I love a good beat-up book. A book with frayed edges, a broken spine, one that looks like it’s been through a million hands before it rests gently in mine. Or, better yet, in my children’s.
But I especially love it when that book was new just a short while ago and the abuse it has suffered has been at the hands of my family. I know, I know. My kids would be completely confused to know that I thought this as I’m constantly reminding them to be gentle with their books. But in all honesty, I love it when I find new creases in their favorite titles, new bends in their bestsellers. It means that they’ve been using them.
Each tear in a page represents a fight over a chance to read through the book “just one last time.” Each dog-eared corner shows that they found a page they want to refer back to again, like the platypus that they seem to be obsessed with knowing more and more about (they are kind of a cool and odd animal). Each crease and fold represents a caress, however rough, and a need for more knowledge and – better yet – more time spent on my lap.
So the more I read about people downloading their titles, and the more ads I see about how surprisingly easy a Kindle is to pack on trips and how clever we all look reading them on the beach, the more in love I become with my broken books, the ones with the creased edges and the duct-taped spines.
Sure, essentially they’re the same thing: words formed into sentences, formed into paragraphs, shaped into a story. But I’m a bookseller. And I like books. I like the way they feel in my hands, the way they bend over my belly when I read in bed.
And I like the way the pages sometimes rip when my children fight over them.