by Alison Flood)
How do you treat your books? I ask because I treat mine terribly. I love them dearly – oh so dearly – but I don't look after them one bit. Just look at my copy of Joe Hill's Nos-4R2.
Not in a good way, is it? This is a novel which I raced through at high speed, which I adored and which thoroughly, brilliantly, terrified me (it's about a man who abducts small children in his evil car and takes them to the creepiest of the creepy Christmasland, "where every morning is Christmas morning and unhappiness is against the law"). I was forced, however, to rip it in half, partly because I wanted to share it with someone while on holiday, partly because it was a bit heavy to lug around as it was. I haven't yet got round to sticking it back together.
Here are four very-much-loved novels I have reread endlessly: Fool's Fate by Robin Hobb, The Castle on the Hill by Elizabeth Goudge, The Dark Is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper, The Magus by John Fowles.
Their battered, dog-eared state is testament to my love for them. Pages are falling off the back of my copy of A Suitable Boy; my baby ate the conclusion of Jane Gaskell's The Serpent because I left it on the bathroom floor.
Witness, too, the parlous condition of two of my precious Mary Stewart novels (may she rest in peace). They've been picked up on too many occasions when I was in desperate need of a comfort read, and now the stuffing is falling out.
My husband loathes how I treat my books, the fact that I crack the spines, turn down the pages, read them in the bath and leave them lying around open. I'm not remotely bothered by the tattered state of my book collection, however; they're still readable, after all – even the Gaskell, when I Sellotaped it back together – and it shows I've read them and loved them; there is no books-as-wallpaper situation in my house.
How about you? Horrified by my lack of respect, or just as bad yourselves? I do, by the way, have a Kindle, which I love and which keeps my digital collection of more recent reading material clean and neat and tatter-free – but for me at least, there's nothing like the yellowing, water-stained, soft feeling of an old paperback I've read countless times. The battering, I think, just improves the flavour.