As the former Language Arts teacher and librarian-to-be that I am, one can safely assume that the mistreatment of books leaves me feeling somewhere between mild annoyance and sheer rage depending upon a number of variables. (This list includes, but is not limited to: the offending child’s previous track record in the care of books, my mood, the particular book and my degree of love for it, whether I personally purchased said book with my own money, whether or not the book is checked out in my name or the student’s name if it is a library book, how much sleep I got the night before, the weather, and if I’m functioning on a full or empty stomach.)
I admit, this is true; I become highly irritated when students or my friends muck up a book and clearly don’t treat it with the care it deserves. One year I even went through the arduous task of covering novels with clear tack paper in order to protect my precious purchases. Naturally, these proved to be the books which were simply lost, rather than damaged. The following year I abandoned this effort and cringed after seeing how our $500 worth of new books were treated, despite my efforts to teach the scholars how to handle our new books and how special it was for us to get such resources. There were dog eared pages, bent covers, spines creased and broken backwards, and some books were actually left forgotten at various locations throughout the school. These events left me cycling through the emotions of indignation, fury, displeasure, exasperation, and dejection.
Books, especially books that are intended for the use of many (some of us refer to this as “sharing”, a concept that I realize not all are entirely familiar with in this country,) need to be taken care of. Money, time, and resources were spent on these books and they should be shown respect.
That diatribe aside, I must admit that I do have a love for that perfectly worn-in book, (MY book, not belonging to someone else). That book that has matured and shows evidence of its many page turns as my fingers have gone through them countless times. That book whose margins are entirely filled with tracks of my thinking. That book that is scared with remnants of that trip to the beach when I spent the summer visiting various state parks. I adore the idea of a well broken in book.
Once, while backpacking through New Zealand I was faced with quite the predicament. I always wanted new reading material, but simply lacked the room in my pack to contain all the books I desired. Then one day early into my travels, I discovered a book shelf at a particular hostel which functioned off of the “take a book, leave a book” policy. How splendid! I swapped out books throughout my journey, returning home with The Glass Castle in my possession. It is tattered and its edges are dingy, but I love the thought of all the sites my book has seen.
My most treasure books are hardly pristine these days. They’re the ones with specks of dirt in the pages from reading outside under a tree in a park, the ones just a little bent up from being toted around in my purse in case I catch a spare moment to read, the ones with the crease in the back cover from where it got bent the night I fell asleep reading in bed because I just couldn’t put it down. They aren’t neglected, but in fact, well loved.