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December 07, 2005

Used-Book Phobia

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I don't like to buy used books unless I have no alternative.

There. I said it. I feel better already because confession purifies. Or something.

Maybe I don't like used books because they give me the feeling that they're not really mine. Or maybe there's another explanation. I'm not sure.

Truth is, I have all sorts of bookish quirks that are inexplicable -- well, I can't explain them, and they're my quirks after all.

Another quirk is that I don't believe in Freud, so no comments invoking him, thank you. (And my belief in Santa Claus is wavering too; I'll save that for another time. But the Easter Bunny rules!!)

While I'm on a roll, here are more of my book-related quirks:

  • I do read library books that are, by definition, (sometimes heavily) used.
  • I don't throw away the dust jacket.
  • I don't bookmark pages by folding over a page corner.
  • Since completing formal education I've stopped marking passages with marker pens or ballpoints. When I mark at all (seldom), I pencil lightly.
  • I sometimes (but rarely) pencil in notes on unprinted pages at the back of a book.

I guess I must be a book-worshiper.

What about your book-quirks?



posted by Donald at December 7, 2005


Except for the fact that I never write in books under any circumstances, I share all your quirks. After I turned 50 (ten years ago)I found that I could no longer tolerate mass market paperbacks at all, and now I've reached the point where only hardcovers will do unless there's no alternative. Since my book collection is threatening to displace me, I do read library books--something I used to be too snooty to do. In fact, I've come to treasure my library system, which is really pretty amazing. I recently went on a John P. Marquand kick. Here's a writer who died 45 years ago, yet my splendid county library system (DeKalb County, GA) had seven of his nine major novels. The other two, which I bought online, are the only two used books I've bought in ages unless you count remainders. I do buy a lot of remainders--would you count them as "used"?

Posted by: Michael on December 8, 2005 10:20 AM

I share the same quirks about defacement.

However, I'm the exact opposite about used books - I buy them almost exclusively. Really, the only new books I buy are ones that have just been published and haven't had time to percolate to the used book stores.

Part of it is that I'm acquisitive, cheap, not that affluent, and read a lot. Shifting from used to new would be a new car every few years.

But a bigger part of it is that I love the spirit of old books - they somehow feel alive, and make me feel like I'm a part of something historical.

I'm sure a large part of it goes back to stretching my childhood allowance to cover my bookworm tendancies.

Posted by: ptm on December 8, 2005 11:07 AM

Hmmm...this library book/used book quirk interests me.

Couldn't you look at the world of books, period, as a sort of library? (After all, we're all just renting when you really think about it.) Then it wouldn't matter if you paid a small sum to "rent" your library book (from the used book store) or borrowed it free of charge.

My only real quirk is to wipe down all of my library books with all-purpose cleaner and a soft rag before reading them. If you had any idea of the filth that collects on those covers...

Posted by: communicatrix on December 8, 2005 11:09 AM

I don't have that many quirks but i have HUGE quirks new books and magazines. I don't mind the regular sort of wear and tear on a book over its reading life, but spilling coffee, breaking the back, bending pages, any sort of sudden change to the book reaaally gets to me...

Posted by: azad on December 8, 2005 11:24 AM

Interesting post. I'm also very anal-retentive regarding my books. I never crease the spine or fold the pages. I also never write in the books (pretty hard to do when you're an English major!)--I feel like I'd be destroying a work of art if I did. I don't like it when the edges get worn. If it's a hard back, I take off the dustjacket when I'm reading the book because I don't want to get my fingerprints on the jacket. I don't like spilling water or coffee on the book and then having the pages get all crinkly. I think that's about it...

Posted by: Michelle on December 8, 2005 11:50 AM

I don't like throwing out old books, even ones that have no financial or literary value (e.g. mass market paperbacks). Which creates quite a problem, as books can take up quite a bit of space!

Posted by: Peter on December 8, 2005 11:53 AM

I used to give seminars about how to build your vocabulary. I used to give the advice to people looking up words in the dictionary to circle all words they look up (so next time they can find it more easily or they can review it while looking up another word).

