Books Aren’t Sacred
Someone chopped their books in half and everyone seems angry about it.
Earlier today, author Alex Christofi tweeted: “Yesterday my colleague called me a ‘book murderer’ because I cut long books in half to make them more portable. Does anyone else do this? Is it just me?”
Responders were up in arms. Some thought that Christofi was attention-seeking and advised he buy a Kindle or just called him flat-out weird. Others pointed out that they dog-eared pages on their books and that Christofi was free to do whatever he liked with his.
I love books. I own several hundred and pride myself on reading constantly throughout the year. I protect them in fabric cases when I travel and I leave the dust jackets at home where they won’t be crinkled. I use flat bookmarks that won’t indent the pages and I frequently dust my bookshelves.
But I also highlight my college textbooks. I underline lines in poems that matter to me, make notes in the margins of Shakespeare plays when discussing them, and give away or sell books that I know I’ll never read again. Some of my books are littered with multi-colored sticky notes and others have never been opened.
The books in question on Twitter weren’t first editions or library books. If these are texts that he owns, why does it matter?
Buy a copy of Moby Dick and let your kid doodle on the front matter. Let it sit on the shelf in your apartment for years and never read it at all. Stamp every title page in every book you own with a custom stamp from Etsy that reads “From the Library of ______.” Take a Shakespeare play and use it as a coaster, or fill a hollow tabletop with novels and pour in resin. There are enough copies of Middlesex in the world for this to be okay.
Buy them and sell them or never read them at all. Pick one up and decide you dislike it and then don’t open it again for five years. Read five books a year or read fifty. Books are versatile, wonderful things, but they aren’t sacred. It’s okay to drop some pasta sauce on the page or scuff up the cover or, indeed, chop them carefully along the spine so that the very long ones aren’t so heavy on your commute.
Before you get angry at a stranger on the internet for how he decides to tackle Infinite Jest, consider this: at least he’s reading it.