Confession: I Dog-Ear Pages

Posted June 9, 2014 by Tara in Let's Talk Books /// 43 Comments

I have a confession…

I dog-ear pages.


I use dust jackets as bookmarks.

jacket bookmarks

I write in books.

writing in books


I crack spines.

cracked spines

I want books to be loved, not perfect.

flat books

I use my books, and I enjoy it. I put stars in margins and highlight things and spill things and leave books open, facedown all over my house. I buy series in covers that don’t match.

And I know some of you guys do the same things.

I’m always reading posts about how readers and bloggers want their books in pristine condition. The jackets can’t show wear and the spines must stay like-new. The series must match or the whole series shall be repurchased! Which is great. More power to y’all. I don’t know how you do it!

I don’t view my behavior as being disrespectful toward books or unreasonable. And I would never, ever, ever treat a borrowed book in this way (let me repeat: I would never dogear a book that’s not mine). But I view books as things to be used. To be marked with love and the signs of use. I like the evidence that the book has been read. I especially like writing in books because I can have a conversation with myself upon every re-read. E-books are great for this, but it’s even better in physical books because the variety of markings is so great: symbols, handwriting, underlining, highlighting, etc.

The most loved books on my shelf are the ones with the most signs of wear.

Why am I confessing this? There’s no particular reason. I know many readers are proud of their beautiful collections of books, and I just wanted to confess that I, too, am proud of my little collection of imperfectly perfect books.

Are you a fan of pristine books? Marginalia? Dog-eared pages? Share your thoughts!



Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

Tags: , /// 43 Comments

43 responses to “Confession: I Dog-Ear Pages

  1. I get all of my books from the library, so I am more careful with them, though I admit I’m trying to break my dog-ear habit right now (hangs head sheepishly). 🙂

  2. eli

    I think I don’t do gear or use dust jackets as bookmarks because my students do these things to my books. They’ve never been taught how to treat other’s possessions. I do write in them, however. I love rereading and seeing who I was the last time I transacted with a particular text.

    • Tara Anderson

      I did hate it when my students damaged book. Not so much the dogearing, but the ripping pages and losing dust jackets. Or sometimes they’d spill things on them. Made me very sad, which is why I would never do that to someone else’s book!

  3. I just started highlighting in eBooks this year. Before, I never saw a reason to, but a lot of books have been leaving impressions on me lately. Good quotes, or things I want to remember for the review. Or major plot twists. It helps to mark it all up.

    But I haven’t graduated to marking up hard copies yet. It bugs me, too, because I’ll see something I want to remember and I’ll scream ARGHHHH I need a highlighter!! I may use some of those post it arrows for the time being.

    I’ve always dog-eared though I hate it. The spine creases only really occur in the smaller, tightly bound paperbacks, which I can’t read anymore because my eyes are too bad. It has to be the large paperback or hardcovers.

    I also just noticed this year that dust jackets can be used as a bookmark. Though I like those to stay nice and crisp, as opposed to the book itself.

    Strange reading quirks all around!!

    • Tara Anderson

      I guess when we all read tons and tons of books, we do start to develop our own quirks. I started writing in books as an English major back in college, and found that I quite liked having my thoughts in books alongside the text. I think it’s kind of romantic, in a way.

  4. I used to dogear books all the time. And break the spines. I don’t anymore, and I’m not sure why I stopped. But now, with books that I buy or own, I do try to keep them in as pristine as possible. However, I am totally someone who leaves books open face down! 🙂

    • Tara Anderson

      I think I would get too obsessed with the pristine books, so I go to the other extreme and just do whatever I want with them. Instead of letting my perfectionist out to play, all bets are off!

    • Tara Anderson

      Sometimes I take photos of great lines, but that fills up my phone really quickly. I like the idea of writing them down in a notebook…if I could keep up with a notebook!

  5. Guilty of all of the above. I have been reading since I was five years old, and that was eighty-two years ago, so you can imagine, as an avid reader and later English teacher, how many books have passed through my hands that love to turn pages, dog ear them, write on them, spill on them,smell them, and caress them. They are companions to be experienced to the fullest and old friends to be re-read and marked once more.

    • Tara Anderson

      I would like to think that my books will have lots of stories to tell when I’m 87, too! And that I can pass them down to others and they might appreciate that the book is a real, loved object. My grandmother sent me a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales a few years ago, and I love that it has her handwriting in it. Definitely a cherished item.

  6. I don’t dog ear, or crack spines, and I only write in pencil (no highlighter or pen)… but it always makes me smile to grab a well worn, well loved book in the library.

