Book shelves

7 Times It’s Okay to Deface Your Book

Books are among the most precious things people have. They inspire revolutions, cause spiritual awakenings, and make people fall in love. My favorite book is Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, and you can only touch my copy if you wear rubber gloves.


Sometimes love hurts, though. To get the most out of our favorite books, we sometimes have to rough them up a bit. If you’re wondering how damaging a book could ever be a good thing, keep reading. Here are the 7 times it’s okay to deface your book.


1. Writing marginalia



Image courtesy of the Huffington Post


Books are essentially transcriptions of speech. You can think of a book as words the author has audibly spoken that have been copied down. With that in mind, reading a book can easily amount to being talked at rather than being talked to.


The best way to have a conversation with the author is to respond to what they’re saying. The best way to respond to the author is to write your thoughts next to what they’ve said. This means take notes in the margins (A.K.A. marginalia). After all, conversations are much more enjoyable than lectures.


2. Dog-earing pages


Dog eared page

Image courtesy of the Thousander Club


I understand those who want to preserve the pristine condition of new books. They look good, they smell good, and they feel good. Loving readers want nothing to do with damaging those precious pages.


However, sometimes people forget their bookmarks, or maybe they read a bunch of books at once and don’t have enough bookmarks for them all. In these situations, readers really only have one option: use the pages themselves as bookmarks. Plus, if you’re trying to be mindful of the environment, the more people who dog-ear their pages, the fewer bookmarks are produced.


3. Slipping off the book jacket


Dust JAcket

Image courtesy of Wikipedia


You’re looking forward to your favorite author’s new book. Maybe it’s George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, or Alissa Nutting’s Made for Love (two of the most beautiful book covers of 2017). You realize that the first prints are hardcover. The book jacket can slip off. Do you ditch the sleeve?


Depending on where you get your reading done, there may be no reason to remove the book jacket. However, if you’re one of the many people who do their reading during their commute, then you might want privacy. You might not want people to see you reading about “Lincoln” or “the bardo” or “love.” I certainly don’t want anybody knowing I read about love.


4. Highlighting passages



Image courtesy of Binary Moon


If you frequent libraries (or have ever rented a used textbook), then you’ve probably run into books covered in highlighter. Every once in a while, a few sentences are put under the spotlight. Sure, the neon yellow is borderline aggressive, but highlighting has its perks.


Seeing words covered in that aggressive yellow does somehow make them more memorable. Taking the time to meticulously highlight the sentences you want to remember cements them into your head. Like marginalia, using a highlighter elevates the reading experience into a conversation.


5. Getting the author’s signature


Harry Potter signed

Image courtesy of Nate D Sanders


Meeting an author isn’t exactly like meeting an actor or athlete or politician. There’s something deep shared between an author and his or her reader. The reader’s traveled deep into the author’s head. It’s an unfair relationship in the sense that the author hasn’t had that privilege. It’s as if the reader has a very deep friendship with the author, but it’s a one-sided friendship.


The least your favorite author can do to repay this one-sided friendship is give you a signature. It would be supremely disappointing if you rejected your favorite author’s signature because you didn’t want to deface their book. It’s their book. If they’re okay with defacing it, then you should be too. After all, a signature is a gesture of friendship.


6. Writing a note to your friend


Books aren’t much good if you don’t share them. No matter how deeply in love you are with a book, it amounts to little if you can’t share that love. The scariest thing to do with a book is to read it and forget you read it. You won’t forget if you lend the book to a friend.


When you find that special book buddy, don’t be afraid to write them a few notes along their journey. Maybe you punctuate a particularly heart-wrenching chapter with a zingy one-liner, or you might throw in a well-placed WTF. Never (NEVER!) underestimate the effect a good doodle can have in a book.


7. Wearing out the spine


Worn book spines

Image courtesy of Pinterest


A worn out book spine is the best damage of all. It’s not intentional. It just happens along the way. Every re-read, another white line is etched into your favorite book spines. In the same way you can age a tree by its rings, you can measure how much someone loves a book by the number of white lines on its spine.


It’s the way of life that all good things must end. Books are no different. Just like an old car might have picked up a few dings and dents along its many miles, you can see how experienced a book is by its appearance. You can see how loved a book is. So go show your books some love.


Feature image by Roman Kraft via Unsplash