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twirling pages


when the phrase “well-loved books” is used, we generally think of our tattered paperbacks or copies that are falling to SHAMBLES. i suppose the interpretation fits because it implies that you’ve read the book over and over and over again, and assumes your love for it is endless. BUT, half of my favorite “well-loved” books are in pristine condition. i would collapse if the pages creased or the spine broke or there was a strain on it. so that got me thinking…

what makes a book “well-loved?”

until recently, all of my books had to be in PERFECT condition. if you wanted to borrow my books, you had to agree to a few terms, as they were rules i gave myself as well. note taking or highlighting was not allowed; if you’re bringing to school or work, you need to hold the book in your arms so the edges don’t get crinkled; the spine can’t break and there can’t be stains of any kind. i loved my books so much, they were basically precious gems. i even forced my friend to buy me another copy of a book when she returned it in alright poor condition. doesn’t this mean i love my books?

well-loved books

but after finding it bothersome to constantly have a separate notebook to take notes, i decided to – wait for it – highlight a sentence in one of my books. i know SO REBELLIOUS. the task made me feel simultaneously guilty and relieved; i felt like i somehow betrayed my book and myself, but it was also as if i’d claimed the book as ~mine~. no one else would highlight the exact same book in the exact same way, and now my book was special… but also, in a way, ruined? it’s no longer in “perfect” condition; it’s used and battered and, in my mind, “not cared for.” if that’d happened a few months or years back, i’d want to throw away my old set of books so i can proceed to buy another identical new set.

after a while, i embraced the small nicks and creases on the edges of the pages. i, myself, was okay with using what books are created for: to be read and LOVED. but then i thought about how there’d be internet trolls who comment on people’s photos saying the photographer is “destroying their books!!!!!!!!” when pages are ripped apart, worn, and used. this hasn’t happened to me personally, but we all know that one troll. it’s rude and wrong to tell a person they’re loving a book wrong, and that’s basically what these trolls are doing. because in the end, it’s your book and you can do whatever you want with it: put it in a glass case, dropping it in the toilet (the horror), dog-earing the pages, WHATEVER.

the phrase “well-loved books” is misleading because, as (super) readers, we all love our books – no matter if we decide to keep them in perfect condition or if we decided to break the spine.

there are still things i’d never ever do to my books – purposely breaking the spine, getting the pages wet, ripping any part of it – but it’s kind of eye-opening to not feel guilty every time i want to highlight a sentence or write in my book. it’s as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulder and ~at last, i seeeeee the liiiiiight~. everyone loves their books differently and that’s what makes each and one of our books special; that’s what’s magical about have a personal library.

how do you treat your well-loved books? let me know in the comments!

Alexandra Ling

alexandra is a nineteen-year-old content creator and avid reader. when she's not on the internet or hiding behind pages, you can find her training to be a professional ballet dancer. she finds writing about herself in third-person strange.

  • I’m strange because I like books to both be well worn and pristine. I have some books where I want to keep them in mint condition, but I LOVE worn books. I sometimes buy books just because they’re well worn. I don’t think marking your book is making it “unloved” or whatever, I actually don’t like it when someone claims a book to be their favorite and they’ve read it a hundred times, but it doesn’t look like that at ALL. If you’ve read it a hundred times it should show! But that’s just me haha.

  • Different ways, there are books I love that I have reread over 6 times, scribbled on the pages, circled favorite parts, then there are books I loved so much but have only read once and have no intention of ever re-reading again 🙂

  • When I was a child, I used to dog eared the pages instead of using a bookmark. And I also fold the books backward when I read so obviously my books have broken spines. But as I grow older, I began to pay more attention and take better care of my books. I don’t dog-ear the pages anymore, I try to keep the spines perfectly, I don’t read while I eat, etc. Recently I started using post-it to mark my favorite passages of the book. They’re such a life saver! You could mark your books without damaging them. But I also highlight my copy of Frankenstein to mark my favorite parts. So my point is, I have different ways to love for each different books! They’re all so different and it depends on whether I think it would be okay for me to highlight and write on it. But one thing for sure, I always sign my books on the cover. It’s like saying “the book is mine” and it makes me feel like the book is truly mine and mine only! 😀

  • I love how this post just comes up at the same time that I am in the middle of doing a ‘spine-cracking favourite books list’ post, haha! I don’t mind creases or slightly cracked spines (keyword: SLIGHTLY) on books – especially if they’re because I’ve read those books over and over again. That’s how I define well-loved books: yellowed folded pages, creased/cracked spines, folded covers. (But stains are a no-no!).

