Books My Scribbles

Thoughts From A Book Snob: Halved Books.

January 22, 2020

Growing up, I was very fortunate to have numerous ways to access books. My local library was only a ten-minute walk away from my house and my Grandfather would often treat me to weekly visits to our local bookshop on a Saturday morning. I think it has only been in the past five years or so that I really appreciate how lucky I was that I had access to such wonders, that I could borrow numerous books or had a Grandfather who believed that you couldn’t put a price on reading. However, I acknowledge that as a result of this privilege –  I became a bit of a book snob. 

I remember being a little kid and taking my cousin to the library for the first time and laughing as she started asking a librarian how much it costs to borrow books which was quite ignorant of me. I remember watching as my peers complained about reading time in senior school and rolling my eyes at them because to me they just didn’t understand the luxury they were being given. Again, I was the ignorant one in that situation too. I remember wanting to rip my hair out as I watched my peers draw in their books, cracking spines, turning the top corners of pages and highlighting passages they favoured. I thought they didn’t understand once again the value of books and that we had to respect them and treat them well. I, again, was wrong and the ignorant one in that situation. 

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However, since being a kid and growing up, I have let go of my prejudices (mostly because no one is perfect after all) and grown to respect and appreciate that we all value and treat our books different and guess what, there’s nothing wrong with that at all! I was fortunate enough that when I was sixteen, I was given the opportunity to work in a bookshop since then I’ve worked in quite a few and since then I’ve met numerous wonderful people who have taught me to see books in a different light. 

I think if I had pictures of my bookshelves when I was younger and now, my younger self would most definitely have had a heart attack. Now I adore old and used books, with scribbles inside and with deep long cracks in the time. I find now when I get really into a book I curl uptight and as I reach the halfway point I crack the time. I no longer care if I accidentally spill a little bit of tea and instead of having a meltdown – I was a very dramatic child when it came to the condition of my books – I now wipe it away and continue reading, too eager to leave the story to fuss too much. Christ, I’ve even bought another book of a story I loved and ripped each and every page out in order to paste it onto one of my bedroom walls. 

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Admittedly, I still can’t quite bear to highlight and scribble in my books myself, unless they were for university classes but I do appreciate when others do and hope one day I have the courage to break this compulsion of mine. However, this post isn’t about me saying you can’t have your books pristine, it’s not even me saying that you should rip your books apart either. It’s more about saying that your books are just that, they are yours and you can treat them in any way you wish. 

If you’ve been on Twitter in the past day or two then you may have seen this tweet from Alex Christofi, a senior editor for OneWorldNews and proclaimed ‘book murderer’. In his tweet, Alex shows his followers that when he has a book which is quite dense, he cuts it in half to make it more portable for him to read. 

When I first saw this tweet I felt such disdain, anguish and horror – how could anyone do this to a book! Did they have no respect? But then I stopped, I began to read through the thread and read comments from people I follow and know which was when I realised. It didn’t matter how I felt. Why would it? They weren’t my books and this guy who I had only just heard of wasn’t about to force me to do the same and dismantle my books – through the temptation to do it to my copies of War and Peace and Anna Karenia has certainly been embedded. 

Perhaps, there isn’t a point to this post, after all, I can’t tell anyone else how they should treat their books and I certainly will never be able to detach my gut reaction or disengage from all my book snob ways. But I can challenge myself, I can demand myself to continue to learn and accept that not everyone will treat their books the same way – it doesn’t mean if someone saw a book in half that they respect the story any less. It doesn’t make someone a ‘book murderer’ or ‘saviour’, whether they keep their books in the same condition as they bought it in or dog-ear every other page! 

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How do you like your books? Do you like them battered and broken in or clean and pristine as if they were brand new and never read before?

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41 Comments

  • Reply Norma Reyes, PhD January 22, 2020 at 11:59 am

    Love your post. I was a bookworm growing up. And I definitely can not bare writing in books.

    I do buy used books and have no issue with an underline. My husband on the other hand doesn’t mind taking a highlighter.

    I use https://www.thriftbooks.com to get my books (if you don’t use them I can send you my referral link lol)

    It always fun to see how the book comes they have a variety of conditions and I have found that acceptable and above work for me

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 11:29 am

      Oh, I will have to check them out! Thank you for recommending them and sharing.

  • Reply Janey January 22, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    I love this post, and I love that you papered a wall with a beloved story. I’ve been through a similar process, from book snob and book vigilante to finally realizing I’m just happy if people are reading. I also think this is a very enlightened attitude in general, and one I try to apply in lots of areas of life: what’s it to me what other people do? If they aren’t harming other beings, then it’s not my place to judge. Easier said than done a lot of the time, obviously. 😉 Anyway, thanks for the great post. Also, what’s the book you used for wallpaper?

