Recently, Book Riot posted about not breaking the spine of a book. Making a case for it, Edd McCracken proclaimed that if one were to break the spine, it would result in that reader immediately being placed into the "I hate them" category. Which gave me pause.
With trepidation, I wandered over to my own bookshelves and looked them over, then turned away, embarrassed. Finally, I looked at my bookshelves, but with a shifty one-eyed glance.
Oh, dear. Based on my bookshelves, it appears I would definitely be one of those hated. From paperbacks to hardcovers, it was easy to see that I had more broken spines than clean ones. (Please note that I would never crack the spine of a book that didn't belong to me. Mr. McCracken and I do agree with this, but I must be honest about my own collection.)
When a new book first comes into my possession, all shiny and sweet-smelling, I admit I experience a twinge of sadness if anything happens that mars it any way. If I place it on the bed and then fall asleep, I will be furious with myself if that act resulted in the paperback falling on the floor at an odd angle, causing the outside of the book to be folded or creased, creating the first blemish. It can be unsettling. I will miserably stare at it, whining to myself, asking how I could have been so careless.
But then I get used to the wrinkle and I start to feel comfortable with it. I don't see it anymore. The book itself becomes its own sustainable character to me and I think about how I love roaming through used bookstores, and how much I love the beat-up look and feel of an aged book. Maybe it's a brand new one or, more likely, it's thirty years old or so, but I love it either way. If I love the book, I'm going to keep it in my collection and it's going to be loved and read over and over again. I'll crack that spine intentionally and I will underline sentences. I'll fold the corner of a page to mark my spot and I will be okay with it.
Books are not delicate flowers. They are pages of imagination, willing to be thrust into the thick of the danger and adventure of treasured and voracious reading just so the reader can absorb each moment, anxiously paging through and living each word. Dog-earing sections, leaving the book open to a chapter on the bed and cracking the spine, is all the mark of an incredible book. If I see someone reading a book in that condition, I make a note to myself to look that book up. Something kept that reader up late at night, and I want to know what it is. Don't you?