It was the summer I was 8 years old. I had checked The Voyage of the Dawn Treader out of the church “library” and was busy happily reading, reaching the midway point in the book. When all of a sudden, the spine of the paperback cracked in half and I was now holding two parts of what used to be my book. But never fear—Grandpa was there. Somehow, he managed to patch it back together as best he could for me. And that was the day he taught me how to properly break in a new book.
Grandma and Grandpa were their church’s librarians, just about as reverend as the pastor in my child’s opinion). They had authority about such things. They had “book know-how”. And ever since, I’ve gently taken each new book I’ve acquired (whether bookstore-new or used book-“new”) and broke them in according to my grandpa’s magic secret.
It’s sad to see poor, beat up books at a garage sale with lined cracks down the paper spine. It’s even more heartrending when a beautiful old classic has a serious gap when you open it up midway, baring the binding threads, with pages ripping away from it. It makes me so mad when people don’t know how to break in a properly! And if you’re someone who “marks their place” by leaving a book open and upside down on the coffeetable… don’t ever expect to borrow a book from me!
I must confess, I have been guilty of spending time at the local bookstore breaking in many new books even before they’re bought, convinced they’d be adopted by people with no idea of how to condition them properly. I thought I was doing them a loving service. Before you give up my blog because you think I’m total obsessive compulsive nut, I must tell you that 1) you’re right, but 2) that was when I was teenager and have learned to control myself by now
But don’t go grabbing the nearest book handy and bending it backwards or in half in order to break it in. How would you like your spine cracked like that? Below I have decided to share with you the generational secret my grandpa taught me that summer’s day many years ago. The secret of how to properly break in a book. This method is painless, free of charge, and will change your life forever. I’m sure it must be a newsflash to some folks, but if we all learn how to lovingly take care of our literary friends, the world will be a better place…
- Gently hold your friend and tell it, “I love you. I promise to take care of you and treat you with respect.”
- Find a flat surface (table) and set the spine down on it. The front cover will be facing left, the back cover will be facing right, and the edge of the pages will be facing up toward you.
- Carefully open both the front and back cover, but keep the pages standing perpendicular to the table. Apply gentle pressure to the covers so that they lay easily parallel to the table. Enjoy the new book smell!
- Next, portion off a small section of beginning pages and a small section of the ending pages and apply gentle pressure so that they lay parallel to the cover. I usually slowly slide my fingers up and down the pages, close to where they join at the spine.
- Do the same thing again, portioning off another small section of pages at the beginning and end of the book. Repeat this bit by bit while you make inroads toward the middle of the book.
- Reaching the middle of the book (at this point it should be wide open), apply gentle pressure down the middle of the book where the pages join together.
- And there you have it. Your book should now be able to be read without creasing, cracking, gapping, or ripping. And your book will thank you for it!