Wednesday, September 7, 2011

About Book Manners and Used Books

Yesterday i got my first delivery from this online library that i have subscribed to, last week.

 It's funny that more than me it is my husband who is humming away in glory and happiness when books and him are miles apart.
Actually the online library was his find too when we were at the Book Fair last Sunday.
While i was engrossed browsing over books he was checking out this stall 1F of Hall 12A@ Delhi Book Fair 2011.

Two hours later we came home apparently with a tiny paper bag that held some stationary like self sticking Post its and a couple of very reasonably priced simple Indian cooking recipe books in Hindi for my new cook who thank heavens, has shown the interest and inclination to read and learn too apart from live demonstration from me.
As for me i carried a receipt voucher in my purse (courtesy my husband) that promised endless number of books to be delivered right at my doorstep as per my request and my reading speed.
My husband was content with the browsing and although seemed book less was the richest among the three of us.
For he beamed with the satisfaction of a hungry man who has just had his belly full with the choicest of meals.
i was as usual feeling incomplete.
My mind was still stuck on copies that i wanted to possess and was eager to go back again.

i logged on to, prioritized my selection logged off and carried on with my own copy of Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence. Later forgot all about my online library and it's membership.

But yesterday i was impressed. True to what the bright and studious looking girl named Gunjan at the stall had mentioned, i got my first lot of two books in 2 days flat. That is, i had logged on Sunday, submitted my request on priority basis and here it was, a neat yellow parcel,  hand delivered to me on Tuesday.
i carefully opened the parcel not to damage it beyond usage to find fresh neat copies of my two books, another fresh empty yellow folder and a neatly folded note inside.
-the fresh yellow folder to be used when i requested a pick up.
-the note that not only welcomed me with kind words to the online library membership but also gave instructions to handle the book carefully.

i would love to quote the instructions because a lot many of us lack book manners and a quick checklist should do no harm.

* Read with clean hands-oil, grease or haldi marks on pages are very annoying.

* Support the covers when propping books open, they can tear.

* Want to save your page? Don't dog ear the books or lay them flat on a surface. Do not mark, fold,crease or use sticky notes or paper clips; Try some bookmarks instead.

* Read books using your hands or lap to hold or support them.

* Keep drinks, food and tobacco away from all reading materials. No one likes to receive books that are stained or smelly.

* Do not mark, underline or doodle on the book.

* Avoid carrying several books at a time and dropping them; carrying single books helps books' spines tight and their pages without crinkles.

* Shelve and store your books away from pets and small children. They may not know realize the importance of books yet, but we are sure you do.

i still had a few more pages to finish of my Sons and Lovers but was tempted to pick up the newly arrived thriller as Paul's failure to commit to his girls was getting on my nerves.
i reach out for one of my own book marks that i have collected from Landmark , propped the cushions to my comfort and read all that the covers had to say about the book. Felt instantly that it is the kind that should see me and the book as inseparables but then kept my excitement low. i have known through these brief years of my reading that i cannot predict a book by just it's covers and all those words of acclaim.
For i have in my possession some of the Booker Prized books. Attempted but left half way or even before that.

Getting started, i turned the cover and was warmed by the sensible gesture of the INDIAreads team to provide me with their own book mark.
i checked the other book too and just there it was...another correctly sized book mark. So they not only send you neat books but also encourage you to be book mannered.
i was impressed even more and was now feeling thankful, genuinely, towards my husband.

True to what the covers had proclaimed i was hooked to the thriller. Sure was finding it "Gripping, chilling but also moving."
And then it was on page 19 that i stopped.

Kept the book aside and started imagining the hands that held the book before me.
Was it a him or a her?
Must be keen on learning words and their meanings to have marked with ball pen the uncommon words.
Yeah it's a good word, must use it too...would help to make my own sentences impressive.
i continued to read and pause on all the pages that had blue circles and underlines.

Then the thoughts turned tangent and i stopped reading.

So when i return the books will they think that i have done this to their fresh and neat book ?
Must make a list of pages on which the act has been committed and inform the team.
Much to my chagrin when i was actually finding those circles helpful i was troubled with the thought that the act should not be pinned on to me.
i stopped reading and quickly flipped through the pages to see if there were more.
Maybe just as i had abandoned my D.H. Lawrence i guess the reader who had doodled and circled 8 times had abandoned the book too. Strangely after page 110 there was no underlining or circling excepting on page 199 and 201 which was dog eared. The pages were clean. i sensed a sudden but dull ebb in my excitement about the book. Does it start with a bang and get monotonous and boring later?
Perhaps it doesn't and maybe the reader just couldn't finish the book due to other pressing engagements.
Happens to most readers so i need not be so pessimistic.

Maybe the reader who doodled and marked had not dog eared. The dog earing was by another reader who did not doodle or mark.
Wait a minute...the crime was committed in the story of the book then why am i on a psycho analyzing spree???

There were two conflicting emotions here even when i was just reading a book. And a neat reader that i am who covers her books with transparent film as soon as she brings a new book home and always uses a book mark was not a bit annoyed with those circles and underlines as i have mentioned earlier.

Not that i am defending the mark maker or justifying bad book manners.