    Much love, Iween. xo. ♡ | http://wendystrucked.wordpress.com

  • Thousands and thousands of years before (well, not really – more like 13 or so), I always tried my hardest to put all my books in “pristine condition.” Each and every one of them would all look like how I originally bought them, with barely any trace of someone who actually read them. If I ever experience having a book’s pages torn or written or highlited or even folded, I would literally freak (my family knows this, I swear). I thought, “Hey, I love all of these books. They should all be in such perfect condition right? RIGHT?!?”

    However, I’ve come to realize that maybe that isn’t the case. Recently, I’ve read my copy of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I always brought it around with me because I wanted to read it everyhere – it really got me hooked! – but, when I took it off my backpack once, I found the book cover folded on the top, and then a bit of a rip too. It was probably because it was in my backpack. I literally wanted to cry then. xD However, I’ve come to realize that no matter how much I love my books, I just can’t help but (unintentionally) add some touch of “I’ve read this everywhere” feel all the time – like cracked spines or folded pages and stuff. At the end of the day, the way “well-loved” books should look like really depends on the owner. As long as the reader knows they love the book to bits, then that’s the thing that really counts, right?

    (P.S.: I am SO sorry for the long comment. I SWEAR I DIDN’T MEAN FOR THIS TO LOOK LIKE SUCH A LONG SCHOOL LESSON.)

  • I love this discussion, hahah.
    To be honest, I don’t pay much attention to taking care of my books. Ripped pages never happened to me, but broken spines are something I’m already used to. I also highlight my favorite quotes of my favorite books ALL THE TIME! I love doing it, because when I lend my books, my friends end up seeing what quotes I liked the best and I allow them to highlight their favorite quotes as well. YES, I KNOW, A CRIME!
    I thought it was fun that when I got into book blogging, so many people were against it. I think you can love your books in your own way! Sometimes, books put something new on your heart, so why shouldn’t you do the same? It can be by leaving them in a glass coffin where you should only appreciate and not touch; or by writing, highlighting, smelling and feeling it in the all ways possible!

  • I love keeping my books pristine – I make sure not to even crack the spine sometimes! But recently, I’ve started highlighting, and writing in my books actually – I read an article somewhere that made me really think about how making your own annotations allows you to connect more with the book, to make the reading experience more personal and unique for you. I tried it out, and idk I kinda like it! I still haven’t done if for the books I REALLY LOVE because I’m so afraid of defacing them – but maybe if I get another copy of them, I’ll do that someday.
    Amazing post, Xan! 🙂

  • I’m the same way. I still can’t get myself to highlight books but I do sticky the note out of it. This is why I love ebooks a lot. I get to highlight and make notes without caring that ‘its permanent so it has to be perfect!’ Great post!

  • Rebecca

    I treat my books with such care, probably too much tbh. My mum has been too scared to borrow a book from me in the past, but to be fair, she has been known to fold her books over (ones she buys second hand but still) and definitely creases the spine, something I cringe at. I want to become more relaxed about it though and not feel guilty over wanting to highlight a quote if I feel like it. After all, you pay for your books, so you can do whatever you like with them! Just make sure you use them for good not evil 😉

  • Bookish Escapes

    I treat all my books with the same care, to be honest. I love my books in pristine condition, and it drives me insane that my thumbs – MY CLEAN THUMBS – yellow the pages. I’ve also never been a note-taker or highlighter so that’s never been an issue. I wish I was, it’s just not how I read. I also must confess that I rarely re-read. Just because I loved a book in the moment of when I read it, doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll still love it now and that scares me a lot, because I don’t want to find out my tastes have changed and all of a sudden I don’t love Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin as much as I once did.

    Am I crazy? I have no idea. I wish I could re-read more, but it also feels quite luxurious and looking at all my many TBRs, I don’t have time for luxurious re-reading. Though if I did, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Shopaholic series and older Paige Toon books would be top of the list. Despite not re-reading much, I do dream of re-reading and Paige’s books have been looking at me whispering to be re-read and I so want to, I just can’t bring myself to because what if I don’t love them anymore *Sobs*

  • Denise

    I hate how some people are like “yoUR’e dEsTRoyINg bO0ks?!?!!” when people cut them up, or break the spine. I used to break the spine multiple times, because I felt I couldn’t read a book without doing it, but I don’t anymore. I don’t obsess over the way most books look, and I do write in my books! (but in pencil). I also tab my books like crazy. I think overall, it’s down to choice! It’s your book, so you can do whatever you want with it. Other people don’t need to get involved! 😉

    Denise | The Bibliolater

  • Natalie

    I LOOOOOOOOVE highlighting my books, but I’ll only do it if it’s a reread, otherwise I use a sticky tab to mark any memorable moments. One of my worst pet peeves is when people tell me how to treat my books, everyone shows their love in different ways, a lot of my books are creased and have bent pages where I’ve lugged them around with me or stains on the pages where I’ve them down in the park, or water damage because let’s be honest I’m pretty clumsy, and others are in pristine condition because I’ve wanted them to stay that way. There is no real way to ‘love’ your books, everyone does it differently and internet trolls need to GET WIT’ THAT.

