Humor

On Breaking Spines

Our Reading Lives features stories about how books and reading have shaped who we are and how we live. It is open not only to regular Book Riot contributors, but to guest posters from the publishing industry, authors, and….you. If you are interested in telling us about a book that has been influential in your life, please contact us: community (at) bookriot (dot) com.

I have a problem. I think many of you share it. It usually arises after sustained exposure to books and can seriously affect the rational part of your brain. The symptoms can be alarming and upsetting for those untainted by this illness. Its consequences are tragic. Relationships have been known to break down. Physical violence occasionally flares. I need help. So here goes.

My name is Edd McCracken and I hate, no, I hate people who break the spines of books. There, I said it. With italics. That’s how serious is it.

I don’t know when my loathing of spine-breakers started. It might have been festering away for years, unchecked and unprovoked. But I distinctly remember its first eruption.

I had loaned a close friend my copy of The Damned United by David Peace. It is a work of art. And in my warped mind, so was my physical copy. So when my smiling (more like smirking) friend returned it with his sincere thanks and several white cracks along its spine, I felt a berserker-like rage rise within me. Why would you maim this innocent, defenceless book? WHY? We only started speaking again a few years later.

This disease almost cost me my girlfriend. It took every fibre of my twisted soul not to break up with her the day she took a book from my shelf and then RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME bent the book back on itself and started reading. Her face mocked me with its glib innocence. I can still hear the sickening sound as a dirty white fissure ruptured along the once virgin spine. She might as well have grabbed a small kitten and snapped its neck in my face, cackling all the way. (Reader, its okay. We’re now getting married. A library contingency plan is in place.)

It turns out that people are more important than books. Sometimes anthropomorphising goes too far. Breaking a book’s spine does not disable the book. Books have no feelings. Who knew?

I’m getting better. Admittedly my bookshelves are pristine and most of the books appear unread. But my girlfriend is trying to encourage me to open the pages wider when I read, to just let go. Don’t fear the white lines, she says. It’s the sign of a book that’s been enjoyed, she adds. Or pillaged, I think.

I just have to remember over and over again, that people are more important than books. People are more important than books. People are more important than books. People are more important than books. All work and no play makes Edd a dull boy. All work and no play makes Edd a dull boy…

About Edd McCracken

Edd McCracken lives in Scotland, dislikes book spine breakers and loves when small words harmonise to make big ideas. Follow him on Twitter:  @EddMcCracken