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Book Confessions: How I Mangle Books

Since I’m a librarian, people seem to expect me to spend all my time saving and preserving books. To be fair to those people, I’ve definitely spent some time working out stains and smells and so on, and I also tend to accumulate books more than I should. However, I’ve also spent quite a bit of time taking them apart in various ways for various reasons. It wasn’t always like this; once I got past my childhood urge to draw in books, I treated them reverently for a very long time. Then I realized that the books were there for my use and my enjoyment, and they were there to serve whatever role I wanted them to serve. If it was something old or rare, that would be different, but that’s not generally the case with my personal collection. That said, here are some ways that I mangle books, and you can, too!


A lot of people these days make book art. Some of it can be really impressive, and the internet is full of examples of books that have had pages folded, sanded, sanded down, or otherwise sculpted into some beautiful pieces. I’m nowhere near that level, but I do enjoy dabbling with old recycled books. The picture at the top of this page was a decoration I made for the library using an online tutorial. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I found it, because I would love to credit whoever made it. If anyone finds a link, let me know! Also, post if you’ve ever used part or all of a book in a piece of art. If you haven’t, and you’re stuck at home with nothing to do during the quarantine, this is a great time to start!


Have you ever had a book that you used a lot for reference but it kept shutting on you? Or one that started shedding pages when the binding rebelled against the strain? Well, there’s no need to swim against the tide. One way of handling the problem is to take all the pages out and put them in a binder instead. My mom started me on this when she saved a cookbook this way, but you can transplant any books that interest you this way. (Hole-punching the pages themselves will save you a little money, but you could always slide the pages into transparent sheet protectors with binder holes as long as they fit.)

Selective Saving

Speaking of cutting out pages, I also realized that some of my books were only partly worth saving. I recently moved to a new house and made a concentrated effort to weed my book collection as much as possible. There were hard choices to be made, and some of the time, I just had to compromise with myself and save selections of certain books. Maybe you have a giant reference book but really only care about one chapter. Why waste the rest of that space on your shelf when you can cut out the chapter and dump the rest? I now have folders with book excerpts that take up very little space indeed, and my shelves are much happier for it.

Writing in the Book

To be clear: If you don’t own a book, you shouldn’t dismantle or write in it or mangle it in any way. Lots of library patrons have returned practice test books, self-help books, language-learning books, and more with answers written into all the blank spaces. Please don’t be those people.

However, if you own a book, feel free to do just that. And you don’t have to limit yourself to the places where the author tells you to write stuff. You can underline or highlight relevant passages, edit any egregious errors that bother you, jot notes in the margins, or do whatever you need to do to make your experience with that book the best experience. It might feel bad at first if you’re a long-time bibliophile, but it makes it so much easier to keep track of the information, which is what you really want in a book.

Coming Soon

April is poetry month, so when that rolls around, I’ll be bringing you a list of my Top 10 favorite poems. (I’m currently working on narrowing down the list, but I’m sure I’ll whittle it down eventually.)

This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. Abby

    Ooh, fun! In an effort to push off my homework just a bit longer, I may have to look into some book-art…
    Nice list!

    1. Andrea J. Hargrove

      Since I sat down at my computer to work on some writing and then started checking messages, e-mails, and social media instead, I cannot judge.

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