  7. Seriously though! You can tell which books are some of my favorites just by looking at them because of the wear and tear. And as weird as it sounds I love my falling apart books! I have two Shel Silverstein poem books that I got for my fifth birthday. I am not almost 20. The dust jackets have gone missing. The covers are dirty. In one of them the complete middle section is removable. Many poems have been dogeared many times over. These are my all time favorite books every. It just shows that these books have gone through life with me as I’ve grown up. They will always be dear to me no matter the damage.

    • Tara Anderson

      My mom kept all of my books from my childhood, and I will be trilled one day to pull them out of storage and see the love I left behind on them. I probably also have a dirty copy of a Shel Silverstein book. I’m also sure that there are some interesting objects floating around inside the books as bookmarks!

  8. I’m as gentle as possible with my books (the one in my handbag goes inside its own carrier bag!) and only use removable flags to mark passages I love. But my favourite books are still falling apart and I choose books in the library by scanning the shelves for the most worn looking books there.

    • Tara Anderson

      Your use of a carrier bag for your books is sort of awesome! Most of my books look pretty nice from the spines, as they are sitting on my shelves. But the looks can be deceiving! But I’m glad you give that extra loving read to worn library books. Yay for well-loved books!

  9. Me too! So do I! So do I!
    I think of them as my own little velveteen rabbits. Loved enough, they will exist real somewhere (the stories and characters at least).

    • Tara Anderson

      That is such a lovely thought! I will love my books like I do, and I’ll use that Velveteen Rabbit bit if anyone questions my habits! 🙂

  10. I dog ear too. I use bookmarks sometimes but I’m more likely to just fold the page a little. I don’t mind. I’d never do it with a borrowed book either. The time I accidentally ruined a friend’s book(an unfortunate situation where I left a banana peel, um, in my car by the book for a couple months…)I replaced her book and she was fine. With my own, why not not leave clues about how far I read in a night, the spot where I stopped, the line I had to mark with a little star to read again later. I definitely have friends that want their books to be perfect & pristine and that’s okay but I don’t mind breaking the book in, I want to be comfortable reading anyway, not paying attention to how I’m holding the book, how the spine is sturdy. I buy used books all the time too and they’re almost always showing signs of love & wear…inscriptions, highlights, an old shopping list left inside(one time the list was stuff for a spell!).

  11. I have done all of these things. Although I HATE writing in books, I prefer to write on post-its and stick them on the pages, then I can take it out without damaging the page with a rubber. But in regards to having well loved books, most definitely. I have one book that I’ve read so many times that it is falling apart. The cover is peeling off, there are crumbs in the creases between pages, the spine is almost non-existent and the pages are all wavy from reading in the bath. Also, there is rabbit fur in there. I LOVE that book. I am trying to ruin my books less, only because I don’t want to have to repurchase them when they disintegrate. Especially if they’re in a series, one of my biggest bug bears (aside from the phrase bug bear) is having a series that has mismatched covers. Very annoying, but I think that’s just a matter of everything having to be correct.
    Great post!

  12. I leave my books facedown all the time, but I hate dog-earing them!
    Writing in books used to be a nightmare to me, but I’ve started writing in books for English class because it’s more convenient than pulling out 50 pages of notes during a discussion.

    • Tara Anderson

      English class is what got me started in the practice, too. I’d pick up a book I’d annotated in another class and be like, “hey! Here are all the things I thought about this text years ago!” And I found it fascinating! Hold on to those books you’ve been writing in because you’ll want them later in life!

  13. I dogeared them as a kid but I prefer bookmarks now. In fact I have several beautiful bookmarks that I’ve picked up from different places I’ve traveled that I love to use. Since I almost always remove the dust jacket when I’m reading, I can’t use it as a bookmark. 🙂 I also don’t write in my books. I guess it’s the old-school librarian in me. 😀 But I think whatever works — to each his/her own!

    • Tara Anderson

      I would love to be a bookmark person. Bookmarks are so pretty! But I always lose them. Or leave them in books. I will generally put a random object in a book about 50% of the time with paperbacks, rather than dogearing. I’ve used everything from dollar bills to string cheese wrappers as a makeshift bookmark (eww, I know. Can’t believe I just admitted that!). But with hardcovers I almost always just use the dust jacket. I never realized that some people think that damages the jacket!

  14. I have never dog-eared pages. My mother does, but I never have. However, after taking over 60 hours worth of literature courses in undergrad, writing in books and highlighting became a necessity, one that I still do to this day with paperbacks.

    I wholeheartedly agree that these are signs of use, wear, time and most of all love. My most cherished books that I will read and reread (since reading/rereading after I started doing this in college) have been marked up. It is indeed interesting to peruse your old notes and see how much your thoughts or connections have changed over time.

