Unlike some bookaholics, I have no problems with coming across dog-eared pages and random spurts of marginalia. Though there is something that agitates me no end when it comes to taking out books from the library: soiled texts. I can’t STAND them! I never had myself down for a hygiene freak, but when faced with a book that has mysterious yellow puddle-marks here and there on its pages, my hair stands on end and my reading pleasure is totally ruined. My imagination goes haywire because I don’t know where the book has been and how the marks got there in the first place. For all I know, the previous owner might have been perusing it while sitting on the toilet! Come on, wouldn’t it make you wonder, just a little bit?
Also, I have a thing with front covers. I don’t like it if they are messy, peeling, stained, torn, smell funny or are falling apart (which is why I avoid hardbacks altogether!). Luckily, the books in our local library are all covered in plastic wallets, so the books I take out get a thorough disinfection with the Dettol spray. You can call me insane, but the way I see it, the library should thank me for cleaning their wares! I mean, I’m a self-confessed bibliophile, and some of the texts in the library are in desperate need of some TLC. There’s nothing wrong with showing the tomes some respect, right?
Apart from excessively tiny print (something my eyes can’t tolerate that much anymore), typos and extensive footnotes that are always at the BACK of the book and not on the actual page, there is probably little else that irritates me.
Having read this back to myself I think I sound like someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder! What are your pet peeves? They can’t be weirder than mine that’s for sure!
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Cara Lopez Lee said:
No, Zee, you don’t sound OCD. Those all sound reasonable to me, though they don’t set my teeth on edge. It does seem a bit creepy to touch pages that might be stained by food that fell from someone’s mouth or to think that maybe someone wiped their nose and smeared the liquid on the page. Or maybe they were in a garden and a bug crawled across the page and they tried to brush it off but instead accidentally killed it, and those are bug guts. Hmmm, I’m probably not helping…
Here are 3 things that bug me in the actual writing of a book. I recognize that in many ways this is just personal taste, and some amazing authors whom I otherwise love do these things, but they’re still pet peeves:
1) I don’t care for it when writers quote lengthy sentences or entire paragraphs in a foreign language and don’t translate. I don’t mind a few words here and there for flavor, but at some point I find it irritating. If I don’t know the language, now I must interrupt the flow of the book and look up a translation, or give up knowing what’s going on. I found the French in Lolita frustrating, though it’s still one of my favorite books. I do think the excessive French was reflective of Humbert Humbert’s erudite condescension, and therefore made sense. Still, I didn’t want to stop the flow and translate, so I probably missed something.
2) Excessive quoting of other authors, except as epigraphs. I especially get irritated if a story ends on a quote from another writer or poet. I realize that sometimes it’s an homage or sometimes it perfectly captures what the author wants to express. But more often I think, “You’re the author, I’ve trusted you to tell me the story, so I want to hear YOU tell it, in your own words.”
3) Leaving a character in total limbo by the end of a book. I don’t like stories that end by letting the reader decide what’s going to happen next. I don’t mind if there’s some ambiguity about where a character’s life is headed, but I don’t want the writer to give a character a major choice – will he pick the lover or the wife, will he fall of the cliff or live, or where the heck did that one character even go??? – and then just leave them hanging. Endings are hard, I know, but to such authors I say, “Please, don’t make me end the story. It’s your book, so that’s your job.”
You made some very valid points Cara. I like point 3. I’ve come across writers that don’t seem to have the guts to make decisions. Endings are the hardest thing to do; esp. after a series like Harry Potter. JK Rowling almost messed everything up at the end of her final book. It was very weak ending that just screamed ‘I can’t be bothered anymore. I just want it to end!’
On the other had, Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Crying of Lot 49’ ends on a cliffhanger so cruel and sudden that it amost took my breath away. I’ve heard people complaining about how it was a terrible ending, but I totally disagree. It was a calculated move on his behalf that brought the ambiguity of the text to a crescendo.
So yes, sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.
Cara Lopez Lee said:
You read such interesting books, Zee. Now “The Crying of Lot 49” is on my list. Talking to you is dangerous: the stack could become precarious.
ROTFL 😀 I totally agree–you never know where library books have been & that’s why I’m more inclined to buy books. I never thought about disinfecting library books, though….hmmm….! As for toilet-bound reading, I’m afraid I have to plead guilty.
I especially hate it in the winter season when everyone more or less has a cold. Being a reader I only know TOO well that I like nothing more than to curl up with my favourite book when I’m ill. Disinfecting is just my way of trying to prevent germs from spreading to me.
Insidiously selling religion to kids. Like C.S. Lewis.
If you want to be God’s spokeperson, be transparent, don’t hide it.
Lol. I really like your perspective on these questions Jean-phillipe. You would really enjoy Richard Dawkin’s books. He has a lot to say about religion.
I can’t say religion in books bother me. CS Lewis does use some heavy religious stuff. But he just chose to do it the way it’s always been done; sandwiched between mythology.
If you sell it, don’t hide it.
Yeah, Dawkins is on my list…
I hate tiny print, it slows my reading if I have to squint at the page, I read a lot of 2nd hand books , so unless they are overtly bad (hygiene, condition etc.) I’m quite easy.
My favourite place is the second-hand bookstore in town. At the moment I’m having small-print problems with ‘Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’. Bookaholics pay for their addiction with their eyesight, unfortunately mine’s just getting worse!
debnance at readerbuzz said:
I don’t know why, but books like you describe do not bother me. I see these as books that have been greatly loved.
I have a friend who thinks excatly like you Debnance. She regularly loans out her books and hopes they go on fabulous adventures so other people get to know all about them. In a way you are right. A forgotten book is a terrible thing. Books are meant to be read, that’s how stories go on living.
I so enjoyed this post–I think it’s the first among the hop responses that I’ve read that pertains to the books themselves and not the writing within them. Brava!
Glad you enjoyed it Emily. You’re right, I’ve gone around and had a look at some responses and I think I’m one of the rare few who has this ‘tactile’ thing going on.
You’re not alone! This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George takes the book into the men’s room and then tries to return it.
Beat up and soiled books never used to bother me, but I admit I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to buying used books for my kids. What is that sticky green spot anyway? Some things you just don’t want to know.
lol. I agree. Brand-new books for kids all the way. I only began to notice this side of me this year when I challenged myself to read ONLY from the library. I just wanted to save a bit of money, but now I can’t stop it. Buying books seem sort of extravagant to me nowadays. Free stuff rule!
Haha. My mother recently loaned me a book with a badly torn front cover. I found myself neatly taping it. Then I found myself neatly taping the corners so that they wouldn’t get any more frayed. Then I found myself essentially laminating the entire cover of this book for no real reason. It looked so much nicer afterwards! My point being, you’re not the only person who has compulsive book-mainteance tendencies.
I’m so relieved! I haven’t done any sellotaping yet, but y hardback books are all falling apart while my paperback ones still look brand new. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be the other way round right?
I’ve spent a day trying to think of an answer to your question, and I come up with nothing. Don’t mistake that for flexible or open-minded. It’s got more to do with desperate for information.
Being a writer yourself, you tend to look at the text in a different light. That’s what I’ve begun to do as well. Reading has gone beyond just finding books that I like. I’m looking at what works and what doesn’t from a writer’s POV.
Reading a good book that DOESN’T irritate you is a swell thing. But sometimes for those aiming to become writers one day, a bad book can be just as educational. A great response Jacqui.