  • Aubrey’s Book Nook

    For me, there is a major separation between books I read for fun and books I read for school. If it is for school, I will write in them and mark them up so I can better understand them, but if they are my personal books, I take notes on little pieces of paper I use as book marks. Read your books however you want (unless you are destroying them, then I judge you, your children, and your grandchildren.) If you want to write or dog ear or whatever go for it (just don’t do it to mine). 🙂 Great discussion!

  • You have a good point! Our well loved books don’t always look “well loved.” Some of my favorite books are still in really good condition and others have tears, scrapes, creases, those sorts of things. And a lot of my old favorites have my name in them (bad middle school habit), but none of my newer favorites do. I guess it depends on the book! I definitely treat my hardcover of The Assassin’s Blade much better than a lot of my other books because it’s SO DARN PRETTY. I want to keep it pretty. 😀 But if I don’t adore how the book looks, then I’m a little less careful with it.

  • Danielle

    I still can’t make myself write in my books (I tried once and felt too guilty and dissatisfied) so I started using post-its to mark things down, that way the book doesn’t get damaged, and the pen ink can’t even smudge on it. Most of my books look pristine, unless I bought them used at a discount sale or something, and ALL of my favorites look brand new, with one exception. I have this copy of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist that has marks wear on the spine, but I LOVE it that way. It just somehow makes the book even more special to me. Great post and discussion idea!

  • i think every single person has her own way of loving books too. I usually don’t really mind about the book’s condition as long as it’s not too bad and the pages are still inside the book

  • I don’t purposefully treat my books super well, but I have lots of little habits (that I would have anyways) that keep my books in really good condition. For example, I realized one day I don’t like reading books with their dust covers on because it slips around, so I started taking them off while I read. And I never really write in a book unless I’m really bored with it because I get so wrapped up in the stories while I read. Plus I throw my books in my bag but I always keep everything in my backpack super neat so they won’t really get damaged like that.

    That said, the one time I am SUPER protective of books is when they’re signed (and even with that I’ve relaxed a bit) The last time I was reading the Heroes of Olympus series I kept my special signed copy of House of Hades in a plastic bag and my friends all laughed at it. Heh.

  • Great discussion Xan!
    There are some books that I love because of their “old, worn look” (an example would be the Harry Potter series. It wouldn’t feel the same if the books were in a pristine condition.)
    I haven’t really gotten to a point where I highlight any part of my books, though I have written notes inside and ARC before. I don’t think I could bring myself to mark any part of my new, finished books. When it comes to my “well-loved books” I usually thin of books that are at least 3 years old (AT LEAST)
    (Okay that’s a random number but… reasons.)

  • OMG I COULDN’T AGREE MORE AND I’M BASICALLY CRYING BECUASE YOU UNDERSTAAAAAND. *hyperventilates for a second* This is me. I mean, I never have highlighted yet? But I want my books to look perfect. I want them to be gorgeous and un-dinted and pristine. And it doesn’t mean I love them less. NOPE. (Although I do buy second hand books? And for some reason if I buy them second hand I don’t mind if they get a bit battered…but if I buy them new and then I batter them — I ABSOLUTELY CRY.) I dropped a book (a favourite) in a mud puddle once and I still haven’t recovered from that trauma. AGH.

    (And also I literally had someone come and tear me apart on instagram for using ripped pages in a photo. And it annoys me so much because I haven’t used ripped pages since??? Even though, HECK IT’S MY INSTAGRAM AND I CAN DO WHAT I WANT. Grr to some people.)

    No one should be telling anyone else how to read or love their books or anything. *nods*

  • OH YES. I haven’t gotten into the habit of highlighting but while I love books to appear pristine (book photography problems XD) I totally do not mind breaking the spine. Whenever people say they hate it I give them my best grin and break the spine of my book right in front of them to savour their look of horror. I feel like this kind of wear and tear makes a book YOURS so much more! A while ago I made a quiz for conditions books were in and reconsidered what it actually MEANT to have more or less battered books. Different ways of loving, IMO :’) Absolutely fabulous post, Xan!