    • Tara Anderson

      I tell my friends I’m just collecting notes and thoughts for my future biographer. I’m leaving a trail about my fascinating life.

      I’m still waiting to be famous, though. No worries — it will happen. Then my damaged books will sell for thousands on ebay!

  15. *GASP* The horror!! You book defiler!

    Haha, I’m just kidding. I really don’t care what you do with your books! I think books that have all of those personal touches can be pretty special. I’m somebody who’s a little bit more careful with my books, but it’s just a personal preference. If it’s a book that I’ve bought brand-new, I tend to be pretty crazy about making sure it stays nice. But that’s just because I feel like, if I’m going to spend that amount of money on a book, I want it to stay in that nice, new condition. Especially if I’m considering reselling it later. But I shop at used bookstores all the time, and the condition of those books (before or after purchase) really doesn’t bother me that much. Sometimes it’s nice that you can see the wear and tear of a properly loved books.

    • Tara Anderson

      I’m generally pretty selective with the books I buy, so I typically don’t sell them. The ones I sell are usually the ones I haven’t read and, thus, haven’t written in or dogeared. I do, however, buy lots of used books — and I feel the opposite way, I care about the condition! I love books with marginalia, but I’ll always pick the nicer book over the more worn book…and sometimes I won’t buy a book that’s too worn. I don’t mind reading a worn book, but I guess I only like to purchase/own books where I’ve done most of the damage. I never thought about that before — seems a little contradictory!

  16. Yeah…I’m guilty of all of the above. I dog ear because I used to misplace all my book marks and I have some really cool bookmarks. So now I just collect them in my desk drawer where they cannot get lost.

    Books should be loved (not mistreated) but loved and appreciated. Highlighting great thoughts and dog earring your favorite page is a way to demonstrate love. However, I’ve never been good at keeping things in pristine condition (my collectible Barbies never stood a chance…out of their box in the first week.)

  17. I dog ear, highlight, write in them. I also use dust jackets as bookmarks and my favorite books have cracked spins. When I open and old favorite I want to be able to go to some of my favorite quotes or sections of the book. While I have a kindle now, I still buy a traditional book,something about holding a paperback in your hand and the smell will never beat a kindle.

  18. I always love underlining and highlighting because when I go back it’s interesting to see what caught my attention or what my mindset was. Also, when sharing with loved ones, it can be fun to have a little peak inside their heads too. My fiance highlighted his favorite book, essentially just putting in a lot of love, so when I came along and read it it was like discovering a whole new part of him!

  19. I’m a library para-professional and I see a LOT of what you’ve mentioned above. What’s actually more common than the book jacket as bookmark being used is receipts, empty envelopes, etc. being used. Sometimes a plane ticket (those are fun!). I confess, despite all the free bookmarks we have, I do dog ear now and again. I try not to. Honest.

    I’ll highlight more in my Kindle but the cracked spines are unavoidable with some of those paperbacks. It comes with the territory I think.

  20. Lovely article!
    I have the same behaviour than you toward books. My teachers in university told me to crack spines and write in books, and ever since I’m not ashamed to keep doing that even though I don’t study the books I read anymore!

  21. I recently bought a book instead of borrowing it at the library or downloading it on my e-reader and guess what? I took it into the tub with me, I folded over pages and cracked the spine. So fun to know I could enjoy it the way I wanted to!

    • I definitely used to take books in the bathtub with me in elementary school. Drove my mom nuts, I think. I dropped one in completely (oops) and always ended up sprinkling water all over them during the bath. Now, as an adult, I like to think I’d be little less clumsy with the book in the bath!

  22. I used to be extremely careful with my books, and I still am quite careful, but honestly, I hate that about myself! Sometimes I see something really cool (or really crappy) I want to comment on in a book, but I can’t put myself to writing in the margins, or highlighting something, because I’m afraid I’ll regret that later… It’s really annoying, actually. I’ve gotten a little less neurotic about cracked spines, so that’s good. Although you’ll never find me deliberately and actively cracking a spine. Except when I need to get my frustration out about a book I really hate, lol. I still don’t like dog ears, but that’s just turned into a pet peeve for me. And I really enjoy pretty bookmarks, haha.

  23. I use dust jackets as bookmarks too!! I thought that was kind of the point of them… and I always, ALWAYS crack the spine. I don’t dog-ear though and I definitely can’t ever write in books unless they’re text books, I recently bought a Wreck This Journal that I’m going to feature on my blog to try and break my bookish OCD ways.

  24. This post is a breath of fresh air. I’m so happy to hear that another book blogger shows their love for books the same way I do– I’m a fan of writing and highlighting and dog earring and cracked spines too!

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