People would look at me with horror. Hey, people, it's your book--do anything you want with it!

There was a year at college when I used to underline anything I thought was profound or important. As a result, novels would sometimes have entire chapters underlined. I stopped doing it, but it always makes me laugh when I come across copies of these books later on.

Here's my quirk. Whenever a friend wants to give me a telephone number/address or book recommendation, I always write it on the inside cover of the book closest to me. I can't explain it, but I just never lose books, and I always seem to remember what book I wrote the information in. On the other hand, I am always misplacing scrap paper.

Posted by: Robert Nagle on December 8, 2005 12:07 PM

I never write in books except for penciling in my name on the inside front cover of a book I'm lending to someone. I don't particularly like borrowing library books because I feel pressure to return them on time. I will fold pages in a paperback (half fold, never a dog ear), but not in hardcovers. I keep the dustjacket. No problem with used books unless they look dirty. And I will kiss a Torah if it was dropped (something ingrained at Hebrew school).

Posted by: Rick on December 8, 2005 12:18 PM

I used to have a lot more quirks where books (and especially my books) were concerned than I do now. I wonder if others have changed over time in the same way, or in similar ways. But I gotta tellya, 15 years of being caught up in the book-publishing world knocked 90% of them out of me. There's almost no way that I can imagine to be involved in book publishing without getting to be pretty objective about books -- it's a business, they're products, there's always more where that comes from, etc. I don't think this has to be a cynical thing, either; it's just an acknowledgment of basic facts. I used to fret about spine-breaking, scribbling in books, storing them well, etc. These days I'm much more what-the-hell.

The used-books question is an interesting one. I'm split on it. I buy 'em, and I enjoy leafing through them at stores. And I look at 'em and handle them with interest -- those little traces of how they were used, of the person who once owned them, can be fascinating. But creepy too, no? I'm always semi-expecting a few pages to be stuck together, so I like Colleen's idea of hitting the whole thing with disinfectant first. I wish it were possible to soak 'em rather than just wipe the covers down. That said, I kind of like running across a little underlining or a few notes that the previous owner made. Why this passage? Why that thought?

Hmmm, remaning quirks ... Well, The Wife would say I keep too many books, and that this interferes with the apartment's feng shui, and she's probably right, so I try to move 'em along a little more promptly than I once did. I own many more books than I'll ever read, that's for sure. Apart from that, though ...

Hey, one trick I've learned that helps me get rid of more books than I would otherwise: if I know that I'm keeping a book just because it's a memento (college book, novel I once loved, an edition that calls back certain memories, etc), I take a photo of it. Once I've done that I find I can get rid of the book. I've got the memento (the photo), now I don't actually need the physical object any longer. God bless digital cams. I lose the physical feel of the book. But the smell of a book changes with age, so that's OK ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 8, 2005 12:24 PM

I love used books and used bookstores. You can find great things, like mysteries from the 30s. 40s, 50s, etc. that are really quite good. Plus I love the covers on those old paperbacks. I don't write in books, but I fall asleep on them, turn them over open and do all sorts of no-nos, like occasionally dropping them in the tub.

