What does your favourite book look like?

This is a subject which a friend and I have been debating for as long as I have known him. I am not referring to the look in terms of the artwork on the cover; what I mean is, what sort of state is your favourite book in?

For well over ten years, The Picture of Dorian Gray has been a favourite of mine (as of yet, I have been unable to ever truly decide upon one definitive favourite book). As can be seen in the picture I own two editions; one is just about clinging on to life with the aid of a roll of sticky tape (with a spine that is now more crooked than Dorian Gray’s morals), the other has only been read once. Having multiple of the same book is not an unusual thing for me; I have two copies of Machiavelli’s The Prince, two copies of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil and four copies of Pride and Prejudice, and several other too  numerous to list.

Many of the books for which I have multiple copies can be neatly separated into three categories; old and in need of binning, new pretty hardbacks and sentimental gifts. Yet for some reason, when I go to re-read Dorian Gray, I will always go immediately to the older edition. This is not even because of a sense of vanity in not wanting the newer one to worsen in appearance, it just does not feel the same. The older copy has accompanied me to four countries, journeyed with me on more trains than I could begin to count and survived three home changes. This edition will also be the one that I use for my dissertation which I will begin drafting in a few weeks. I have a strong sense of attachment to the older book, not just because I love the story so much, but because it has been with me for so long.

The newer edition looks lovely on my bookshelf, and I will freely admit to being a book lover who takes pride in the appearance of her collection. Yet all of the books which I love the most are now barely in a fit state to be read. Perhaps the edition does not matter greatly; in a logical sense anyway, the paradoxes of Lord Henry will jump off the page just as vividly in either book- they are the same words spoken by the same character. Despite this I know that whenever I re-read my favourite stories, they will be the ones with my own thoughts scrawled in the margin, coffee stained pages and half attached covers.

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