There is a meme going around that suggests there are two types of people – those who use bookmarks and monsters (who turn over the corner of the book to mark where they are up to). I have to admit that, as much as I might try to use bookmarks to ensure my pages remain pristine, I always fall back into bad habits, turning over the corners. And so, I find myself in the ‘monster’ camp.
However, I believe that this is not the worst of the crimes against books that it is possible to commit. Here are a few more that I have come across.
The book thief
For some, this is the ultimate bookish crime. You love a book so much that you want everyone else to read it too, so you pass it around, eventually forgetting who you gave it to. You never see it again.
Alternatively, you lend it to one person, and every time you see them you expect them to bring along your precious book, but it never happens. Do you mention it, or keep waiting? I’d prefer a little reminder if a book of someone else’s has found its way onto my book case, than the small resentment off being known as that most sinister of readers – those who fail to return books!
One of my aunties said that rather than starting a book at the first page, she prefers to read the last page first. Armed with knowledge of how the story will end, she feels more comfortable starting the book. I’m not sure if she is alone in doing this, but either way, What the what? Surely, finding out what happens at the end of the book is the reward for reading the whole book?
The cookie monster
Libraries are the bomb – how could you not love a place that freely provides books for the reading pleasure of the public? However, there is nothing more off-putting than finding the remnants of someone else’s panini on the page. Even worse, a rogue tomato seed or smudge of mayo.
We all know the pleasure of a book with lunch, but please, shake out the crumbs before you return the book to the library.
A few months ago, an article in an interior design website that showed books shelved backwards, so that the beige of their pages was visible, rather than their spines, attracted ridicule and outrage online. The problem was that the photographer seemed to consider the books’ aesthetics more important than their contents.
Similarly, there are colour-coded bookshelves or those in which the books are so artfully arranged that it would be impossible to remove one to read it.
While some sense of order in a bookcase is preferable, some degree of disorder suggests a well-used and well-loved book case, which is the kind of interior design I prefer.
If there is one thing that I have learnt through reading, it is that the genre of books can be very difficult to define. I would question whether those who say they are not interested in romance enjoyed Jane Eyre, and what those who reject science fiction thought of The Handmaid’s Tale or The Natural Way of Things.
After reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – a book that used the idea of the route of escape for slaves in pre-abolition US and created a literal underground railroad – I was surprised to see that it has been categorised as science fiction.
The boundaries between crime fiction and literary fiction have also well and truly broken down, with Peter Temple among the authors who have ensured that crime novels take their place among the best Australian literature.
I still haven’t read the wildly popular Gone Girl, and partly, this is because I feel that I am too well aware of its twist. It seems to me that I know too much to bother reading it – surely the beauty of a twist lies in its unexpectedness? Sure, it is part of the enjoyment of these books to marvel afterwards at how surprising it was and how you never saw it coming. Just try to save this discussion for others who have already read the book.
Are you guilty of any of these crimes against books?