Loving books, and destroying books

A few weeks after Misunderstood was first published, I wrote about “why I hope you destroy my book“. It turned out to be somewhat controversial! What does it mean, practically, to love a book? Do you keep it pristine? Do you cover it in notes? Do you keep it only for yourself? Do you lend it out indiscriminately so more people can experience it?

I decided this post was worth reflecting on because it’s a concept that comes up in conversation fairly often. I was just discussing it with someone on twitter last week. Here is an excerpt from the original post, more than two years ago:

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. . .

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!

And the best part? I did get to see it!! I’ve heard stories and seen photos of different ways my book has been loved by readers around the world.

One time I was speaking at an event and heard that one of the attendees had my book and read it thoroughly and was really excited to meet me in person – but didn’t bring their book to be signed because they were embarrassed of the rough condition it was in. If that’s ever you, know that I take that as the highest compliment!

A few times people have told me they bought a second copy to loan out to others, either because they were always lending it and never had it at home themselves, or because they wanted a copy that stayed clean and safe. Either way, also a huge compliment!

And perhaps sweetest of all, one person told me they don’t like to write in books, as they consider them sort of sacred. But they really wanted a way to reference the content in my book that was impacting them, so they could refer back to it. So they used coloured tabs to mark places that were meaningful or important. And sent me this photo:


Another time, a student I’d known in Beijing was talking to a friend and saw that they had my book in a stack they’d borrowed from the library.

I love hearing these stories of my book out in the real world – that it exists in the hands, and on the desks and bookshelves, and in the minds and hearts, of readers around the world. Literally around the world. I know it’s been owned and read in over 30 countries now, including:

Australia, Austria, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, Curacao, Denmark, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, UAE, UK, USA, and Vietnam.

So please – keep reading, keep scribbling and tabbing, keep lending and sharing, and keep telling me your stories! I can’t tell you how much it means to me.

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