Posted by: Rachel on December 8, 2005 12:26 PM

My Book Rules ("Quirks" make it seem as if there's something peculiar with me, when actually it's your observational skills regarding me that are peculiar)
1) Used books. New books. They're all the same to me (especially if the new books are purchased at a store, rather than on the I-net, where they are handled and read by folks in the store), as long as the books have no:
a) detectable stains
b) detectable odor (mustiness, spices, food detritus)
c) excessive markings.
2) I write my name, date of acquisition (month & year), and city where it was purchased on the first front blank page available.
3) I'll scribble notes on paper slips and insert them in the pages of a hardback book. I'll scribble notes in the book itself, if it's a paperback.
4) I loved libraries as a kid. Always took out books in qty of 10 and 20. Nowadays, I don't go much except to donate boxes of books. If I borrow a book, I'm terrified I'll lose it in my own bookpile. Those Seinfeld episodes with the The NYC Public Library cop? I laughed, I cried, I was terrified he'd know where I live.
5) I'm not anal retentive. Which is bad. If I have 5-10 books by one author, it would be pure luck if any of the books were located close to each other. I love the disheveled quality of my stacking. Glancing at the bookcases always brings a surprise, "Oh, I've got that book of his/her?!"
6) I buy no book previously owned by the Bulgarian Secret Police. That way I'm assured that no poison was spread on the pages which would be absorbed slowly through my fingertips as I read through the book. I'm comfortable reading either new or old otherwise.
7) I have paperback and hardback copies of the same book. Not too many incidents like this, but enough to remind myself I'd better start taking more garlic pills to get those synapses sparking.

Posted by: DarkoV on December 8, 2005 12:46 PM

Darko -- I used to signature, city and month/year books too. But when I started trying to sell books to Powell's down in Portland I feared I might get less money than for pristine books. So I bought a packet of address labels that were just big enough to cover my ball-point work. Now I no longer write that stuff in books I buy.

Second thought: But if I manage to become world-famous, my descendents could make lots of cash selling books autographed by moi.

Assignment to self: Figure out how to become world-famous.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on December 8, 2005 1:23 PM

I never, ever fold a book page but, if it's a book that I own, I almost always "re-edit" it (e.g., underline words, names, ideas, divide the chapters into subchapters with solid or dotted lines, etc.); "re-index" it (create my own index on the empty pages in the back for items that may have been overlooked in the real index); and check off my reading progress (check off the table of contents to show when I've read that chapter). (Sometimes I read a book at the laudromat over many months, and the checks help me keep my place if my bookmark [which I also use to underline] gets misplaced.)

Since I really feel deprived if I can't mark-up a book, I tend to prefer to buy used books, especially used copies of out-of-print books.

In NYC we have a great, great used bookstore, the legendary "Strand," which has an enormous selection and which also sells used "reviewers'" copies of recently published books at a discount. (The discount used to be 50%, but these days it generally seems to be less than that.)

As a matter of fact, I was planning on going to the Strand in the next few days to buy the book by Steyn, "Broadway Babies Say Goodnight," (1999?) that you recommended in another thread. The book has been taken out at the two libraries where I looked for it, and it wasn't at Barnes & Nobles (possibly too old?). And, in the past, I've had great success finding such books at the Strand.

Plus the Strand also occassionally has some interesting used books for only a $1.00. Recently, for instance, I bought for a $1.00 an old issue of the hard cover art magazine from the 1960s, "Horizon." It had a number of great articles in it, particularly a very good article on Hausmann's rebuilding of Paris.

For maybe five dollars I bought an old urban planning text book with dozens upon dozens of old photos, some of which were very interesting. One shows the approach to the George Washington Bridge before it lead to a highway -- it was just apartment houses and local streets.

I recently bought a pretty good bio of Walt Disney for, I think, a dollar also.

One of my favorite used purchases from the Strand was a memoir by the great stage and film director, Josh Logan. On the inside cover, there was an inscription by Lucinda Ballard (sp?) who was a very famous costume designer to a friend who was convalescing (sp?). If I remember correctly, she said she had already bought two copies of the book, so she really didn't need this one which was gift, if I remember correctly, from Logan himself. There was also some chatty "gossip" in the inscription. She said that Logan had said to her (again, if I remember correctly) that he remembered her from one production, when in fact they had worked together years earlier.

Currently I reading a very interesting used coffee-table type book I got for a few dollars at the Strand. It's a history of swing and the big bands that was published a number of years ago. In the empty pages in the back I'm putting together an address directory of old NYC nightspots, restaurants, hotels, business offices, etc.

I'm also reading a used copy of "Hit Men" (a history of rock n' roll) and putting together a similar index in the back of that book too.

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on December 8, 2005 1:29 PM

For books I own, I always prefer hardcovers. I don't mind used books if they're in decent shape, though I admit library books bring out the germophobic in me. I read them anyway, but always wash my hands after putting them down.

I can't stand folded or dog-eared pages and always unfold them if I encounter them in library or used books. I don't write in books, excluding some from my college years and gift books I personalized for others though I haven't done that in some time either. I find it harder to get rid of books that someone's written a personal note to me in.

I like finding a quote in the front of a book, not as a chapter heading or prequel to the story, but as its own entity on or before the dedication page. When I was younger, I used to sift through books just looking for those.

Last year, I started keeping a file of all the books I was reading to keep me motivated to read at least 50/yr. I grade them all with a simple scoring system (-, /, +, ++, +++). Anything I'd rate a minus, I don't finish.

Posted by: claire on December 8, 2005 4:32 PM

I like the concept of a "reading copy" as opposed to a collectible copy. That is, the nice thing about books is that as long as they're complete, their condition doesn't much matter if all you want to do is read them. If the printing is all there and legible, you can get the same information and pleasure from a ratty copy as a pristine mint copy. Unlike music or video, where the copy has to be perfect or just about to be enjoyable. (To a point, I realize. If the condition of a book is SO bad, as in pages oozing with noxious substances that peel off layers of skin from your fingertips as you turn the pages... yeah, okay, then condition matters.)

On the other hand, I may have reached my limit when I came across a used non-fiction juvenile book about the oceans by Arthur C. Clarke, with an introduction by Wernher von Braun and illustrated by Alex Schomburg. If you're me, that's a pretty major cast of heavy-hitters, and normally there wouldn't have been any question of whether to buy the book or not. However, the book had apparently spent its existence mostly in a school library, and the pages were...greasy. Too many grubby fingers belonging to urchins writing book reports, I guess. With a heavy heart, I decided to pass.

Anyway, I just moved from Phoenix to Chicago. The books were the biggest part of it. They're like bricks when you have to move them.


Posted by: Dwight Decker on December 8, 2005 4:59 PM

Some little vignettes:

My fourth grade teacher in Portland, OR, was a Chinook Indian who wrote a book called "Kutkos, Chinook Tyee." (Tyee means chief.) It was quite famous but so valued that one copy was left in the Portland Public Library and a person had to sit next to the librarian and hold her hand while reading it to keep it from disappearing. I tried the Internet and bought a copy (The English edition) from an Irish bookstore. It's old and inky and I love it.

The biography of Dr. John McLoughlin (the Hudson's Bay factor who was once nearly the king of the Northwest) called "The White-Headed Eagle" was in my father's bookshelf but not in mine. On the internet I ordered a copy. It came with a California public library ownership stamp, then the signature of Joe DeYong -- one of Charlie Russell's real protegees and an early advisor to directors of movie Westerns -- and then the signature of Richard Flood, high prairie wheeler-dealer and gallery owner. I knew Flood -- fed him dinner many times. He was very friendly to DeYong and ended up with much of his estate.

In Portland when I was really crashing financially, I could always gather up some books to sell at Powells. When I was in the ministry, I had so many books that I began to put little white stickers on the backs to keep them in categories. When I had been out of the ministry for a decade and realized most of my theology books were out-of-date (who knew theology went out of date??), I took them down to Powells to sell. (I'd bought many at the Powells in Chicago, since my seminary was in Hyde Park.) The buyer, a woman, looked at the books suspiciously and demanded, "Whose library are these from?" I was so angry the tears came and I ripped into her. "Just because I'm a middle-aged, fat woman in jeans and a workshirt doesn't mean I don't own -- and UNDERSTAND, I might add -- these intellectual books." She was so abashed that she gave me top prices.

Books are stories -- used books are even better stories.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on December 8, 2005 5:09 PM

My favorite subject of all.

