The 7 Deadly Sins of Reading

What’s the worst crime you can commit against a book? Have a pet book peeve that really makes you cringe? Think we should start a Prevention of Cruelty to Books organization?

When I asked this question of you on Facebook and Twitter, I got so many creative and twisted responses (some of them confessions) that I’ll be doing a second post in this series next week. Thanks for your delightful/horrifying ideas.

Time for some indictments–and maybe some more confession–as we uncover the 7 Deadly Sins of Reading.


#1: Dog-ear pages instead of using a bookmark
Ever watched someone start to turn a page–then go back, lick their finger, and crush down the corner of the paper? Ever give you the feeling that one of your bones is breaking? 
Be kind to books. Use a bookmark.

#2: Read a series out of order

Picked it up on #2, then skipped to #5, started #7? No wonder you can’t keep track of the main character’s love interests. 
#3: Write in it 

This is one that used to give me the gag reaction before I went to college. Deface a book?! It would be like unleashing a can of spray paint on the National Gallery of Art! Now, thanks to a couple of ink-stained professors, writing in my books is one of my favorite things to do (especially with Shakespeare). I underline my favorite passages and write comments in the margin–it’s like having a conversation with the author that I can add to every time I pick it up.
#4: Skip chapters

Skip the “boring” dialogue? Cut the blah-blah-blah and get on with the story? It would be like skipping the songs in a musical!

#5: Tear pages out (or let your rabid bunny do it)
Isn’t this picture just terrifying? 
#6: Read the ending first

Or, even worse, read it and spoil it for others. You have to go through the story to get to the end, just like the characters do. No peeking!

#7: The worst of them all: don’t read

Joseph Brodsky wrote, “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” Whatever you do to your books, there’s no worse crime than putting them behind glass and letting them collect dust.

Not to say that you shouldn’t admire them, however. Just treat them nicely.

Which “sins” would you add to this list? Which ones have you committed? Check back next week for “5 Gruesome Ways for Books to Die”…

12 thoughts on “The 7 Deadly Sins of Reading

  1. Awesome list! Another crime, which I’ve seen done to some books, is to ‘amend’ them – fix supposed ‘errors’ in the print copy. Kind of a territorial assertion by the reader over the writer, but the people who do it come across to me as wombats.The other one is planting the book face down on the open page, on the floor, to hold it. Then accidentally skidding on it. Oops. Good stuff & I look forward to the next post.Matthew Wrighthttp://mjwrightnz.wordpress.comwww.matthewwright.net

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Matthew! I once made the mistake of planting a book face down in the sun and having the binding glue melt–but I never skidded on it. Sounds exciting!

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  2. I once had a cat who liked to chew on the covers of books, leaving me with loads of books with tiny teeth marks through the lovely glossy covers. But, I don’t mind writing in books. I like to highlight and underline, too. :)Great post, Alina!

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  3. Yes! It used to be that writing in books was like discarding family photographs–sacrilege! BUT please be sure the books you write in are your own :D…Imagine lending a book and receiving it all marked up…unless you ask for comments–which some people might! Would YOU??? Hmmm…more food for thought… Very interesting topic!

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  4. Even having been through four years of college, I still can’t accept writing in books. I’ve tried, because everyone seems to get something out of it, but it just felt so wrong! But I particularly hate it because people get into the habit and then do it in library books – and that’s just wrong! Why can’t people make their notes in a separate notebook?I used to read the end of Nancy Drews first because I could never guess who it was and I wanted to know.You know what else bothers me? Library bookdrops! I wish we could come up with a better way to have books returned, because bookdrops are just the roughest on books! (Well, after patrons, that is…)

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    1. How horrible–writing in library books! I do agree with you about bookdrops–I always put them in spine first and cringe a little as I hear them slide down those cruel metal chutes…Thanks for visiting, Hannah!

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  5. In college, I also learned I needed to write in books if I was going to do well in my English classes. I used pencil though, and always erased everything at the end of the semester–gently! I’ve also been guilty of looking at the end, but it’s not that I was peeking at the end; I was checking to see how many pages there were, and some of the words on the last page would jump out at me…I disagree with #4, skipping chapters, as a sin. If the dialogue or description is boring, then maybe the author should have tried a little harder to keep me interested.Fun post, Alina! =)

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    1. You would really go back and erase every last one of your pencil marks?! Wow, that’s dedication! Hm, maybe #4 is on the author. But sometimes, as in the classics, even the parts that feel boring at the beginning end up being important in the end (case in point: Les Miserables). 21st century attention span?

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