I use my books. It drives Victor insane. He’s the person who will scream “YOU MONSTER!” at a complete stranger if he hears the sound of a spine breaking, and most of his best comics are permanently sealed in hard plastic slabs, mostly to protect them from me probably.
I live on the other side of the extreme. My books are all broken backs and finger smudges and dog-ears. You can find the best parts of my most beloved books by just letting the book fall open naturally, because it will automatically open to the places it’s been read over and over.
One of my favorite things to do is buy old books from estate sales…those books that have been well-loved by people who have passed. I flip through and look for the ones with creases and notes written in the edges and signs of a life well lived. Victor doesn’t understand it, but reading those found books is like reading with ghosts, ones who eagerly point out their favorite passages or share their thoughts or questions in the margins.
It sounds wrong, but you can tell that I really love a book if I damage it thoroughly. I destroy it with my love. I shove it in pockets and carry it in purses and suitcases. I drip bathwater on the edges and get pollen stuck in the pages. I underline passages that remind me I’m not alone, and tuck receipts and slips of paper into places I need to reread. It is my opinion that a treasured book should not be kept in a box or wrapper. It should be used. And battered. And loved…just as much as the owner is, as they carry that book through their life. As they drag it through the rough spots. And as it drags them through the rougher spots. Whenever I finish writing a book I always hope to myself that this is the kind of book I hope I have written.
Recently someone asked me to autograph their copy of Furiously Happy and they were embarrassed to show me the shape it was in, but it made me so incredibly happy. I asked if I could take a picture of it, and I keep that picture with me to remind me that in some ways I’ve succeeded.
Today is #NationalBookLoversDay and so I’d love it if you would share a few books you love so much that they’re like a part of you.
I’ll go first. Ray Bradbury’s From the Dust Returned. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.
PS. My next book (You Are Here) is literally made to be written in, tacked to walls, shared and used. Victor is shuddering already. Leave a comment if you want one and I’ll randomly choose a few people to get free copies once they come out.