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The Sanctity of Books

3 June, 2008

Today, I came across this link, which led to instructions on making a ‘book purse’ (or handbag, if you’re from the UK, like me). My first thought was something along the lines of ‘what a great idea’. I am, after all, definitely a bibliophile. However, at the bottom of the page, I came across a section of warnings, one of which read ‘It is not impossible that the bibliophile in your life would be offended at a notion of recycling a book rather than reading it.’ I found that statement surprising, not because I don’t think it’s true, but because it didn’t occur to me until I read it.

Perhaps I should clarify. I love books and always have done. My bookshelves are overflowing. I have a backlog of several weeks’ worth of new books, waiting to be read (and bear in mind that I’m not a reviewer, so I have to pay for them all out of my student loan). Many of the books I have read look as if they’ve never been opened, simply because I’m so careful with them. The idea of leaving a book face down with the pages open, as many people do, seems almost sacrilegious to me. I can barely even stand the idea of putting my coffee mug down on a closed book cover.

And then there’s the idea of destroying books. For a recent project on his Graphic Design course, my boyfriend used an old book as a notebook, painting over the pages and sticking things in. I found watching him do this vaguely appalling, even though the book in question had been very cheap and was about card games. Even worse was the fact that he’d managed to find a book that was actually about altering other books. A book about destroying books, or at least that’s how I saw it. There may be something very post-modern in that, but I just found myself flabbergasted by the fact that anyone would want to do that to a book. Why cut bits out of the pages and stick things in when you could just read it?

I still don’t know why that original post about the book purse didn’t bother me. What I do know is that I now feel the urge to go and check on my own books, even though I know they’ll still be perfectly arranged on their shelves, in alphabetical order. I realise that this almost-obsession with the ‘sanctity’ of books seems a little odd (well, maybe more than a little). What I’m now wondering though is whether there’s anyone else out there who feels the same way. I can’t be the only one with this little foible, can I?

So, I’m going to throw my question out there: how do you feel about books?

One Comment
  1. Amelia permalink
    9 June, 2008 1:44 pm

    I saw the “book purse” and almost spat coffee all over my compy… you know what I did when I figured out that the copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray I bought at the garage sale was actually in French? I GAVE IT TO SOMEONE WHO CAN READ FRENCH.

    No purses. Reeeeead. I coddle my books, the 500 some-odd that I own.


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