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 11:32 am

      I used Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for my book wallpaper. I have a similar thought process now though I admit my natural instinct is the outrage which is why I try not to be and accept everyone has different ways of doing things.

      • Reply Janey January 26, 2020 at 3:47 pm

        I totally agree. Outrage is a conditioned response, I’ve found: the more I practice accepting instead of judging, the less often I feel outraged. Which, let’s face it, is not a pleasant emotion. And kudos on the book wallpaper choice! Outstanding.👌

  • Reply RefinedMind January 22, 2020 at 7:41 pm

    Your wall! I love it!

  • Reply RefinedMind January 22, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    I hardly ever write in any of my books but i want to just so i can go back and flip through it and see what i was thinking at the time. There is this one book by John Green, ‘Looking for Alaska.’ I was flipping through it years later and saw I highlighted it. I highlighted a line that said ‘DO NOT HIGHLIGHT’ in the book. I found it funny then and i find it funny now.

  • Reply Kayleigh Zara January 23, 2020 at 5:08 pm

    I’ve only ever written in a book once and I really regretted it straight away! It was a study book for one of my law exams.

    I was actually enraged when I saw the book cut in half on twitter yesterday, it’s such a waste and clearly done just for likes. Thanks for sharing x

  • Reply Lisa's Notebook January 23, 2020 at 5:20 pm

    Oh man, that tweet, I honestly believe it was only done for sensationalism, I mean honestly, who does that to books! I have written in college books in the past because it was the quickest way to take notes during lectures but I certainly don’t do it now. While I agree, each to his or her own, I did feel quite sick at that book mutilation, that’s not something I could ever countenance as I was brought up to respect books and what they represent. Great post! x

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 11:38 am

      That’s fair enough, we all treat our books differently. I don’t think I could cut any of mine in half but I will admit there is a temptation to do it to my copy of Anna Karenia!

  • Reply Arwen McGilvra January 23, 2020 at 5:37 pm

    I have tried to stay away from this topic. It’s been hard because it really exploded all across book Twitter. My gut reaction is similar to yours, but then I realize that I mostly just want people to read and to be engaged with the text. So really in the end it doesn’t matter.

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 11:41 am

      Despite the condition of the books at least the story will always remain the same.

  • Reply BeeBooksBeauty January 23, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    I can completely understand why it’s been a divisive tweet especially when some people hate even a cracked spine. I keep my books neat for the most part but I can understand why well loved books end up with a lot of wear, I’m just not sure ripping books up is a step too far but hey, he bought the book so that’s what matters

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 11:55 am

      Thank you for reading and your right at least he bought the book.

  • Reply sunkissedscribbles January 23, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    I like my books kept in the best condition I can keep them in, I’m a bit snobbish about them. Such as the other day when I picked up a Click and Collect order and saw they’d put an elastic band round the book – I demanded to see the condition as another order had been damaged by the band (this one hadn’t been). I get a bit OCD and just like them kept clean and neat. I buy second hand too but usually donate back once I’ve read them. As for that tweet, I thought it was just done to get a reaction – no one really does that to books, do they? I’ve never seen a book cut in half like that. Great post, thanks for sharing!

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 11:58 am

      After seeing the post I have heard of other people doing something similar so I think it should be ok. I mean no matter how the book is treated the story still remains the same.

  • Reply Rums the Reader January 23, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    Loved reading this post and I totally related to everything you said, I too was fortunate enough to have a family who encouraged my love of reading and would take me to the library as well. When I was younger I was super obsessed with keeping the spine undamaged and I would get so annoyed whenever I would somehow mess it up, however as I’ve grown older, I’ve got less obsessed with keeping them in mint condition and just focus on the enjoyment of reading, regardless of what it looks like on the outside. My first reaction to that photo of the books halved did make me cringe a little but you’re totally right – if that’s the way he wants to enjoy his books and if it’s more accessible that way, then who am I to judge? Thanks for sharing such a thought provoking post x

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 12:09 pm

      I love how you say ‘the enjoyment of reading’ because you’re absolutely right and as long as books are accessible and they aren’t doing it to anyone else’s books then it alright.

  • Reply thisdreamsalive January 23, 2020 at 6:41 pm

    It actually hurt my soul seeing the halved books! I was a bit of a booksnob too but also love worn secondhand books now. Its the story that matters!

