The Joy Of Spine Bending And The Pleasure Of Visiting Old Friends.

I love books. Big surprise, eh? I love them in all their guises, whether they be the digital kind, the audio kind or the good old fashioned dead-tree kind. 

I love eBooks because the Kindle app on my iPhone allows me instant access to title after title, without inconveniencing me with the need of getting out of my pyjamas. 

Audiobooks allow me to read wherever I am and whatever I'm doing. People who complain about doing housework should try it with an audiobook playing. It's brilliant. Hate commuting? Drive and read at the same time!

And good ol' dead tree books. I love the smell, the feel. the coarse joy of the pages. If I have a favourite kind of book, it's the paper kind. Not because I'm old fashioned, but because, as a reader, I'm brutal. 

People who know my reading habits will tell you that I am a destroyer of books. Plenty of people look on in horror when, upon acquiring a new book, the first thing I do is to open it wide enough to crack the spine. I've seen people look away, turn pale and grey, their eyes wide and horrified. I've heard their outrage as they ask, "How can you do  that to a book?!"

My response is generally along the lines of an eye-roll. Mostly, I'm comfortable breaking spines and dog-earring pages because it's just paper. Mostly, I want to tell these people to get a grip. But I'll argue my case today, just the same. 

You see, I'm not just a reader of books, I'm a devourer. When reading books, I crack their spines, I bend their pages, I curl and shape them to try and get them to fit in my smallest bags and pockets. You can spot my favourite books on my shelves by their torn front covers or the varicose-vein creases lining their spines. 

Look at my copy of Rosemary's Baby, by Ira Levin. I've read it six times and I know some of you will recoil in horror at the condition it's in. But to me, it looks loved. 

And how about my copy of Gerald's Game, by Stephen King? The front cover is on its last legs and its spine is a map of creases. But I've read and loved it over and over again. I adore it. I recently wanted to read it again, and bought the audiobook. It rocked. 

You know what? It takes a lot of love to kill a book. It takes a lot of reading. It takes being thrown into a bag so that I can read in queues and during moments of "down time". 

Now, take a look at my copy of It, another by King. It's cover is pretty decent. Its spine has only the faintest traces of breaking. (Oh, and by the way, if you manage to read a 1000+ page book without breaking the spine, then you aren't human.) 

It doesn't look good because it's one of my favourites (which it is) or because I've tried really hard to take care of it (which I haven't). It looks good because this is my eighth copy. I also have a copy of the audiobook. I've read it too many times to count (or admit). 

Last night, I bought a copy of The Stand for my Kindle app. My paper copy of the book is currently in work and it's in a similar condition to Gerald's Game. The copy in work is my fifth, the Kindle copy is my seventh. The sixth copy is an unabridged audiobook version. 

What happened to copies one through four? I gave them away. I left them on trains. I lent them to friends and never asked for them back. I left a copy of It in a holiday apartment which I suspect was a little bit haunted. I never throw a book away, no matter how tatty it gets. I'm not interested in having perfect bookshelves which look like I've never touched any of the books. 

In my opinion, books, like old friends, should age with you. And my favourite books are like my constant companions. Yes, I know that makes me sound like a lonely old spinster. I'm not. I can't be: I don't have any cats! 

When I got my latest copy of The Stand last night and started reading it, it was like visiting old friends. I've read it so many times that I know the characters and their stories as well as I know some of the walking-talking humans in my life. 

A lot of people won't understand me here. You won't see the point in reading a story when you know how it ends, even though you might have a favourite movie which you've seen a couple of dozen times. Hell, you might have seen movies you hate more than once. Don't you wish you'd spent the time it took watching some daytime-television catastrophe reading something good? Even if it was something you'd read before?

I have a TBR (To Be Read) pile that is taller than me. I have dozens of books to read which would be new and shiny to me. And yet, right now, I'm happy reading something which I know and love. Am I the only one who does this? Maybe I'm happy to do this because I'm a quick reader. 

If I love books so much, enough to spend hours of my life re-reading stories I know inside out, how can I bear to treat them so abominably? I don't know. But before you criticise, think of your own bookshelves. Think of the books there which you've loved but which will never be read again. Think of the dust they gather up there on those shelves.

Varicose-veins: a sign of
love or abuse? 
When I've spent to long sat on my butt doing too little, I always find it immensely satisfying to stand up and stretch. Sometimes, when I do this, my back clicks. It never hurts. In fact, it makes it feel better, looser, happier. Every time I break the spine of a new book, or stretch back the pages of an old friend, I can almost hear its sigh of satisfaction. It's a sigh which says Ahh...that's better!

If that argument isn't good enough for you, then think of it this way. Maybe you love books so much you never turn down a page to mark your place. That book will last you forever, granted. One day, when eBooks rule the world and paperback books are a novelty, you can be smug that your £7.99 paperback has lasted you so long. 

Me? Take that £7.99 and triple it, quadruple it, octuple it! I might love the odd book to death, but the money I've poured into the industry by being such a carnal reader might just keep our paperback friends around a little bit longer! 

...At least, that's going to be my argument the next time I need to buy a copy of It or The Stand and my husband asks what happened to the last one! He he...

What are your thoughts? Do you re-read the books you love and enjoy nothing more than spine-breaking? Or are you a one-time reader who treasures and protects their favourite reads? Let me know in the comments!


  1. I reread books all the time! I just recently reread the Hunger Games trilogy, and I'll probably pick up Divergent again soon, since I just bought my own copy. Before I started book blogging, I reread books alllll the time. Way way way more frequently than I do now.

    I don't like to damage books though, since I do like to keep them forever and reread them. I figure the nicer I treat them, the more I can reread them! I definitely understand your sentiments on worn out books -- you can tell by looking at them how loved they are. I have a few like that (I was a Teenage Fairy by Francesca Lia Block; The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George -- I've had them each for like eight years.) But for the most part, I like to keep them nice and neat.

  2. I have re-read some of my all time favorites so many times that they are falling apart. My very favorite historical romance A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught has been read so many times that I've lost pages from it including the entire first chapter! Usually I'll just re-read my favorite scenes of all-time favorites. That being said, I like nothing better than reading a brand-new shiny book. Those ones I keep looking good for as long as I can. Now that I am older I take better care of my books than I used to. Fun post!~

  3. I love trashing books... they have to be loved to me but I recently tried to donate books to my library and some got given back to me because they were too bent... that makes me sad, its not like theyre gunna fall apart! I love the look of your copy of Geralds Game! That has definitely been loved!

  4. I feel I should note that I'm very kind to borrowed books. I've done so many book swaps due to this blog and I always return a book in the condition they're sent to me. Wouldn't want anyone to stop sending books my way because I might abuse them! The books, I mean...

  5. Hmm, I kind of like trashy books. To me, it shows that they've been appreciated. On the other hand, I love books in good condition! :)

  6. I love Warriors the book series22 June 2012 at 17:11

    I used to bend my books but now I hate to. It makes my books look horrible. I get mad when I lend books to my friends and my books are returned bent.


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