Confession time: I’ve always been one of the dare-devil bookworms.
Despite years of ingrained caution from my parents’ repeated warnings (“No library books at the table.” “Please don’t eat and read.” “Have you washed your hands since eating? Don’t pick up that book yet.” “Watch out! Move that stack of books away from the food”), there’s just something so cozy about curling up with a good book and a snack. Or better yet, a big mug of tea. C.S. Lewis said “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me,” and it’s so true.
And what about indoors vs. outdoors? Even hard-core readers need to get some fresh air and sunlight from time to time, but the outer world is a dangerous place for books. They can fall in the mud. Get dropped in the street. Be seized by some ruthless relative to squish a bug. And, worst of all, what if you somehow left one behind? I’ve seen too many painful casualties in the middle-grade books my sisters would abandon outside to the merciless hands of weather. On the other hand, a good shady bench or a patch of thick grass at the park and a fluffy summer-read go hand in hand.
Moving away from external dangers, there’s always your own treatment of the books. I cannot, will not, ever approve of folding or ripping pages in any form … but, yes, I’ve written in my books before. That’s a hard decision to make. Will you preserve the lovely, unmarked pages, or would you rather comment in the margins and notate your favorite quotes? Respect the sanctity of Book, or mark it truly yours? I can understand either choice. Myself? It depends on the book, but as I said, I lean towards a little bit of writing. It’s interesting to read and re-read the same book over time, each time finding a bit of your past in it. And it’s fascinating to pick up a used book and find a previous reader’s thoughts, a connection across time and space to someone you’ve never seen and never will, but who enjoyed the same book as you are. Within moderation. There’s nothing so annoying as finding a good copy of a book that’s been underlined and scribbled in and written over half to death.
In the end, I think the level of safety your books enjoy depends entirely on your outlook on used books. Do you need to keep your books in pristine condition? Show your love by protection? Do you flinch to see a battered book, and snarl when you see a book left open face-down? Then you prefer to tread the path of safety. But – do you pick up books with tattered jackets in the used book store at the corner, declaring the content worth the cover? Do you believe in well-loved books that swell with memories and events and rereading? Then perhaps you’re one of the daredevil bibliophiles, preferring to keep their books close and their stories closer, no matter the danger.
What about you? Leave a comment telling me whether you’re more daredevil or guardian, and why.