I'm very careful with books lent to me by friends. I will make sure that I don't put unnecessary pressure on the spine, I turn the pages with care.
But almost all of my books - my prized books, my beautiful trove of books, my small but well-loved collection of books - are somewhat tattered.
It's not because I don't care about them. It's not because I actually like the dog-eared pages or slightly creased covers. I think it's because they live with me as I'm reading them.
My books follow me everywhere. I read on the métro. I read as I walk to and from the métro. I read in the park. I read at lunch. I read in the car. I read in the bath. I read in bed. I read when I stir custard.
I read when I'm eating spaghetti bolognaise and quite a large number of my books have tiny red spots on the pages. I read when I'm eating a giant bowl of phô and sometimes the noodles make splashes. I dropped a book in the park the other day when I was trying to juggle my falafel and read at the same time. It landed in a pile of leaves and narrowly missed a puddle. I've dropped a book in the bathtub. I was so upset because it really couldn't be saved and I went out and bought another copy.
My books are everywhere. There are books on the couch, on the table, on the kitchen bench, on the floor beside the bed, on a shelf in the bathroom. There are books on the steps of the staircase. My bookcases are overflowing and the books are piled up precariously on top of them.
It's no wonder my books are tattered. They're loved. They're read over and over and over again. They're lent to practically anyone who shows even a passing interest. I find myself shoving my books into the hands of friends and I say "you must read it. you must".
I would like to have bookshelves full of books in pristine condition, but it's never going to happen. This is just the way I am.
I recently went to a reading with a pile of books to be signed and was a little embarrassed to pass over my stack of well-thumbed novels to the author. He just patted them, and said, "this is good - they're loved".
I'm drawn to other people who love to read and I once thought I could never marry someone who doesn't enjoy reading as much as I do. But I find it doesn't bother me very much at all that Sylvain doesn't read beyond scientific papers and the occasional comic book. He is incredibly enthusiastic about my reading, and certainly doesn't begrudge my habit of dragging home a couple of new books a week. It's actually a good thing that he doesn't read.
Cos there wouldn't be room for his books if he did.