I’m a self-professed book worm, but I stand apart from a majority of bibliophiles in one respect – dog-earring pages. I’ve heard countless people revile the dog-earrer, the person who, by turning down the corner of a page, marks the whole beautiful book, renders its pristine perfection obsolete. I, for one, would like to make an argument to the contrary.
I ear-mark pages like no one else I know. I don’t like to mar my books with notes in the margins unless they’re for strictly academic purposes. Instead most of the thoughts that a particular volume generates in my mind are likely to find life on a blog post, within the pages of a notebook, or in a Word document filed away on my computer. But while it is highly unlikely that you’ll find me notating the margins of library books, I love to revisit passages that were particularly well-put, enlightening, or poignant. A well-phrased sentence is to one of the highest forms of art and I have a profound appreciation for this type of accomplishment. So I dog-ear the pages containing noteworthy passages in order to allow myself the opportunity to revisit these words again and again.
I have plenty of books on my bookshelf that are particularly thick at the corners from folding and prodding – and I like them that way. A well-worn book is as comforting to me as a warm fire around the holidays. I find great beauty in the ways a book can wear its love, especially when that expression of love was demonstrated by a reader other than myself. And this is why I love dog-earred library books. I love to imagine who was the previous reader and what made them fold down the corner of a particular page with such care. Were they, like me, the type of reader to fold important passages in lieu of annotating a volume that did not belong to them? Or did they simply use the ear-mark as a sort of bookmark, a method of picking up exactly where they left off? And if so, why this particular point – were they growing bored with the story or was it simply time to make dinner, answer a phone call, or doze off for the night?
To some, these ponderings probably sound like a waste of time, if not entirely antiquated in a day and age when libraries are increasingly unpopular and more words than ever are printed on screens rather than tangible pages. But I hope that at least a small few of you out there will understand what I mean. Maybe you hate dog-earrers (sorry!) but maybe you can appreciate a well-loved book, the musty smell of old volumes and the struggle of deciphering a stranger’s long-ago notes in the margin. Maybe you have a love of words and find strength, joy, and clarity in revisiting them again and again, as do I. If nothing else, I hope that those anti-dog-earrers out there can recognize my behavior as a sign of love and affection, of being engaged and provoked by a book, rather than one done in ignorance and lending itself only to imperfection.