In Defense of Battered Books

I’m sure nearly every book blogger out there has very firm opinions on the physical appearances of their books. You’ve heard them time and time again, I’m sure. Tons of book bloggers will talk about how they hate dog-eared pages, smears, thumbprints, cracked spines, peeling edges, underlines and highlights, and just anything that makes their books look like they weren’t just purchased from the bookstore.

And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that! I’m not about to bash anybody’s bookish habits! (God knows we’re all broke-ass nerds anyway.) Instead, what I’m going to do today is simply talk about the alternative: battered books.

You know what I’m talking about. Books with dog-eared or wrinkled pages, thumbprints, cracked spines and curling edges, thumbprints, faded ink, and everything that most bookworms regard as unattractive in a book. They can be just as beautiful, Instagrammable, and just generally pretty to look at as pristine books. It all depends on how you look at them.

Let me start off with a story. Back in 2009, I had the privilege of meeting my favorite author Neil Gaiman and getting my books signed by him. I was quite embarrassed because all around him were people who had mint-fresh issues of Sandman, newly-bought paperbacks, and hardbound books still in their paper packages from Fully Booked. Meanwhile, my copies of American Gods, Smoke and Mirrors, Stardust, Fragile Things, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens, and Neverwhere had clearly been through the ringer: the edges of the covers were peeling back, the pages were dog-eared, the paper yellowed, and the spine cracked so much that the book could lie flat while open.

When I finally got to Neil Gaiman’s table, I almost wanted to turn tail and run away. In the end, I got up on that stage, handed Neil my books, and apologized because they looked so ugly. He laughed, signed my books, and said something I’ve never forgotten (although, let’s be real, great author like him? He probably already has):

“I love seeing my books all beat up like this. It means you really enjoyed them. You read them over and over again. It means my books became your friends.”

I nearly fainted from excitement, let me tell you. Imagine being sixteen years old, an aspiring author, and hearing that? Damn.

And that’s why I think it’s perfectly okay to have beat-up, battered, ugly books. Cracked spines, dog-eared and folded pages, faded ink, and smears and fingerprints are all testaments to how much a book means to a certain person. That person loved the story within those pages that they probably opened the book so much to read and reread it, highlighted passages they found poignant or meaningful, and carried it wherever they went. They also probably lent it out a ton because they wanted to spread that story around as much as they could – and it subsequently got a bit roughed up, passing through so many hands.

The point is, battered and beat-up books are just as beautiful as clean and pristine ones. Sometimes, they can even be more beautiful. They’re proof that an author really connected with a reader, a complete stranger who’s maybe thousands of miles away. They’re proof that a reader related so deeply with the vision in someone else’s head, that the same thoughts the ran through one mind run in another, that a person was affected so much by someone else’s words that they couldn’t wait to devour more.

For those who can’t stand dog-earing and faded ink and thumbprints and other hallmarks of the battered book – that’s totally fine! To each their own. Again, we’re all broke-ass nerds anyway. But just maybe, give it a rest when talking about how you cringe so hard when you see other people dog-earing or underlining their books. How they process a story and how you process a story are two different things – and both are a-okay!

Do you not mind battered books, or do you prefer them to remain squeaky-clean? Share your thoughts!

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18 thoughts on “In Defense of Battered Books

  1. I don’t mind my books getting battered. I’m not going to struggle not to crack the spine just to keep a book neat – a cracked spine means I’ve read it! One of my friends once got chocolate on one of my books and was freaked out about having to tell me. I just laughed. That particular book – Six of Crows – has been round a number of my friends. It’s not going to be pristine. It’s well-read. And that’s a good thing!

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  3. I love battered books! It shows you lived and loved in them! And I love to let my paperbacks (if I truly love it, and not trying to keep it pristine) get all messed up!

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  4. This is such a beautiful post with a very important message! I like my books in a good condition but let’s face it, they aren’t always going to be that. So when they bear the brunt of wear and tear I allow them to. I can’t preserve them forever! Though I do put my step down on dog earing the pages 😅

    I really really loved this post! 💞💞💞

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  8. When I was younger I used to be so anal about getting (and keeping) books perfect. Flawless spine. Crisp pages. Unworn covers. I’d genuinely reconsider getting a book from NBS if I couldn’t find an absolutely pristine copy. Now that I’m older and a little less stressed about every little thing, I don’t mind a little wear and tear on my books. Oh, I still handle my books with the same amount of care one would give a newborn baby (especially new/expensive/hard to find books) but now I don’t wig out every time I see a cover with a little crease on it or a spine with a fair amount of folds. Whatever happens when you’re reading, happens, right?
    What I don’t like though is when other people are inconsiderately reckless with my books. I’ve had books in good shape returned to me battered and bruised and it really pisses me off because they don’t even show a little bit of remorse. I have trust issues when it comes to book borrowing, honestly. I mean, everyone’s free to treat their own books any way they want but other people’s books? There should be some respect, in my opinion. I’m going to stop now before I bug you with another dumb long comment, hehe. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Okay first of all nooooooo I love getting long comments on my blog posts! ♥

      I think it’s a totally different thing if the person who is lending you the books minds the appearance of said books! I personally don’t care if a book comes back to me with more cracks in the spine and more dog ears but if I borrow a book from a person who does mind, I make sure to handle it with kid gloves. You’re absolutely right, respect is the name of the game!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  9. This is one where I have.. I don’t know. Mixed feelings about? I like my books looking brand-new and pretty, that’s a fact. The only ones not looking that way are my HP-books because I’ve read those a million times. I’m simply not much of a rereader anyway so the chances of getting my books read more than once or twice is.. tiny to say the least?
    I guess that’s also something that pretty much decides whether someone likes their books battered or not. I can imagine someone fervently rereading their books not minding how they look at all. You can hardly read a book five times and still have it looking as new, I reckon. 😛

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    • You can hardly read a book five times and still have it looking as new, I reckon. YES. Good God, my Neil Gaiman books certainly look like they’ve seen better days 😅

      Anyway, I wasn’t saying that everyone should love battered books. I know lots of people prefer their books looking nice and new, absolutely no issue there! I just think that those who do should lay off a little especially if it isn’t their books that look battered, you know? 😉

      Thanks so much for reading!

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      • Haha! I’m pretty sure if I’d take a look at my Dutch HP’s, I’d have some chapters falling out of them because the spines are absolutely ruined. 😅

        True! Okay, I admit the cringe is present when I see someone dog-earing their books because “hello, BOOKMARKS” but that doesn’t mean I’d get on their case. [Apart from maybe gifting them a bookmark on some occasion. 😅] Apart from that.. Each their own. :’)

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        • Omg, my old HPs have WATER DAMAGE because I would read them in the bath as a kid!!! You stupid child hahahahaha 😅 I’m determined to buy a new boxed set just for collectibe purposes!

          Yup yup, to each their own! We’re all losers who are much too invested in fictional worlds anyway 😎 we got no call to judge each other lmao

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          • I’m sure there are chocolate-stains all over those pages, to be honest.. Like.. Reading as a kid and not snacking? That wasn’t possible! 😅
            I now have.. my Dutch damaged ones, English paperbacks and the illustrated editions that’ve been published so far. But I’m hellbent on getting English hardcovers as well for some reason.. I need them all. 😅

            Exactly! It’s one of those hypocrisy-things, really. Bookworms always complaining about being judged for reading [seriously, there are a lot of people complaining about that?!] and then they go ahead and start judging others. Ugh.

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