Monday, May 6, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Book Embosser

I am particular about my books. Actually, that is a pretty big understatement. I am VERY particular about my books. If you are the kind of person who bends the cover backward, leaves the book open and face-down, or dogears pages for bookmarks I don’t think we can be friends. In fact, I like my books to look like I haven’t actually read them. Every time I drop a book I gasp in horror, frantically searching and fretting over every spine crease or corner scuff. I am on a constant alert for wet surfaces, small children, and careless adultsSuch as my beautiful wife, a chronic destroyer of books..

I loathe lending books to people because I know that they do not value a book’s appearance like I do, but I love sharing books I think other people will love. To solve this conundrum, for certain books (like Ken Grimwood’s Replay), I have my own pristine copy and a lending copy (usually purchased in already poor condition from a used book store). I also cannot stand it when people write notes in books or highlight passages but I love taking notes. Instead of defacing my precious books, I keep paper with me while reading and take notes separately and tuck the notes into the book when I am finished reading.

And yet... I use a book embosser that stamps my name and initials into each book I read. It would seem that an embosser should horrify me. I think it sort of did when I received it many years ago as a birthday present. I know it certainly horrifies book collectors who are always searching for pristine 1st editions. I thought for sure I was going to end up just like them. I wanted a library filled with books in perfect condition. But then I came across this:

I remembered how excited I was as a kid when I got those labels. I think the minute I opened them I ran to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, my favorite book at the time, and stuck the label in there as fast as possible. 15 years later seeing that label brought back a flood of great memories and it made me think about how cool it was when I would check out books from the library as a kid and see the names of other people who had also checked it out in the back. “Wow! Look at the cool older kid who read the same book as me!”.

So despite my obsession with keeping books in perfect condition I decided to emboss them anyways. It comes in handy when I’ve lent a book to a friend and they forget (“Hey isn’t that my book on your shelf over there” “No I don’t think so” “Oh really let’s look... well look at that!) or when I am trying to remember if I ever got around to reading a book or not (I always stamp them when I finish them). But really what it boils down to is I hope that some day, when I’m freshly dead in the ground, and my family has the arduous task of figuring out what to do with my thousands of books, I hope they keep a couple for themselves. And when they open up that book they’ll see ole Grandpa’s name in it and maybe (hopefully!) have some of their own memories kick in.

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