Of course it’s your book. I never said anything different. What I said was….well, never mind EXACTLY what I said. Sometimes, in the excitement of the moment, I express myself in a manner too poetic for people who do not spend their lives unloading paper bags of donated books to understand. What I meant by it all was “How astoundingly wonderful!”
You do not need my permission to make your books uniquely your own. Write your name in them. Make notes on where and when you read them, no matter how strange this may seem to future Book Fair managers. So you and your new bride read The Federalist Papers on your honeymoon: who am I to criticize?
Be like the young lady who made wallpaper dustjackets for all her science fiction paperbacks. Be like the somewhat older lady who painted pictures on the front of her favorite hardcovers. Argue with the author by inking in furious notes in the margins. Draw paper dolls and design dresses for them on the endpapers. Write rude poetry about your school teachers. (But watch your handwriting. Spoils the joke if I can’t be sure of that last word in the limerick.) Is that book yours? Make sure the world knows it.
As someone who is waiting to resell that book once you’ve finished with it, preferably years later (people don’t go to that much trouble to personalize this month’s Reader’s Digest and then toss it) my problem is not that I hate such things. Other people may sneer at ‘em, but I like them, provided they don’t make the book totally unusable. I actually talked the Newberry into keeping the books with painted covers (for about two weeks: then they repented and sent them back.) I thought the little dustjackets made some run-of-the-mill paperbacks that much more interesting. (A volunteer disagreed, and assumed I would want her to tear them all off and throw them away.)
The problem, red velvet pizza, is that sometimes the book is too much your own. Your classification system of checkmarks gouged into the cover of each of your books works perfectly well for YOU: the rest of us don’t understand and find it disfiguring (was that a rating of the book’s quality, or just the number of times you read it?) You understand the best books in your personal library are the ones which need two rubber bands to hold them together. I’d like to pass these along to another generation, but you know how the younger generation feels about anything that doesn’t need recharging. They’d never comprehend putting the rubber band on your ring finger while reading.
What has set off this little expostulation is another estate. These books have been brought to me by the sorrowing family (I get the impression they were sorrowed by their loss about eighteen months ago; since then they’ve been sorrowed that Aunt Booney had so much STUFF.) Delivered in egg crates, the library has proven to be a little cornucopia of books on sociology, literature, and music. The dust and grime are just part of the charm, and comes with the job. What makes these books different is that Aunt Booney REALLY loved some of them.
Her favorites have covers reinforced around the edges with heavy blue tape, with spines accented in completely contrasted duct tape. And each of them has a bookmark–usually cloth but sometime just a doubled strip of tape–permanently attached to the back cover. (Tried to remove one: the back cover came off with the bookmark.)
If only we’d thought to set this up as a Book Art Gallery instead of a Book Fair….