The Best, Most Battered Books from #ReadtoShreds

Sure, you love books, but have you loved them half to death?

There’s something about seeing a book that’s been well-worn. The annotations, dog-eared pages, and cracked spines tell a story entirely separate from the one between those creased covers. A book has a life of its own, and with any life comes the effects of age. It’s easy to get precious or self-congratulatory about one’s investment in literature, but books that have been handled, hauled around, creased, marked up, and carefully taped back together remind us that reading is also an act of love.

Back in early September, we fired up the hashtag #ReadtoShreds to seek out the most loved-to-bits books on the internet, and the result made us want to dig through our bookshelves to find more, more, more. (Well, not my bookshelves. I’m disqualified from this hashtag because I laminate all my paperbacks.) Take a look at some of the highlights, and be sure to share some of your own with us on Twitter and Instagram. And if you already have, who’s to say you can share just one?

It started with Benjamin Samuel’s bruised and battered high school copy of The Catcher in the Rye, which probably looks a lot like all of our high school copies of the book.

Our editor-in-chief, Jess Zimmerman, set the tone with these Hitchhiker’s Guide paperbacks. All the trademarks are there: missing covers, yellowed pages, a brittle spine on the verge of giving up.

A book passed down from generation to generation? This is the very definition of a book with a history and story of its own.

This copy of Red Peony is either awe-inspiring or as horrific as a crime scene photo, depending on who you are.

I had this exact edition of Anna Karenina but my copy remained pristine (because I never read the book until years, and at least one new edition, later).

Ryan Ellis’s stack of books reminds me of those quiet, used bookstores you stumble into on a whim with stacks of books from floor to ceiling, all of them so weathered they’re unreadable and you’re pretty sure its where books go to die.

Morgan Parker’s copy of Invisible Man is stripped bare, its pages as naked as it was when the book-block was first printed.

I still haven’t read Dune but this picture from Matt E. Lewis makes me want to see what it’s all about.

When is a book officially retired from circulation? Is it when the spine no longer holds the pages and, like Alanna Cotch here, a reader has to use tape, rubber bands, and more to keep it whole?

Heather Scott Partington with a life hack: If a book’s length and size is too intimidating, cut it into more readable, less overwhelming pieces.

Oh you better believe these books have seen some things.

Jenna Jimmereeno wrote another Franny and Zooey’s worth of annotations in her copy of Franny and Zooey.

Contributing editor Kelly Luce’s copy of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities has traveled and been taken along to perhaps as many cities, places as varied as those found in this experimental classic. This is what a book looks like when it is with you for life.

I call this one — from author, Ryan Britt — the end of an era. A book truly devoured, read through so completely it no longer is a book.

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