Used books are fine. No phobias. For some good, older books, they are the only option. The place to go is , which has new and used both, ranked by price. Hardcover in dustjacket only, unless it was issued without dj. I get to books bit by bit and they must look good on the shelf until I get to them, and they must be pleasant to handle when I do. I put plastic library covers over the dustjackets, which I get from . I usually write my name in them. Reselling is not an issue. I am very picky about what I buy in the first place. If I have made a mistake, and I realize part way in that the book is not good, I get rid of it. Never, ever fold a page. If I want to make a note in a book, I make a tiny dot in the margin, then at the back of the book I write very small the page number and a few words to cue me what I have marked. I will put a similar dot in the bibliography or endnotes if I want to make a note of a book to add to my "list", which is now about 1,700 titles, of books which I have seen reviewed or cited, which struck me as interesting. This is really far more than a "want list" since it is immensely more than I can hope to get through. Subject matter: 95% history -- military, political, economic primarily -- and maybe 5% other stuff including fiction. I've got about 4,000 books, all on bookshelves. We have a small house and it looks like a library. Exactly how I like it.

Posted by: Lexington Green on December 9, 2005 12:47 AM

Good grief, I clearly don't belong here. I'll take a softcover over a hardcover any day. And I abuse books, horribly. I torture them! I dogear, and write notes, and underline passages and make copious notes in the margins. I turn pages with greasy fingers and break spines. I rape books. I want them thoroughly worked over.

And yet, it's funny, when I buy a new book, especially one I have been lusting after, I want it to be brand spanking new-looking. In shrink-wrap, if possible. If not, absolutely no visible fingerprints on the dust jacket. If it's a paperback (yes!) I won't ever buy the one at the front of a row. Only near the back, where they are perfect and untouched. I want to possess it. And when I reluctantly loan books out, I feel a strange anxiety tugging at me until I get them back. I really should get out more.

Posted by: Flutist on December 9, 2005 12:53 AM

I love paperbacks and will always choose to purchase one over a hardcover. Hardcover books remind me too much of my High School library and fill me with this horrible sense of obligation to finish them and provide a 5 paragraph summary of their major themes. Paperbacks are much more comfortable and make me feel relaxed and casual. Maybe its some kind of subconsious anti-elitism, but I just really don't like the boxy feel of new hardcover books, with obnoxious flappy dust jackets, although hardcovers without dust jackets are so ugly that they're almost as bad. And the absolute worst are those Library of America type collections with unattractive covers, multiple novels smashed together in a single volume and those awful string bookmarks that hang all over the place. What a sterile thing to read.
Used and new doesn't matter to me as long as the text is clean. The text has to be clean. I don't write my name in books and I have never underlined a word in anything other than a textbook. There is nothing worse than finding a book I want to read and finding highlighting and uneven underlining all over the place. It just seems so irritatingly academic, something people do if they've never learned to read for pleasure. Also, highlighters and note writers are frequently idiots. Its so distracting to contantly see things like 'Foreshadowing' and 'Oedipal issues? (also pg 146)' scrawled all over the margins. I read a used copy of Ba Jin's Family and the previous owner had gone through and highlighted words like 'China' in bright orange. The whole goddamn book takes place in China. I couldn't enjoy it.

Posted by: Ben on December 9, 2005 1:37 AM

Benjamin: I love The Strand too. One of the fifty-cent books I got their was The Uses Of Knowledge, by Cardinal Newman. Written inside the front cover I found:

Roger Kimball
Yale University
Lux Et Veritas
August 11, 1975

Which I thought was pretty cool.

I've got a special shelf reserved for library books, which keeps them nicely together. Below that I've got a shelf for books I'm meaning to read, or am in the process of reading. Very handy.

