Is it blasphemy to dog-ear your books?

I might be about to alienate quite a large number of my fellow book lovers.

I like dog-earing books.

Now quickly, before you all yell at me, I’m not always doing it. I like having nice bookmarks, with stunning images or lovely book quotes. But sometimes you don’t have one at hand, and folding down the corner is just…not that bad. Like, obviously I’m not going to do it to a library book, or a borrowed book. But with my own books? I enjoy giving them some character.

Recently an event called ‘BookTube-A-Thon’ happened, I wasn’t too involved (because I’m working full time and was in a different time zone and it’s all too complicated) but I liked keeping an eye on what was going on. One of the polls they posted to their twitter was about marginalia. Did we approve of it? Or must books be left untouched? I was surprised at the proportion of responses that opposed it. I don’t write in my books often, but I find my heart lifts a little when a book I pick up from a second hand store has a message inside. No, it wasn’t put there for me to read, but it’s entered my life anyway, and it gives me just a hint of a look into the life that had this book before me.

To me, a book in its original state is far less charming than those with marks and creases throughout their pages. I see my copy of ‘Time Stops for no mouse’ and I see the ratty corner, where I accidentally let it dip into the bath while I was reading. I see the extraordinarily creased cover, and ridiculous number of folded corners in ‘Un Lun Dun’ and consider every moment it has got me through, and how I love it still. Those books of mine that sit perfectly, as though they were untouched since purchase, give me little joy in comparison. I’m sure I loved them, when I read them, but there is nothing to that book that lights a spark in my memory. Without a dog eared page, or a note to google something, the place of that book in my life is not so easily remembered.

And I see why people like to keep their books pristine. For one thing, explaining your book is messed up because you dropped it in a bath is not the best way to impress people. Also picking up a fresh, new book can have its own sense of satisfaction in it. Maybe it has a beautiful cover you want to preserve, or it’s a special edition. I wouldn’t want to cast judgement on how someone else looks after their books, because we all show love in a different way. But to me, a well-loved book shows it has been loved.

It’s like my blanket as a child (named Mussy, because it was made of muslin). By the time I grew out of mussy (far later than I should have) he was a mere few scraps of muslin sewed into a newer piece. I had cuddled that blanket almost every night for ears and years of my life. Of course it fell apart. That blanket dealt with a lot of my emotional turmoil. Books are the same to me. They’ve always been there for me, even when people in the real world couldn’t be. I like to remember that when I look at them. And I like to think when I pass my books on to someone else (not that I’m very good at letting go) they will see a folded page, a scribbled note, a wee message from my grandma, and they will know that this book was something special to someone.

Oh and I also bend the spine back too far a lot… it’s just more comfortable to read it that way!
Let me know if you like writing in your books, or leaving a trace of yourself in it’s pages, I’d love to hear other opinions and why you feel that way…
Allie

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