Charlotte the Book Mangler

20130807_081716 I have an avid reading friend who carefully covers each book with contact before it's read. She's even been known to cover other people's books when leant, so as to ensure they are returned in pristine condition.

Not me. I'm a book mangler.

Now, I've asked around about this, and it seems one of those divisive issues. Like whether you scrunch or fold. Some people believe in the integrity of the hard copy book. Others (like me) seem to flagrantly disregard the beauty of crisp new lines. We stretch spines (cursing a too-close-to margin print), dog-ear pages, and drop books into bags (along with keys and other scratchy objects) with cheerful abandon. Our book shelves are full of the worn, tired objects, dented by abuse. And you might be forgiven for thinking this is symptomatic of carelessness or disrespect.

But not so. I see those dents and folds as marks of love. See, the books on my shelf that are still crisp and new-looking are the ones I didn't enjoy very much. Maybe the story didn't even carry me far enough to crack that spine. Maybe it got a single, forgettable read and will never be touched again. Maybe I was able to put it aside for lunch/snacks/drinks instead of trying to balance both in only two hands. Maybe I never deigned to drop it into my bag and carry it with me. Being a clean cover on my bookshelf ... well, you're skirting your luck with the next pink bag collection.


The daggiest looking book I own is Jilly Cooper's Riders, a sweeping romantic drama in the tough, glitzy world of international showjumping. I stole it from my mum around age 13, and I have read and re-read it so many times I broke it. It's in two pieces now, cracked right through the middle of Janey and Billy's first sex scene. There are chocolate stains and age spots. I love it more because of that evidence. I leant it to a friend once with a rubber band around it. That rubber band was a mark of ultimate respect - it says, I love you, story. So much that I loved you almost to death. This story has been through my life with me. It is comfort, entertainment and pleasure, and never ever gets old. Respect.

The second daggiest is Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. It's probably less daggy only because I own two copies - one in original hard cover (which even for me is much harder to mangle). It's the book I admire most in terms of concept and execution. It's creased like I may have sat on it once. I probably did.

Now, there's probably readers out there who'd recoil in horror at such treatment, and that's fine. You can be chaste about it and keep your books behind glass. But I like getting my fists in there. I like seeing wear and tear, the evidence of my return to the precious stories. It's one of the things that ebooks can't do for me (though being digital, I guess anything is possible - has someone written an app to 'age' a book as you read it more and more?).

So, which are you? And which books have you loved to death?