Posted by: Brian on December 9, 2005 4:29 AM

Some dissimilar quirks here -- no pref on hc or sc, would never consider marking up a book, even with my name, and up until this year couldn't imagine getting rid of any of my books (would rarely if ever even loan them to friends). Now what's changed is that after selling my DVD and CD collections on Amazon (my music is stored in my iTunes library so I'm not losing anything there), I'm selling my entire library via Amazon as well. Having accumulated so many books over a lifetime and gotten really tired of moving them, it appears that I'm just tired of hauling hundreds of boxes of books around. After my latest move I didn't even unpack the books; I'm only unpacking them now as I list them for sale on Amazon. Even when I buy books now, as soon as I finish reading them I put them immediately up for sale and get rid of them within days. I expect I'll end up keeping a small number of classics that I'll reread every so often, but the run of the mill fiction and even non-fiction that I used to hang on to are now going going gone. An enjoyable side-effect of my selling everything via Amazon is finding a number of collectible titles that I somehow accumulated and am now getting big bucks for them. Added to the removal of so much stuff from my life, I'm a pretty happy camper down here.

Posted by: Joe in Texas on December 9, 2005 5:51 AM

I'm just the opposite. I rather prefer used books, especially when they are in "like new" condition. From my perspective, I'm saving a tree by acquiring a book from a previous buyer that didn't really care for it anyway (or why else would they sell it?), while minimizing my overall investment such that I can then pursue ever more books.

And thus my library has been built.


Posted by: Mitch on December 9, 2005 6:15 AM

Strand: the house of Evil. Before going on vacation I dropped in for a sec, to buy a Frommer's guide to Portugal, an innocent wish - and exited 1/2hr later with 9 books in tow and my wallet $46.39 lighter.

But could I pass Art Deco wallpaper patterns? With actual samples (in doubles!) sewn in? &c.

Posted by: Tatyana on December 9, 2005 10:00 AM

When it comes to paperbacks, if I own it, somehow I can read it and it remains almost pristine. But when I borrow one, and am trying to be careful with it, I will invariably drop it in a puddle or spill coffee on it. Thus if it's ruined enough, I have to buy it anyway to replace the trashed copy.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on December 9, 2005 10:52 AM

I'm with Tatyana on the evil, noxious, subsuming gases they blow through the Strand, making you buy books you had no idea existed.
But, if there were a nuclear explosion, I don't think there's any place safer or any place I'd rather be confined to for the half-life of plutonium it would take to survive a nuclear disaster than the basement of the Strand. It's a whole different world down there; there are people down there who haven't seen daylight since the Eisenhower years.

Posted by: DarkoV on December 9, 2005 12:25 PM

I haven't been in the Strand in a couple of years even though I work just a 15-minute walk away. Must get back there soon.

Posted by: Peter on December 10, 2005 11:21 AM

When I take long trips, 3 or more months, I pick up used paperbacks wherever I can buy them and then as I read them I tear off the page I've just read and throw it away. This satisfies some irrational sense of "traveling light" and follows the logic of newspapers. Since we are flooded with paperback books, why not dispose of them just as we do newspapers. It also feels like it re-enacts the traveling itself. Two or three weeks in one place,a few books read, torn up and gone. On to another place, other books. Occasionally back home I will read a book the same way, tearing the page off as soon as I've read it, but this is harder to do at home.

Posted by: Bob Garlitz on December 10, 2005 8:41 PM

I tape the dust jackets to my books.

I annotate and custom-index my books. My first edition of "The Gulag Archipelago" -- all three volumes -- is completely annotated, and indexed according to my needs.

I never bend pages over to mark a place. For bookmarks, I use key-cards from interesting hotels, boarding passes from interesting flights, various small and curious documents (like: an un-used ticket to a U.S. hockey team game at Lake Placid), etc., which generally stay with the book on the shelf.

And my favorite bookstores across the country are used bookstores. Top three: Powell's (Portland, Oregon), Renaissance (Milwaukee), and The Book Barn of The Finger Lakes, in Dryden, New York.

Posted by: Billy Beck on December 12, 2005 6:01 PM

I love used books but I will not buy a used book with any kind of mark in the text, pencil or otherwise. I remove the jacket to read it and place it lovingly back on when I'm done.

Mass Market Paperbacks are Satan's spawn.

I don't throw away books I've read. There are people who do? For shame.

