The other week I read a post by The Bloggess (Jenny Lawson) about when books are loved so well they fall apart. It was a lovely post, called “Sometimes tattered and worn = loved” and I recommend it to you. She talked about how her best loved books are so well used that they become worn and tattered. She talked about looking for second hand books with scribbled notes in margins – markers of a book that meant something important to someone at some point in its history.
It’s certainly true for me and my library. The books I have found most helpful, the books that I have most enjoyed, the books that have meant something special to me – these are the books on my shelves that show significant signs of wear. Now, I have friends who are scrupulously careful with their books. They are plastic covered, with spines uncracked, corners unturned, pages pristine. This is how they show care for their books. But there is something passionate and personal about a book you just have to carry with you – leaving creased pages and scuffed covers. Something about a book that speaks to you so deeply you feel compelled to turn it into a journal, writing your responses, jotting down the way it reflects your heart and your story.
Near the end of her post Lawson told the story of a fan at a book signing bringing out a tattered and worn copy she was embarrassed to present to its author. Instead, Lawson was delighted and insisted on taking a photo of the book. To her eyes, the ripped and worn pages were a sign not of neglect but of great love.
My immediate thought was, “Wow, that must be the highest compliment for an author. I wonder if anyone will ever love my book that much.” Not love as in kind adjectives and deep thoughts, but the sort of love that is shown through scribbles in margins and highlighted passages, torn pages and worn covers.
So as an author, I would like to say – it would be an honour to have my book destroyed. It would delight me to see handwritten notes and smudged pages and scratched covers. It would be a joy to see physical evidence that my words have impacted someone – sparked thoughts, touched emotions.
I really hope I get to see that!