A Book Cannot Be Murdered

Hi! I haven’t blogged here much lately, but I have been writing over on a shared blog with some other writers. Check out Across the Board for some of my new stuff, mostly focused on writing. I’ll also start gradually re-posting that stuff here whenever I get a chance, like this post.

This tweet made the rounds on Twitter earlier this year:

Many readers and writers were angry with the book murderer:

I have opinions on this debacle, as both a reader and as a writer.

First, as a reader, I can relate. I’ve never cut a book in half, but many of my longer books are worn to hell, mostly because I bought them used in the first place, then they spent a long time bouncing around in backpacks before I was done with them. Here are just a few of the books off my shelf from one of the masters of very long books:

Well-worn is well-loved. It marks the passage of time spent with the books, sometimes over multiple decades, if read more than once. I can still remember finding a private corner of my high school to avoid people and wear out that particular copy of It.

I like signs of book assault from other people, too. I’m reading a used biology book right now, and there are seemingly random words underlined throughout. Like someone before me thought “ah, yes, zygote, good word, gotta get out my pencil and underline that one so I can bring it up at a party later.” It’s a nice little connection with a stranger, because someone else didn’t consider book mutilation a crime.

Tearing books in half is on a whole other level, but I can relate with that too. Especially as an adult, I have limited time for reading, and it can be daunting to see a thick wad of pages past my bookmark. If dividing it into two parts can make it easier to get through, then fine, be a book murderer. Lately, I just gravitate toward shorter books, but maybe next time a long book seems worth it, I’ll consider introducing it to my scissors.

What about as a writer? How would I feel if somebody took a blade to my hard-won collection of ideas, which I so carefully printed onto pages and wrapped in a lovingly designed cover?

Honestly … fine. As long as you’re reading my books, I don’t care how you’re transferring those ideas from my brain to yours.

Treat them like precious artifacts if you want. But also cut them up, highlight your favourite passages, dog-ear your favourite pages, stick them on an e-reader, listen to them as an audiobook, borrow them from a library, lend them, steal them, slice them in half.

Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew.

A book is not the physical pages it’s printed on—it’s the ideas the pages only echo, and the cool thing about ideas is that they can never be murdered.


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