    Ash | thisdreamsalive.com

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 12:10 pm

      I love secondhand books, I think it makes me feel a bit at ease with reading them especially when I have a cup of tea too.

  • Reply Athena Christy ☽️✨ January 23, 2020 at 8:29 pm

    The only books I’ve ever highlighted (except for textbooks and school-related stuff) are John Green’s Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars.

    Lovely post, this really opened my mind since I had a similar childhood and perspective when I was younger ♡

    —Athena Christy
    https://athenachristy.wordpress.com/

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 12:15 pm

      Thank you so much for commenting. I loved reading the Fault in Our Stars and know many people who did travelling books annotating it!

  • Reply Jess Rigg January 23, 2020 at 9:02 pm

    This is such a fun and interesting post! I always thought people who scribbled in books with their thoughts etc were so cool. I underline things that particularly stand out and, I am ashamed to say, I am a serial corner-turner-over-as-a-bookmark-er.

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 12:21 pm

      Nothing wrong with being a corner-turner-over-as-a-bookmark at all! I think it adds character to the book in a way!

  • Reply Melissa Kacar January 23, 2020 at 9:06 pm

    I loved reading this post! I saw that post on twitter the other day and was shocked since I never saw anyone do that before! I would never personally do that to one of my books, but to each their own! It is an interesting concept on making big books more portable though. I sometimes write and highlight my books, but that’s the extent of what I do to them. I loved hearing your thoughts on this! I also LOVE your bedroom wall, thats such a cool idea! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    melissakacar.blogspot.com

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 12:27 pm

      Thank you so much! I love my wall too, though it took ages to do but has lasted quite a few years now which is always a bonus! I think I might starting writing and highlighting passages in my favourite books too.

  • Reply Ashley Firth January 23, 2020 at 9:22 pm

    What a lovely post! I can only bare to write in my books in pencil. I was the same with my uni books and A level study guides! Thank you for sharing xxx

  • Reply glowsteady January 23, 2020 at 10:16 pm

    That tweet turned my stomach! I could never!! I think I’m somewhere between how you were as a kid and your attitude now. I still hate when people write in books, unless it’s a school book – at the end of the day those notes might help the next student study and I’m okay with highlighted textbooks, but not ‘regular’ books. It’s true that what someone else does to theirs is none of our business and that’s a really admirable way to look at it…but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it x

    Sophie

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 1:20 pm

      I loved getting second-hand books for uni and seeing notes and thoughts already scribbled in them. x

  • Reply The Starving Artist Blog (@StarvingBlog) January 23, 2020 at 11:44 pm

    OMG, I saw that tweet the other day, and felt MURDEROUS! For some reason it really bugs the crap out of me, and I don’t know why (I read a lot, but am definitely not a book snob). I don’t even mind books made into art, or like your lovely book page wall. But this…this is a travesty to me. I wish I had your attitude lol! Great post!

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 1:21 pm

      It took a long while before I started feeling like this. If you asked me my thoughts on that tweet a few years ago it would have been complete fury!

  • Reply Lindsey January 25, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    I love this post! I was definitely the same when it came to access to books when I was younger and not really appreciating it until growing up and realising how lucky I was. I don’t know if i’m as good as you at letting go of some of the prejudices though, aha! This is really making me think how I react mind you – great post!

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 2:00 pm

      Thank you so much – I wouldn’t say I’m really good but just trying at the moment. Thank you for reading.

  • Reply CharlotteSomewhere January 25, 2020 at 3:10 pm

    That tweet definitely set some people off with opposing opinions on books. I don’t think I could ever do it, but part of my loves the idea of doing it when travelling and having a shelf of cut up books with notes and things from where and when they were read.

    Like you I’ve not gone as far as highlighting and putting notes in books but it’s something I wouldn’t rule out in future.

    • Reply A Cup of Wonderland January 26, 2020 at 2:03 pm

      Same, I think it actually a nifty idea. I don’t think I could personally do it but I wouldn’t mind making more ntoes in my books.

  • Reply Jenny in Neverland February 7, 2020 at 10:47 am

    Great post! I love your Cheshire Cat cushion too! I absolutely LOVE old books, with cracked spines and stains on the pages. Whether it’s from me or someone else, I just love knowing that a book has been used and loved. Pristine books are great to look at but for me, when it comes to the heart of books and what books represent, there’s nothing better than an obviously used book! x

    • Reply @cupofwonderland February 10, 2020 at 10:50 am

      Thank you! Old books are certainly becoming new favourites for myself. I love to see how they have aged and how they have grown in away. I like Pristine books but you can always tell if I’ve really enjoyed a book if it isn’t in perfect condition.

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