Booking Through Thursday

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

Throughout my grade school days, my biggest extracurricular “job” was library assistant, a position that began because my severe asthma prevented me from participating in outdoor recess and gym class.  Instead, I was sent to the library to “help” Mrs. H, our sturdy, but rather bohemian, school librarian. 

 Before you feel even the slightest bit of sympathy, let me assure you I was perfectly delighted with this arrangement.  Mrs. H and I were kindred spirits – she was childless, and I think she quickly came to consider me the daughter she’d never had.  The perks for me were phenomenal, for I had first crack (excuse the pun, considering the topic) at all the new books which came in.

Mrs. H loved everything about books – not just the words inside them, but also their physical bodies.  There were always piles of damaged books on her desk, and she would spend many painstaking hours repairing their damaged spines, trying to dry and straighten their water crinkled pages. 

Mrs. H. considered damaging books akin to child abuse or animal torture.  She kept boxes of kleenex everywhere, and urged us to use these as bookmarks, for they were the only things gentle enough to be placed between the book’s delicate spinal bindings.  The sound of a child cracking a book’s spine might as well have been a gunshot directly to her heart.  But she never yelled – she would simply walk over to the youthful offender, pluck the book from his hands (sorry to be sexist, but the spine breakers were most often male) and place it sadly in the book infirmary pile. 

So, yes, I’m very gentle with my books. My most dangerous bookish habit – reading in the bathtub.  There’s where I throw caution to the wind a bit, for no matter how carefully I dry my hands, there is the humidity of the atmosphere with which to contend.

But I’m the kind of reader who, as a child, would gently place a blanket over the cover of any book with pictures of babies or animals on it, lest they become “chilly” during the night.  I make sure my hands are clean before I pick up a book, devoid of any lotion or cream which might leave oily fingerprints.  I love to read while eating, but use a leather book-weight which gently holds the book open. 

And I never, ever, crack the spines.

 

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14 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday

  1. I’m a spine-breaker from way back, but I loved reading about your experience. We should all be so lucky to have someone like Mrs. H encourage our love of reading.

  2. This is a great post. Our librarians didn’t care much either way. I have to say that I will bend books if they are pliable, but I would hate to break their spines. I have written in books and dog-eared pages. I want them to be well loved.

  3. In high school I worked as a “page” at our local library after school and whenever we shelved books, we would always find several with tissues between the pages. I never knew why until now! I also try to keep my books in as pristine condition as possible, with the exception of my cookbooks. I like to write notes in the cookbook next to the recipe I’ve tried, but other than that, no dog-earing, no spine-breaking, no writing of any kind in any books.

  4. Mrs. H sounds pretty cool in how she encouraged kids to read. Did she ever “educate” those boys on how to treat books properly or just let them continue breaking spines?

  5. Oh, that’s too funny! Those spine-breaking males! And I am cracking up about covering a book with a blanket so that the child/animal pictured doesnt get cold! I love it!

  6. Kleenex! I’m sure it has been used as a bookmark around here, but not as a regular habit.

    You reminded me about our “book hospital”, which I didn’t include in my post. When a book has a torn page, or broken spine, or lift-the-flap that has been pulled too enthusiasticly, it gets put up on the kitchen counter and I work my book doctoring magic after the kids have gone to bed.

    I don’t use archival quality repair material – just Scotch tape, Elmer’s glue, and rubberbands.

  7. ‘The sound of a child cracking a book’s spine might as well have been a gunshot directly to her heart. ‘

    Wonderful! What a great line, and what a lovely lady. Like you, I treat books with reverential respect. My mother-in-law moans that she can’t tell whether I’ve read something or not (and I wonder how she can possibly consider this a topic for complaint?) but I think that’s only what a beloved book is due: tender care and consideration.

  8. The library experience sounds wonderful. I, too, try to treat my books with great care- and also read in the bath. It’s risky, but I haven’t dropped a book yet!

  9. Wow, what a great librarian you had! Mine yells for us to be quiet, and reproaches us for only loaning the calculus textbooks. Hm, and yet she never considers adding to the abysmally small selection of fiction that the school offers.

    ps I never crack spines either

  10. I do love books, and I worked in elementary school and middle school in the library (because of shattered arm, I could not play sports during those years, or go to gym class). I even worked in the library at Penn.

    But I do use books — write in the margins, circle things I want to remember or return to, stack several up upon each other at once.

    I confess.

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