Care and Keeping of Books

I take good care of books.  It’s my personal goal that after I’ve read a book you won’t be able to tell.  I used to mark books up, but it occurred to me that I want the books to outlast me and if someone else is to get the full benefit of them I shouldn’t be doing such scribbling.  Of course, when a book has to commute with you there’s bound to be some scuffing from being put into a briefcase along with other necessities.  On the days I don’t commute, I try to replicate bus time for reading.  I curl up in a chair with my book and a cup of coffee to warm my fingers, and read.  The other day as I did this, a drop of coffee made its way from my mug onto the open page.  I was aghast.

Reading a marred book page is eternally distracting.  My eye is immediately drawn to the imperfection and I sometimes can’t even make sense of the sentence in which the blemish occurs.  Not because I can’t read it, but because I can’t get beyond the hurt.  Coffee rings are chic, I know, on the cover of a book or a notebook page.  It’s one of the truest clichés of the literary crowd.  Coffee and a good book.  Not coffee in a good book!  I tried to get back into the flow of the narrative.  My eye kept wandering back to the spot I’d unintentionally marred—I’d violated my own principles.  Unintentionally of course—this isn’t Starbucks where the heat is set at a reasonable level and you don’t have to scrunch up to keep warm.  But still.  But still.

After many minutes of feeling like I’d shot a friend, I managed to move on.  I kept turning back to my coffee page to see if the damage was as distracting as I thought it was.  After work that night when I picked my book up again—commuting is a twice a day activity—I turned back to the damaged page and frowned.  Books are, to some of us, friends.  I want to treat them right.  I line them up in order on their shelves, knowing just where to find them when I need them again.  One careless drop of coffee had taken its eternal toll on an innocent tome.  I realize this world lacks perfection; I’m not naive.  Still, this book, which wasn’t cheap, now bears a scar that I dealt it.  Will I ever comprehend what that one page says?  I hope my silent friend will forgive.

2 thoughts on “Care and Keeping of Books

  1. Jeremiah Andrews

    Hello Steve,
    I read, in bed at night. Which usually entails snacks by the bedside. That errant smudge of chocolate or smear from some other foodstuff, makes me crazy when I get a slippery finger on the page I was otherwise reading. UGH !

    We have our Big Books, that we read at meetings. On one particularly bad evening, my high light ridden, underlined and circled textbook, that I had been using for years, and reading continuously, and as we read, other notes appear in the pages, was sitting on the counter in the kitchen, as I tackled cleaning a 50 cup coffee urn. I took the top off of the urn, and proceeded to spill coffee all over the counter top.

    My pristine looking book,(from the outside) was stained with coffee so badly, that I had to retire the poor sodden book to my library shelf, and buy a brand new book, (that retails for more than $20.00) these days. I could not even bring myself to open the book, knowing I had damaged it beyond any repair. It was just unthinkable that I would carry around a coffee laden stained book around with me. how embarrassing that would be.

    So yes, books are our friends, and if we damage them, or loose them to acts of God (read: A garage flood) that is a pain worse than death.



    • Thanks, Jeremy! It is comforting to know that others share this pain. I’m sorry about your loss, though. Even today I have to steel myself before going into the garage because of the memory of all those damaged books.

      I really do wish more people would take the intimacy that reading brings closer to heart! It seems like such a good, decent, and pure kind of love that I can’t see why many don’t share it.

      Some of the damaged books from our personal deluge I have never had the heart to throw away. I’m right there with you.


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