Banished To Room 101…

This post, stealing from the episode of The Readers it is inspired/regurgitated from, was going to have the tagline/subtitle ‘Where Bad Bookish Bits Are Banished…’ which seemed a bit dramatic but does actually describe the very essence of what today’s post (which I have been meaning to write for about five weeks) is all about. The bookish bits and bobs which really get on our nerves and we would love to see banished into Room 101, which of course comes from that great novel 1984 by Mr George Orwell. A place where your worst, in this case bookish, fears are hidden away.

So I thought what I would do is share my top five most disliked bookish bits and bobs, the ones that if I could I would have banished from books and my booky lifestyle, then maybe you can all share some of yours too. It’s like playing god really which is something I wouldn’t mind once in a while. Anyway, without further ado and waffle here are the things I would send to the depths in reverse order…

5. Indented or Italic Speech – One of the things that makes me inwardly groan when I read a book is when it comes to a character speaking and instead of simply putting the speech in speech marks, which would seem the normal and proper thing to do, someone up above in the publishing house (or even the author) has decided that this is an outdated form and they can do better… with indents or italics. With indents I just get pissed off because it looks really cheap and almost as if no one could be bothered to do a ‘ and thought a – was much more hipster and modern. Don’t even get me started on italics, they offend my eyes even more – quite literally as they make me feel I have gone out of focus.

4. No Chapters/Excessive Paragraphs – Now like the above this isn’t a complete killer, it just frustrates me. Well in the case of no chapters it frustrates me. You see I am one of those annoying people who like to know when the next chapter ends to see how many pages I have left that I can squeeze in a random ten minutes, quick bus journey, trip to the loo (oh come on we all do it) etc. I worry and get a bit stabby otherwise. Worst case scenario I will find a page that ends in a full stop, where I can fully stop. Excessive paragraphs oddly offend me more, and don’t even suggest books with no paragraphs because it makes me feel quite faint. Unless it is stylistic (I did read a book that was one single sentence – the whole thing – and rather enjoyed it) then it just comes across as an author loving the sound of their own voice/prose a little too much.

3. #AmWriting – Speaking of authors this hashtag on Twitter infuriates me, almost to the point of blocking. Now I know that really this isn’t in books, but it is by the people who write them and honestly I just cannot stand it. We know you are writers, we often love that you are, but how about saying ‘I am doing some really interesting research for my new book’ which is quite conversational? Imagine if everyone online hashtagged their jobs #AmFixingBrains #AmUnblockingToilets #AmRobbingYourHouse You aren’t writing, you are tweeting, you are clearly bored or feeling like you need some attention. Just write the book.

Now the top two offenders…


No not Dan Brown…

2. Stickers on Books – Who thought this was a good idea? Ever? You go to a bookshop buy a lovely new book, go home, peel the sticker off and either a) it leaves a sticky residue for any old fluff to get stuck on or the other book you bought when they both go on your TBR together b) tears a bit of the cover of so you are hastening to stick it on the bloody book again c) takes of the lacquer leaving a dull sticker shaped mark. In charity shops with old books it’s even worse, they are apocalypse lasting stickers. They tear, they tug, they leave a mess. Ugh. Oh and some charity shops pop them on the first page – ARE YOU MAD? #AmStoppingStickersOnBooksNow

dogeared pages

1. Cracking Spines/Dog Earing Pages/Writing in Books – I call this book butchery. I can understand if you are at school writing in a book might be plausible, but don’t you have an exercise book? This should go into adulthood. I love keeping notes on books, in fact to write a decent review I need to keep notes. I have book notebooks for this. Dog earing pages just makes me ponder why? After all bookmarks, beautiful items they can be, were invented for a reason. No bookmark? Try a ticket, a piece of tissue, your tie… ANYTHING other than dog earing. Library books seem to get this the worst which offends me more… it’s a public book! Cracking spines? Well why don’t you just stamp on my heart, the book is screaming, how would you like it if someone cracked your spine. These three all link into why I never lend people books, the fact this may happen makes me have night sweats. Yes, I am one of those people whose shelves you look at and ponder if I have actually read them… I have and I am proud they are pretty much perfect.

So those are my top five, for all of my Room 101 rants (and there were a few more) aswell as the lovely Thomas Otto of My Porch’s you can listen to this episode of The Readers. What I would love to know are which bookish things drive you insane, bookish crimes if you will, and why? What would you send to Room 101?


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

46 responses to “Banished To Room 101…

  1. Gayla

    #AmWriting drives me nuts, too. I thought I was the only one! Every time I see it I think of Jon Lovitz as the Master Thespian sitting at a typewriter and snapping, “Writing!”