The reason could be that i grew up on my reading through my Papa's. He is a voracious reader and his books are a delight to me because he not only underlines but does referencing in his neat tiny handwriting along the sides. But of course all this on his own copies. i have found his copies extremely enjoyable and thoroughly rewarding.
Or perhaps i am that kind of a reader who doesn't mind doodled books provided the doodles are like my Papa's.
His books are read with utmost sentimentality in the manner of a daughter who wants to follow her father and grab as much as she can from her Guru.
It is shameful and heaven knows how i could let words slip from my leathery tongue when he was recovering from his illness.
i told him, " Papa in your will please remember to leave some of your books to me..."
For the collector that i am, his books would be like one of those rare and priceless signed and doodled by authors' book.

i am just like that.
... a reader who possesses good reading manners...yet unable to perceive and condemn the fellow invisible readers as bad mannered.

A freshly smelling of print ink new copy delights me but i am also comfortable with dog-eared, pencil/pen marked, colorfully highlighted, musty odored, second hand old copies too.
There is a warm sense of wonder coupled with enigma in a used book. For a while it is a pleasure to imagine the hands that drew those circles over the words or highlighted a phrase. The warmth emanating from the fact that many of us do make use of words and phrases that are not originally ours but have caught our fancy while reading a book.
For instance in this particular book i liked the thought," ...all the gestures we think are our own belong to other people too."
But of course i do not underline or highlight. In order to keep it in my memory i have this habit of scribbling words and phrases that catch my fancy in a note pad.

Then the used book is always springing some surprise. You never know what might jump out of the printed page and look you straight in the eyes. Sometimes you turn away in disdain wondering if the reader was evil and at other times you smile at the humor he or she possessed.

Actually i am unable to reason it out myself. Whether i am a reader less and collector more or vice versa.
Obviously when i am myself not so sure how can i expect my husband to perceive that apart from reading i also like to collect books.
Moreover when i choose my readable s i take care to get a copy which has fonts suitable for my eyesight which i'm afraid no longer holds me in good stead.
Even my father's copy of my favorite Ayan Rand was strenuous.
Thus although i am assured of my endless supply i could not be as sure of the kind of copy i would be comfortable with.
Maybe that's why i was unable to thank my husband enough in the first instance when he paid for the subscription and handed me the membership card.
But now i realize he only meant well. The temporary apartment is small and lacking in space to hold more books so for the time being i feel happy that he made that effort to satisfy my fifty percent need.
The next  fifty person will also come by at the appointed time when space is not a problem i guess.
i have this desire to have a study one day with a whole wall covered with books, a soft and comfy couch by the window and a working table in the center of the room with a couple of chairs. And if all that is not possible then just a wall covered with books will suffice.
i should go back to my thriller now to find out how the clever and principled psychologist Kit Quinn is coping with her honesty and sincerity which has already antagonized her colleague. Let me find out if she is able to stand for her convictions or the system that wants credits for fake case solving buckles her down.Or better still if she is heading towards the wrong direction totally in her assessment that the pervert is not the killer.
Let me find all this out and also get tested on my own vocabulary by that faceless reader who has circled and underlined good words till page number 110.

The song featuring Jose Gonzalez caught my fancy only when i saw the movie 'The Blind Side'. Awesome music with some great cello and good lyrics and since my post was about books would love to share this here on my page. Trust anybody who loves good music with great lyrics to never get tired of listening to it.  The lovely soft and soothing voice...the cello...the humming synchronizing with the cello... ideal setting when you decide to chuck everything and curl up with your book instead.
No! No! the song is not about books but rather performed by the American duo Paul de Jong and Nick Zammuto. Popularly known as THE BOOKS. The Books have received critical acclaim for combining obscure sounds with great acoustics. 

This song by Nick Drake is called 'The Cello Song" and this version by The Books features Jose Gonzalez.

Lyrics: The Cello Song

Strange face, with your eyes
So pale and sincere.
Underneath you know well
You have nothing to fear.
For the dreams that came to you when you're young
Told of a life
Where spring has sprung.

You would seem so frail
In the cold of the night
When the armies of emotion
Go out on to fight.
But while the earth sinks to its grave
You sail to the sky
On the crest of a wave.

So forget this cruel world
Where I belong
I'll just sit and wait
Singing my song.
And if one day you should see me in the crowd
Lend a hand and lift me
To your place in the cloud.

Image courtesy:


  1. what a post!!! and what a song!!! too good!!! thank you very very much for sharing your thots with us :)

  2. Hey Sushmita just when i was thinking about my posts boring my few followers away there you are answering promptly to my sos.
    Can't express enough my joy just to see u here.
    An appreciation from a great blogger like you feels like an award. Thank you so much.

  3. Shivani! I loved the way you wrote it and I am thrilled by your own mystery whether you are more a book reader or a book collector! You cant imagine the joy I had while reading your post.

    I also stand in between when you told your father about your will in his will....on one hand it is a part of his treasure your want to own (indircetly some great memories) and on the other hand it is disheartening to talk about his will to him! I wish him lots of good health and a very long life!

    And finally the song you have put in..I agreee with Sushmita, thanks to share this with us.
    Keep writing! I feel like I am meeting you in person when I read your blog :)
    Love, Shaifali

  4. @Shaifali So nice to see u after a long time. Gr8 to know that you enjoyed the music.
    Loved ur warm and friendly reprimands about my own self centeredness.
    Request you to keep being one...a friend who could pinch me hard each time i act selfish.
    Who day this virtual friendship might become reality. Sure i have hopes and it's not impossible...our meeting.
    Cheers to that :)