Old timely charms: why used books should be displayed proudly

Immaculate book spines lining up perfectly on a bookshelf will give any book lover the feeling of immense joy. Nothing is better than seeing a well-organised bookshelf, whether it is arranged daringly in a bright rainbow, by height, paperback separated from the hardbacks, or placed wherever they can fit (because we’ve all been there). Thousands of people are using various social media platforms to share their love of books where pictures of bookshelves, commonly referred to as #shelfies, are regularly shared. Seeing thousands of beautiful new novels will give any bookworm serious envy, but one thing in particular is never seen: having tatty books on display. The impracticality of worn books is intimidating to some because you don’t know how long you have left before it waves its white flag in defeat. Nonetheless, I think we should give all books a chance.

Within the book community, there seems to be an unwritten rule that you must not crease a book spine, and God forbid you’d even consider dog-earing your pages! The act makes the novel unattractive and un-post worthy, but there is something about a well-loved book that makes the whole experience extraordinary. When you have a favourite book you’ll definitely treat it like a piece of trash; it might be thrown across the room a few times with frustration, but when you are in the moment that is the least of your worries. In a fast-paced scene, you’ll turn the page with tremendous speed. A few pages may be sacrificed to the bookish gods in the process, but you must know what happens next. When you are in the middle of a good story, the condition is not a priority, so why is the appearance highly celebrated and sought after? We live in a society where the weird and wonderful are celebrated, we are told to embrace our individual characteristics, and it’s a time where old trends are making a come back as retro, however, we still can’t accept a slightly damaged book on the pretence that it is ugly and indifferent.

Personally, I love a secondhand book, even more than a brand new one because of the additional character. I love trying to work out the story behind its condition. How did it get the mark on the cover?  Who resonated with a particular quote so much that they needed to highlight and annotate it? What was the appeal to the previous owner, and what made them give it up for someone else to enjoy?

The unwritten story is much more appealing than whatever the author is telling, purely because you are the only person in the world that has access to this rare treasure. The only edition from hundreds of thousands that has the extra commentary on events.

There is nothing like visiting a second-hand bookstore and running your hand along the decrepit spines with care, soaking in rich history in the form of literature. There are leather bound novels that are in great condition for something that is 50 years old, purely because they were made to last, made to be handed down as an heirloom through the generations. There will be hardback books in staggering heights and thicknesses, some small enough to be lost within the vast deconstructed forest, whereas others would be substantial enough for Colonel Mustard to use as a murder weapon. Not to mention the diverse paperback section were pages may be missing, covers might be bent and contorted beyond salvage, and the spines are likely to be peeling from frequent use. Although the books are a subdued version of their younger selves, with vivid covers of every colour now muted to soft and comforting pastels, they still have an appeal that newer books don’t have.

The rigid harshness of modern novels is virtually impossible to keep fresh and pristine, purely because they aren’t made to last, however, if you buy a second-hand book the worry and pressure are lifted off your shoulders. You are allowed to dog-ear the pages and fold it in half while reading without shame. You can read it in the bath because accidental water splashes won’t matter, it will be another addition to the collection. Taking home a brand new old book can create a sense of peace with a mixture of anticipation and excitement that just can’t be replicated with ones fresh off the press.

We all love the moments when we sit down after a long day and crack open an old book, and that typical musky smell lifts after being trapped between the front and back covers. Soon you are completely engulfed by the smell, and with every turn of the yellowed and brittle pages, you are transported deeper into a fantastical world full of new adventures. Something about holding a delicate book in your hands adds a sense of comfort because knowing that this novel has been enjoyed by another, no matter if it was your dear old granny or a complete stranger, creates a connection with someone that no one else will understand. Your laughter will echo those who read it before, the tears you shed will drop down on the same water stained page, and your anger will rage like the storm that wreaked havoc before.

Every mark and tear may seem like a flaw to some, but to others, it’s a necessity. We shouldn’t be ashamed of the ugly books because they show character, they show a journey, but most of all they indicate that someone has read and enjoyed the story. So take the rejects out of hiding, and put them on display proudly, because you don’t need to feel like a bad person; they are damaged because you care too much. Go snap and share a shelfie full of shabby books without embarrassment, because your favourite books deserve all your love, even if they are a little worse for wear.

I thought I’d try something new, so what do you guys think of this type of post? Let me know down below and I’ll see you next time!


5 Replies to “Old timely charms: why used books should be displayed proudly”

  1. I love this. I think older, second-hand books are great for basically everything you’ve said. I have a stack of books from my great-grandma that I keep on top on my bookshelf. I also have a lot of books that are all worn and a little stained because I’ve owned them for 10+ years.


  2. This is wonderful! I do agree that second-hand books are beautiful in their own right with their seemingly rich quality 🙂

    I have a number of second hand books, but not much (since we rarely have such sales here, for some reason). There are, a few books that I damaged accidentally, such as when a downpour occurred out of nowhere when I was reading, and when my friend spilled a glass of water over the other 😦 . Oh, and the cracked spines from my reading! 😀

    Nevertheless, I try to find art in them to make me feel better, but eventually, I started to really admire their ‘flaws’. After reading this, I am really glad that I am not the only one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you agree! Since I’ve wrote this post I’ve definitely been to more secondhand bookstores (although mine don’t have sales either so I totally understand how you feel!), and it feels so much more special than buying a brand new one off a shelf

      Liked by 1 person

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