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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