When I was little, my friend A was my Barbie Playing friend. Many a weekend I would bring my Barbies and their maroon convertible (with the lights that turned on) to play at her house (she had the Barbie Dream house).*
*Although, I need to give some credit to my mom on this, because I did have a sweet Barbie condo with a rooftop patio made out of some fruit crates. And this was in the days before Pinterest. It was awesome.
Anyway, lining the top of her bookcase, A had a row of beautiful Collectors’ edition Barbies, still in their boxes. Holiday Barbies in beautiful velvet ball gowns, exotic Barbies in satin kimonos, and Princess Barbies in taffeta and lace.
All still in their boxes. How is it even possible for a 9-year-old to have such restraint!?
I remember asking her why these dolls weren’t in play, and her response “Because they’re special and I have to keep them nice.”
I was a little bewildered, being from a family of 6 kids, keeping something nice instead of opening it and playing with it as much as possible until it belongs to the next kid in line was totally foreign to me. But hey, we had 2 Kens, life was good, and we’re friends to this day, despite these differences. Needless to say, I was never the kid who kept things nice. Nor did I grow into this skill, as evidenced by my owning nothing of value that is undamaged. The more special something is, the more I want to use it, enjoy it, and share it.
Claire Fallon, a very talented Books and Culture writer for the Huffington Post and fellow book lover wrote an article entitled ” You don’t have to destroy a book to love it: A plea to readers”, in which she makes a lot of good points. The “Plea” argues that cracked spines, inscriptions, bent pages and torn covers are a sign of disrespect. That these books are ruined. She scours bookstores looking for pristine copies and strongly resist giving out the books she likes best. She is the Collectors’ Edition Reader. From her article, it was implied that any different treatment translates to less respect.
Now, Ms. Fallon and I agree on one key point: Books are special. But we disagree greatly on what that means.
The only way a book is ruined is if the words are completely obscured. So book burners and 3-year-olds with sharpies- this doesn’t apply to you, you’re still jerks.
But, one corner of a book stained with coffee? That just means the book was engrossing enough to be read on the subway, while juggling a laptop, lunchbag, purse, and leaky coffee travel mug. Bent covers and cracked spines are a sure sign of reading a book in bed until you fall asleep and drop it on the floor. Notes in margins and inscriptions in covers are a bonus of used books! It gives them history, like they’ve lived lives. The more I love a book, the more I give it away. I’ve bought 3 copies of The Happiness Project since it came out. Why wouldn’t you want to share something that brought you such joy?
As a child, my Barbies were out of the box before the wrapping paper hit the floor. I don’t have special occasion dishes, I don’t save good wine, I eat dessert before dinner*, and I often use the floor to mark the place in my books.
*I may have impulse control issues
So, while I respect fellow bookworm Claire Fallon, and her opinion, I maintain that we may not “have to destroy a book to love it”, but that destruction is often the sign of a well-loved book.