In Defense of Dog Ears.

So perhaps this is a bit of literary heresy. Some will take it as a cautionary tale if they’ve ever considered lending me a book. But I will admit, I dog-ear pages in books and feel no shame.

I didn’t realize this was considered a bad thing. It’s a habit I picked up from my mother, who has rapidly-filling shelves of paperbacks, every one of which has those little floppy ears. Then I found comments and memes hinting at books being sacred little things that should stay forever unsullied by destructive humans. “There are two kind of readers: Those who use bookmarks, and monsters.” A high school friend once was angry at me because I was reading a book I borrowed from her and opened it too much.

Don’t get me wrong. I obviously love books. They’re little, self-contained adventures that sit quietly on my shelf until I’m ready for them. Must those adventures always be clean? When I read a dog-eared book (of which I have many, thanks to my mother constantly needing new reading material and being a much faster reader than I), I don’t see destruction. I see the history of someone else going down the same road. When I see a well-worn book, I see comfort.

Obviously if you’ve got a limited-run, first edition autographed copy of, say, The Hobbit (or insert the title of your choice here) you don’t want that one going through unnecessary wear and tear. But if your library is anything like mine, you have few if any such books. Odds are they’re mostly inexpensive trade paperbacks.

What do you think? Do you require bookmarks when reading or do you mark your territory? Or do you exclusively read ebooks, and this discussion is irrelevant?

4 thoughts on “In Defense of Dog Ears.

  1. O NO! HERESY! –Er, I mean, nice to see you’re not constrained by the popular prejudice against dogears. 😉

    I’ll confess to some of that prejudice, but it’s different with fiction and nonfiction. Fiction books I like to keep as clean as possible — though you’re right, I rather enjoy the well-worn character of a book I’ve reread for years. Nonfiction — ‘working’ books — I feel free to highlight, scribble in the margins, etc.

    I always use a bookmark, but that can add some personalization too. I like to make my own bookmarks by taking favorite pictures and printing them out on photo paper, which yields a nice, glossy strip with a little more substance than plain paper. The personal bookmark is then almost part of the reading experience. (Should I admit that I sometimes choose the bookmark so the picture ‘fits’ the book I’m using it for — or would that be just too OCD? ;))


    1. Wow! There’s some dedication. I’ve never been inclined to make my own bookmarks, then again I’m as bad at keeping those around as I am at keeping pens around.

  2. I’ve always used bookmarks over dog-ears, but by “bookmarks” I mean literally the nearest scrap of paper, sticky note, kleenex, receipt, or napkin. Since the majority of books I read are library books, I feel like this is a better habit for me personally. 😉

    I would agree that today’s “bookworm society” makes too big of a deal about having perfect, shiny, brand-new looking books. I, too, love worn books that seem like they’ve had an adventure-filled life.

    But then today, I went to put away a book that I had recently bought new, only to discovered that the corners had gotten all messed up. I was angry for a minute, and then had to remind myself that books don’t exist to look pretty; they exist to be read. The bent corners won’t detract from the story inside, and they might even add to it.

    1. If this was a trade paperback it’s really not that surprising. Interesting how the popularity of paperbacks exists alongside a mentality that books should be pristine.

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