I never mark, fold, spindle, or mutilate a book for any reason -- even if it's bad.

I've stopped checking books out of the library because the lack of concern for them by previous patrons was giving me an aneurism.

Posted by: Jim on December 13, 2005 8:05 AM

I write all over my books in pencil and pen. I illustrate my poetry books, and make notes to myself on most of the blank pages, phone numbers, shopping lists, etc... Occasionally I'll need to do some bookselling, and only then do I regret this. I'm very proud of my one-of-a-kind illustrated copy of Opened Ground by Seamus Heaney for instance. My copy of Europe Central is probably the most ragged of the bunch, since it's taken so long to read. It's been dropped near the bathtub, has semi-wrinkled pages, is underlined, dog-eared, and signed by Vollman who added a drawing of a woman with long eyelashes above his signature. The dust-jacket has lost a corner and been repaired multiple times with scotch tape. I don't think I'll ever throw it away. In addition, I don't have any library phobias. I've never considered the germs. I do, however, fear the Strand. I've almost always left the place having spent my lunch money. My favorite bookstores are Pendragon in Oakland, Pegasus in Berkeley, Moe's in Berkeley, City Lights in San Francisco, Book People in Austin, Half-Price in Austin, The Strand in New York, and Powell's in Oregon.

Posted by: Terri Saul on December 13, 2005 8:59 PM

Well, I can't restrain myself from throwing in my two cents to this interesting thread. Many of the comments report the Don'ts; I'll list a few of my quirky dos:
1. I always put my name, date of purchase, and city of purchase (often not where I live) on the inside front cover. Years later (I have done this since 1964) it's interesting to look at a book and remember where I was and what I was doing when I bought that book.
2. When I've completed the book, I put the date on the inside back cover. Through the years, there might be 5-6 dates listed there, as I re-read some old favorites.
3. I keep a running list of books read for each year, with pages consumed, and totaled at year's end.
4. I mark copiously in the books, usually in pencil (Mirado Black Warrior B or HB), with scribbled questions, arrows, references to other things read, typos, editorials, underlinings, particularly well-put phrases, etc. This keeps the mind engaged. In my experience, these are ignored when/if I sell the book.
5. I keep the books sorted on the shelves in two general categories: religious and secular/scientific, which I light-heartedly refer to as the sacred and the profane.
6. I gladly lend a book, but I never expect to get it back.
7. I have a book and a pencil with me always, just in case...

Posted by: Kelly on December 15, 2005 11:05 AM

I have long prefered used books, especially old mass-market sized paperbacks of classics and other books with literary value. It makes me sad that its so rare to find a classic book in new form that is small enough to fit in a pocket. I think it's because publishers make more money with the trade paperbacks, so they hardly ever make the pocketbooks anymore.

Also, as somebody else mentioned, the covers on the old paperbacks are great. Especially those from the 50s and 60s, I think.

I hate to write in my books, and I rarely buy used books with writing in them. I don't mind the books being ratty, as long as they don't look like they're about to come apart. But if I can find a nice copy of something that I already own in ratty condition, I'll often buy the nice copy.

When I do acquire a hardback, I usually remove the dust jacket, but keep it with old papers that I want to save. Kind of strange, I guess.

I'd like to be like the Joe from Texas who sells his books after reading them, but I'm still stuck in the hoarding frame of mind. I hoard books that I'm not likely to read for years (because there are already so many). Maybe this originated from my youth in a small town, where it was hard to find good books, so when I discovered these great old overflowing used bookstores in the cities, I decided I'd better stock up. That's a mentality that hasn't left me yet.

Happy reading!

Posted by: Jeff on December 17, 2005 3:35 AM

I absolutely adore used books. They've got such a character to them. Nothing fills me with more happiness than opening an old book and finding a relic of the era in which the book was new - I've found receipts, notes, newspaper clippings. I often buy older books that have handwritten notes in them just to own them.

That being said, I have nothing against new books either. :)

Posted by: Chris on December 20, 2005 12:01 PM

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