Happy birthday Good Reading! A ‘fire’ anniversary signifying all those years exploring books and reading. So many books added to our shelves over that time has been good for all our souls. Don’t forget this month to keep an eye out for the launch of our all-round exciting new website. And enter the daily competitions as there are so many great books to win!
I have a question for you this month. It was raised by a friend who was shocked to hear I turn the corners of the pages down in the books I’m reading to mark my spot. I’m talking paperbacks here. I don’t turn down the pages or damage hardbacks or illustrated books. You won’t find me doing that to a children’s picture book either. But I do it to cookbooks. That’s okay isn’t it? They have food splattered on them anyway. Or is that just me?
Is turning the corners down as a bookmark sacrilege? I admit that I don’t always do it. I sometimes use whatever comes to hand, a scrap of paper, an electricity bill, even a pen! Sometimes I might even find a proper bookmark. Cookbooks sometimes come with a ribbon which saves those pages from being bent.
There was a time when I would never have creased a page in a book. I’d keep my books pristine. I would even try not to crack or crease the spine of a paperback as I was reading it. That’s a challenge with a chunky book as we all know! I’d lovingly admire them all on my bookshelf, like a little family of neat siblings. I wouldn’t ever want to lend any siblings out in case one of them came back worse for wear. They all had to look the same, as if they’d just been bought.
But over the years I have become more, well, slack about their treatment. Each new book that was added was a little more tattered than the last. But this gave me a feeling of pride, like the worse a paperback looked was a statement as to how much I loved the book. So my library is now a mad mixture of shiny pristine books that sit next to other books with creased spines and turned up edges of covers. So my book family is split in two. I do still have a momentary hesitation to fold down the corner of a page or open a book too far. It’s like it’s an in-built response, like how Baxter scratches the ground and walks in circles before lying down. It’s just innate. I often think it’s from my bookselling days. But I have learnt to resist over time! I quietly push the thought of what I feel is really permanently damaging the book to the dark recesses of my mind to join the memory of jumping off my moving scooter, smashing my forehead into a telegraph pole three days before starting my new primary school in Sydney.
So the guilt trip still niggles a little bit but I push on and turn those pages down anyway. I think over the years I’ve decided that paperbacks are to be read. Opened wide and read in bed, at the beach, while eating breakfast or drinking red wine. Why can’t they be chucked in a bag, left in the sun, or have the odd splatter of coffee spills on them? They beg to be revelled in, so much so that you can’t take your eyes off the page to watch that spoon of chocolate ice-cream wobbling towards your mouth as you read. They want to be hugged with appreciation when finished and then shared with friends and family. After all, like many things, it’s not what you see on the outside but how they make us feel on the inside that counts.
So, are you a page-turner? A spine-cracker or creaser? Do you have sand in between the pages or do they look well-thumbed? Or are your paperbacks all neat and new, looking well-cared for? If you had to choose which side of the fence you’re on, where do you stand? I’d love to know.
And Baxter, who’s happy when I’m reading. I wish he could read too. Imagine what he’d learn.