the kids to read, desecrate, steal etc. This particularly applies to signed copies of Terry Pratchett books which actually go in a different bookcase.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Good idea! If writing ever makes me rich (or even just not broke!) I plan to buy extra copies of my favourite books, so I can just give them to people when they come over, see all my books and say things like, “Do you’ve anything good to read? I need a good book…” That way I get to share my favourite books WITHOUT the pain of them going missing!


  3. nettiewriter says:

    You know, while I can kind of agree with most of what you say nothing would give me more pleasure than seeing a book I had written get all dog-eared, stained, thumbed and generally LOVED. I would take it as a complement that my book had become such a part of the reader’s life that it went with them – even if that was to Starbucks where coffee was spilled on it and jam doughnut fingers were used to turn the pages. At least the pages would have been turning – and isn’t that the important thing?
    I do have a few copies of books – usually signed – that I take extra care of, but otherwise my books are like me: a little worn around the edges.
    P.S. I always treat books loaned to me beautifully and respectfully because they’re not mine. Same with library books.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Excellent point, Nettie, and I do agree: I would rather see a copy of my book wrecked and read than preserved and unread. But I think I have two separately relationships with books: I love to read them, but then I also love to look at them! 🙂

      And while I’m sure there are many borrowers like you who take excellent care of other people’s books, I’ve had one too many come back greased with sun cream, wrinkled with damp and generally abused to lend out any more.

      And yes, I know I’m a little crazy about this…! ;-D

  4. John Tuohy says:

    I wanted to thank you for your directios on using Smashwords…well written and clear, easy to understand. FOllowing your directions, I got my books up there. Thanks

  5. diane says:

    Hee, this is very different from my book rules,I have to say. First, I hate stickers and have to peel ’em off. When I’m borrowing a stickered book it kills me to leave the sticker on. Worse though are those fake stickers like “Oprah’s book club”. Stop the madness!

    I don’t like folding down corners (unless it’s a reference book then I don’t care, my needs trump keeping it neat) and I don’t like getting books dirty, but it doesn’t bother me to get a book a bit roughed up, and cracking a spine feels GOOOOOOD.

    I do have some special books from my Dad that I wouldn’t lend or bend, but I’ll lend almost everything, and I’ve borrowed books 2 years ago that I still have (they’re Keris’s, she gave me too many!)

    I’m also a minimalist and am happy to let go of books when I’ve read them (90% of the time) or better, get them on Kindle so they don’t take up any extra space.

    I also think textbooks are meant to be written in/highlighted over, it helps me learn!

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      I totally agree with the stickers – I just don’t risk it unless I’m confident the whole thing is going to come off, but the only thing worst than a sticker is half of one! And 90% of your read books given away? I only wish I had the strength! I’d have so much more room and so much less to dust! 🙂

      • diane says:

        I will make that sticker come off, if it nearly kills me. (Hmm. I may not be good at prioritising…) 😉

        Less dusting is always good! And you feel so much lighter when you give away books you probably won’t read again or books you bought ages ago and know you don’t even want to get round to anymore. It’s very freeing! I’m going to write a blog post about it soon, in fact.

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