Priscilla Shay recently wrote a blog post titled “Are You a Book Murderer?” and I have to answer truthfully:
Yes. I am.
I crinkle pages. I crack spines. I dog-ear covers. The e-reader revolution may have saved my print editions—if I hadn’t broken my Kindle.
Water damage is one of my (many) accomplices. I often have a water bottle in my purse, and when I don’t turn the cap fully closed, the books I’m reading suffer a swift death by drowning. Water spills and rain damage have made my mass market editions of A Song of Ice and Fire expand so much they can’t all fit into their gift box.
Borrowing a book—which I hardly ever do—fills me with dread. I keep them in safe places, gently turn pages, and return them in the same condition I received them. I may be a book murderer, but not with the paper-bound treasures of others.
I also admire the people who can keep their books alive and well. One of my best friends has a bookshelf that looks like the “New Releases” section in Barnes and Noble. She never cracks her spines or stains her pages. In high school, I would sit next to her in class and marvel how her paper folders would look brand new… in June. Mine would usually be in two pieces by October.
And yet, I still have to defend book murderers like myself. While what we do is perceived as careless and destructive, it can also be a crime of passion. When I read a book, I’ll take it with me everywhere: to my commute, to meals, and to bed. I can be so lost in the language that I almost miss my subway stop and rush out of the train car, shoving the book in my purse and bending the front cover. I can be so engrossed in the story that I won’t notice a drop of spaghetti sauce falling from my fork and staining the page. I can be so absorbed in the characters that I stay up past my bedtime, falling asleep next to it and leaving a cracked spine to wake up to in the morning.
My books have been murdered, but they have also been joyfully, exuberantly, and lovingly read.