I have a piece of flash fiction that was just published today in the December issue of The Washington Pastime. Wee! I love it, have always loved it, and am very happy that it found such a lovely new home. My story is called, “The Book Sniffers,” and can be found on lucky page thirteen. *thumbs up*
As you might gather from that title, I enjoy sniffing books. A lot. In fact, I occasionally go to libraries and used book stores just to browse the aisles and sniff. And I’m not the only one. Turns out there’s a chemical reason for that delicious old book odor:
“Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand bookstores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us.” –from Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s Perfumes: the guide
So I’m not *totally* crazy. (Yeah, okay – I am.)
I like to think of physical books as candles: what’s the point of having them if you’re afraid to use them? Some people will buy candles that are so pretty that they never burn them. I’ve never really understood that. To me, a candle (like a book) is a functional thing. Pretty? Sure… while you’re using it. Key word = “using.” Neither are meant to live on a shrine.
My dad used to hate it when people broke the spines on his books. He didn’t like that white line that went through the title. But how are you going to read comfortably if you’re only holding your book open at a 90 degree angle? I tried to be careful when I borrowed books from him, but when I bought my own, you better believe the first thing I did was crack that sucker open. I love the sound of a book spine breaking for the first time. Makes me feel like an officer of the Spanish Inquisition.
I love torturing books.
Check out this book weight. I use it almost every single day of my life. If someone found this in my bedside table, unexplained, they would surely think it was… well… something saucy.
And that’s not all. I shamelessly dog-ear corners if I lose my bookmark. I clasp pages open with clothespins at the gym. I splatter soup on pages while using my bookstand. I take off book jackets completely. My cats chew the corners of hardbacks. I tote little paperbacks in my purse. I mark up the margins like I’m still in college. I show my books no mercy, and they love it.
Because honestly, what’s the point of having a book if you’re afraid to use it? To really get in there and – forgive me – abuse it with glee? With the rise of e-readers, physical books have become even more of a treasure to me. I don’t have anything against ebooks; my husband has an iPad and I’ve read a couple of books on there and liked it just fine. But there are things a physical book can give you that a screen just can’t. The main thing being an experience.
No doubt times are a-changin’. And even as a physical book fanatic, I think that’s okay. I, for one, will still teach my kids and grandkids the love of a good, hardcover book, just as my mother taught me. And come to think of it, my Gammy always said an unburned candle is tacky, tacky, tacky. So crack a spine, torture a book, read it, for God’s sake… and really get in there and sniff.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions and stories, book lovers! What’s your favorite book memory? Do you value physical books? Will you always? How do you treat them, and why?Share this: