Maria Konnikova

Welcome to my blog. I’ll do my best to update it regularly (or semi-regularly, at the least…) with news, writing updates, and other assorted thoughts. Read, enjoy, and please share your thoughts and comments. If you’re looking for psychology pieces at the New Yorker, you can find them here. If you’re looking for my old blog about literature and psychology, Literally Psyched, you can find it here.

Hour glass illustration

My rules for reading (and borrowing) books

May 9, 2012

I just came across this image and absolutely loved it:


I realize the art of reading a hardcover is likely on its way out, but it makes me happy to see the physical book treated with such care and respect. My books are my babies. Each and every one is there for a reason. When I see someone mistreat or mishandle them, I cringe. I have to resist the urge to snatch the innocent victim from the offending hands. When Matthews writes, “I almost fainted,” I empathize with the sentiment completely. It doesn’t seem at all like exaggeration.

And I must admit, I hate lending books out. Ever. To anyone. I know it sounds selfish, but I can’t bear the thought of someone not treating them nicely. Sometimes, it’s impossible to say no. I hate those times. I wish I could avoid them altogether.

To Matthews’s wonderful guide to handling the book, I’d add the following common-sense-seeming tips, that I’ve seen violated uncommonsensically one time too many:

-Don’t eat or drink next to a book

-Don’t touch a book with dirty or wet hands

-Don’t leave a book out in the sun

-Don’t dog-ear pages. Ever ever ever.

-Don’t put a book down unless you know the surface is clean and dry

-Don’t bend back a biding, no matter how much easier it makes it to read the book; it is never necessary

-Always return books you’ve borrowed from someone else. In a timely fashion. Don’t be that person.

-And most important of all, always handle books with love and care. As Ray Bradbury once said, “Books are people.”

Maybe, that’s just me. But if you ever want to borrow one of my books, you’ve been warned.


Thanks, Malorie, for discovering this lovely image!


  1. I like this…but when you have kids, it all goes out the window! :) There’s also something about a much loved book, which is another reason (besides the price) that I like buying used books.

    • Ha, yes, I can see that. And I am all for the well-loved book. Book are for reading, after all. But there’s a world of difference between one that has been well taken care of and one that has been mistreated.

  2. Dave says:

    Literally looks like a ‘page from history’. I wonder if someone could do a parody of this page swapping the word ‘book’ with ‘notebook’ or ‘tablet computer’ LOL… it could be funny, and apropos. :)

  3. Gilbert Gandenberger says:

    Love this! And to Literary Mom, wait til you have grandkids!

  4. Joe Vega says:

    I feel exactly the same. :)

    Ever since I was young, I’d protect my books like they were babies; cringing anytime I saw someone mistreat one.

  5. Ruairi says:

    I didn’t used to care much for my own books, but now I like book to be treated really nice, well more so if I borrow them from a friend, started to get embarrassed about coffee stains, and bent pages etc.. :-)

  6. Ruairi says:

    I use these book cover to protect my books, well I don’t really mind for my own books, but particularly when I borrow one from a friend, keeps it in good condition, especially travelling… :-)

  7. Saoirse says:

    Hello! I know this is a late time to comment, but thank you for this article. Appreciating and caring for books is sadly going out of style.

    I do have a quick question, though… Recently I borrowed a book from a new friend (emphasis on new) and while walking down the street someone rushed past me and my bag hit the corner of a wall. The binding of the hardcover book I’m borrowing is dented… And I have no idea what to do.

    Do you have any advice? I’ve borrowed two other books from her and all was well, but I feel so terrible because this happened on the DAY she lent me the book, and she’s a Lit major. AKA someone who cherishes books…

    Thanks again!

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