  • When I see the phrase “well-loved,” I too immediately think of tattered, falling-apart books, but a book can definitely be well-loved while still looking perfect. I actually take better care of my books now than I used to though. In the past, I had no problem with folding pages, bending spines, or even writing a note or two with pencil in the margin if I had to (though I don’t think I could ever bring myself to actually rip any page in a book), and half of what I got was from the used bookstore, so those were often already tattered, but that didn’t bother me. Now I treat my books like they’re fragile little pieces of glass lol. But I see no reason to be bothered by what anyone else wants to do with their own books! To each his own 🙂

  • sAME. I want my books to be in like perfect condition, I used to (and still kind of do tbqh) freak out so much if I accidentally dropped my book and the edge got creased but I’ve learned to sort of just deal with it honestly and embrace it. A few months ago I even went through this phase of annotating my books (I only ever did it with one book tbh) and I really would like to continue with that because I think it would be pretty funny looking back on it and reading my initial thoughts etc. I’ve never highlighted anything in a book with an actual highlighter because I still get a heart attack about that just because I’m not a fan of how they show through on the next page but highlighting with pen or pencil I would like to give it a try!
    Ohmygod one of the things I hate that some people in the book community do is telling people what to do with their books like jfc sTOP IT. IT’S LITERALLY NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

  • Gwendolyn Burke

    I definitely try to keep my books in the best condition as possible. They last longer that way. Instead of a book turning to dust after 1000 yrs maybe it will make it to 10,000 years. Who knows but that’s my aim. I don’t highlight because I have noticed it fades of long spans of time anyways but I have taken to defining words and in pencil writing the definition over the word. That way I could erase if I want to but I highly doubt I ever will. I think that’s why tabs are so handy. I really should use them more.

  • I wouldn’t say a book that’s been annotated is ruined. It holds a special place in the owner’s heart. As you already said, marking your books as you see fit adds to your *personal* library. At the same time, I would rarely even consider buying such a pre-loved book — unless the thoughts penned down seem particularly intriguing and the person had lovely handwriting. Messiness from others just gives me a headache and distracts me while reading. That’s kinda what’s holding me back from writing in my own books. I want to retain the option of selling mine if I have to offload when I move. At the same time, if I know I (will) love a particular book, and will keep it, then yes, I do have a hand with a pencil. Otherwise, I tab with Post-its.

  • to be honest i don’t think that anyone HAS to treat their books in a particular way- although i tried annotating a book and just thought i might not want to read it all full of writing in a few year’s time. everyone has different views on this: loved your post on this though!

  • Arkon and Annie

    Our well-loved books vary in condition. Some are pristine and some are a little damaged with nicks and maybe some wrinkling of pages when we laugh so hard water went all over them…..
    But really we know our books are well loved because of the emotions we feel towards them. Not because of how they look. It’s why we have mismatched series of books. Whether that’s in size or hardback/paperback or whether it’s the cover on the front.
    We absolutely refuse to buy a whole new set if books just so they match.
    Thanks for writing such a wonderful post 🙂 Then again you always do…so thanks for having such consistently high quality writing

  • Kara Adams

    My most loved and read book ever is 13 Treasures. I’ve read it so many times I cannot count. The spine is cracked, the pages worn and torn. And then there’s my Harry Potter books, which I bought used, in good condition, and have contributed to the “love” and wear and tear those books have recived. And then there’s the last category, one my Sarah J Maas books fall under. They are written in, highlighted dog eared, and also signed. Those feel special to me because when I met Sarah, she signed a part of my soul that lived in those books I love so much. So yes, I have signed books that are pretty much a disaster, but I love it that way.

  • Cass Cm

    I really don’t like when people say things like”People who dog ear books are monsters” or “People who write in their books dont care” because in all honesty I believe in the exact opposite of that. I believe that a well worn book shows love, as how else would a book be slightly bent and the pages slightly creased unless it had been read many times? For example, in my Harry Potter collection, I have all hardback except for the first book, which is paperback, because my mother bought it for me when I was very young and wasnt sure if I would like it or not. Though I gained the rest of the series in hardback due to my growing obsession, I have never had the heart to replace the first one, and I continue to use and read it. In fact, I have read it so much that the cover is slightly peeling, there are many pages with creases from dogears, and to an outsider it probably looks like its a mess. To me, it shows my love for the book and it shows how long I have had this book and how many times I have read it. I think that slightly messed up books can be beautiful.