Thursday, June 12, 2014

Caring for Your Books--REALLY Caring

While I still have a growing number of books about which I plan to post this summer, please allow me to take a little side trip here today. Here's the back story: I just returned from the National Great Leaders Summit at the Kanuga Center in Hendersonville, NC, the site of the annual Great Teachers Seminar as well.  The Great Teacher Movement alone deserves more than a simple blog post. Suffice it to say that I spent three and a half days in a most pleasant setting with some of the finest people in the world from eleven states.

Our ages, experiences, and personalities varied widely--made evident by the "sorting" activities conducted.  One glaring difference related to technology use. No surprise.  David Gottshall, the founder of the Great Teacher Movement 45 years ago, has never owned a computer.  Some of the younger members of the group, teachers earlier in their careers, were actively using technology the whole time, taking notes on their iPads, quickly Googling on their phones when a question arose.

One of the activities of Great Teachers is to share a book of influence.  As one might imagine, books play a huge role in the life of educators, not just those of us in the English/Language Arts fields.  On the last day, as we shared from our selections I noted a few things that made me think--and laugh.

First, one or two of the people in attendance had borrowed a "clean" copy of their books, rather than sharing their own raggedy, coffee-stained volumes.  Ironically, those books drew less perusal than the ones with paperclip markers and sticky notes.

As we shared, the first couple of people who chose to read a selection from their phones or iPads had "technical difficulties": the page was there, then it wasn't.  Scroll. Scroll. Scroll.  David Sherrill of Texas was exuberant, cheering and holding up a paper copy and turning easily to a page.  When Kay Crouch shared from her paperback copy of The Ugly American (so old it had a fifty cent price tag), she admitted to feeling a little embarrassed at the secondhand copy's condition when she shared it on the book table.

 Discussions developed about how our favorite books often showed those signs of use.  The picture here hardly does justice to some of those books I've read--and taught--over and over.  My copies of Cold Mountain and Huck Finn are rubber banded. The covers hang on Watership Down, To Kill a Mockingbird, and A Separate Peace--to name just a few. I could buy new copies--and I often do in order to have a copy to share--but these often-read copies are priceless to me.

Several years ago, one of my book clubs (Book-of-the-Month, I believe) sent members, gratis, a slim paperback copy of Dirda's How to Care for Your Books.  Ahhh! I thought. This is just for me. I don't just care for my books; I love them.  But no!  The book was obviously intended for book collectors, not book readers (which should have eliminated BOMC readers, since those editions are rarely collectible, I would imagine).  He told tips for not creasing spines, not getting food or drink anywhere close to a book.  It really boiled down to this one simple bit of advise: For heaven's sake, don't READ your books.  You'll devalue them.

Oh well.  I think my books enjoy more of a form of tough love.  I read and re-read them, sometimes leaving them open, face down (gasp!).  Not only do some of them bear coffee stains and the occasional crumbs, but DNA tests might also find evidence of tear stains.

I write in my books.  I often flip to the inside back cover of a book I am re-reading in order to make a note--the page number and a snippet of lines I like--only to find I had noted the same passage earlier when I read the same book.  When I loan books, I let readers make their own notes. I often ask them to sign a date my books they read.  I even more strongly encourage them to RETURN the book when they are finished.  Those notes may render the book less valuable on the open market, but they infinitely more valuable to me.  My books provide a journal of my life incomplete in any diary.  They crowd my shelves--double rows in places--and they pile up on every surface, but oh, how I do care for them.


Amber O said...

When I get in an organizational frenzy (usually triggered by an episode of Hoarders), I visit my study to go through my books again to see if I'm ready to part with any more. I find it difficult to explain my attachment to them. I'm hard pressed to declare an all time favorite book (wouldn't it hurt the others' feelings?), I'm not much of a re-reader (there are just so many out there that I haven't read yet) and I really don't loan them out that often. So why, people ask, do I keep them? Beats me, but I visit my bookshelves often and read the titles or run my fingers along the spines and think, "I know you." I've gotten a LITTLE less sentimental since I started mostly reading on my Nook, but my books are still mine, and I am theirs.

Amber O said...

And... I had a friend apologize once for bringing a borrowed book back from the beach with curled pages and a little sand in the crevices. I thought the book was more interesting for having gone on an adventure and bearing the scars to prove it. :)