  2. David

    Number 2 on your list is the one that really annoys me. Curiously the ones bookshops etc put on aren’t so bad, being “easy peel”. The worst offenders are the publishers who put them on themselves – the buggers seem to be adhered with superglue and tell me nothing I actually want to know: “as featured on book at bedtime” – the only people that will sell the book to are those who listened to it on the radio and they a) ought to know what the bloody book is without the reminder, and b) don’t need to read it as they’ve already listened to it. The most annoying sticker I ever met was a publisher’s one on a Tim Binding book: “ONLY £12.99″… yes, it already says that on the front flap, that bit that anyone wanting to find out what the book is about will want to look at. Who the Dickens is that sticker aimed at? People who have a fetish for books priced between £12.98 and £13.00???

  3. Oh, yes, those stickers are super-annoying! As are the broken spines/dog-eared – anything that damages books. I have to admit I do underline sentences at times, though… but only on my own books, not library books of course. And certainly not ones borrowed from friends (yes, you know who you are, my ex-friends!).

  4. rivercityreading

    I just started reading a book with all of the dialogue denoted by em dashes and I instantly thought of the podcast. I feel like my eyes are bleeding, but I’m going to try and finish it.

  5. Annabel (gaskella)

    Stickers yes, but people whom you lend books to in pristine condition and said item when returned is dog-eared and spine cracked even more so.

  6. Julie

    Stickers, definitely!

    May I add to the list dialogue in which the speaker says the other person’s name in every sentence? Real people do not do this, Simon. If they did, Simon, violent crime rates might be much higher (where I live, at least).

    • Oh Julie I know what you mean with that one. I really do Julie. It’s annoying isn’t it Julie? Makes you feel like the author thinks you’re stupid doesn’t it Julie? 😉

  7. kaggsysbookishramblings

    Couldn’t agree more Simon – particularly the stickers. It’s really really stupid – I’ve had so many covers ruined. You’d think people would have more sense by now, wouldn’t you??

  8. On dogearing and spine cracking – funny how my opinion on this offense has changed over the years. I used to hate it. It made the book look ugly. But, now, I like mucking up the book. Like an apartment that looks lived in, rather than magazine pretty, I prefer a book that looks read rather than brand new. Odd how my perspective has done a 180.

    However, I do have a major pet peeve: teeny tiny, itsy bitsy font. If I have to squint, it’s a very unpleasant reading experience.

    • You like mucking up the book… I am almost speechless, almost 😉 Maybe my perspective will change overtime. I do have one really battered copy of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History which I bought because it looked like lots of people loved it… a chink in my armour maybe?

      Tiny font is another one I could have mentioned, I loathe it like I loathe comic sans.

  9. Oh numbers 1 & 2 wholeheartedly for me too. Hate stickers on books too, remove them instantly, and if they leave a mark I am apt to cry. Couple this with a broken spine and I’m a sobbing wreck – my books look like they do when I bought them and I’m proud of that!

    • Snap! I wonder if you are like me on something else Georgina? Even though my books are pretty much pristine… I don’t mind if other peoples bookshelves I nosey through are battered, I oddly quite like it.

  10. #Amwriting drives me nuts, too.

    As for number 1, er… you probably shouldn’t look at my collection then. They’re all bent and battered and folded and utterly, utterly covered on every page with underlinings and notes and scribbles. I like my books to look read, like they’ve been experienced and fought with and wrestled in an attempt to get at what’s really going on inside 🙂 A kinda physical, literal representation of what my brain does to books when I read them, I guess. (and I know that sounds pretentious as all hell, but there you go…).


    • Oddly enough, as I just mentioned in a comment above to Georgina, I don’t mind other peoples bookshelves being bent and battered at all. Isn’t that weird? I just love noseying through them!

  11. Kateg

    HATE the stickers and if they don’t come off I become very mad. Number 1 is interesting as I like my books to be pristine and unread looking. I have bookmarks all over the house which my husband refuses to use so his books are a mess with dogears and broken spines. They are not put back on my shelves. Don’t know if I have commented about my 17 year old avid reader son who has never needed nor used a bookmark. He finds it incomprehensible that someone cannot remember which page they are on and just automatically open the book and start reading again. He does not dogear or break spines, and hates to lend his books. Writing in them makes him crazy so I always have to buy him new copies of school required reading so they are pristine for him!

    • That is fascinating about your son, yet thinking about it my 16 year old sister was staying last week and she doesn’t need a book mark either. She just remembers. It must be a youth thing?

      • annieb

        I’m 70 years old and remember my grammar school librarian ranting about why students couldn’t just remember the page! I am always reading more than one book at a time, so it is bookmarks for me.

      • I am a bookmark boy… I collect them. Unintentionally. I can’t help it.

      • Nope, I can remember the page number and I’m in my mid 50’s (still that’s probably almost young these days).

  12. Love this post – Hands up I’m a dog earing spine-breaker. Sorry! I love seeing a well-read, well-loved book. I also love notes in the margin, for the same reason. My pet hates are prologues and millions of poncey quotes at the front of the book. Just get on with it and stop trying to be clever! Hoping you won’t mind if I link this post in my latest bookish blog round-up at where I blog in my professional life. Will also be following you from @mmearthmother too.

    • Link away Jude! I don’t mind prologues. I don’t understand introductions as they invariably give EVERYTHING away about the book which to me defeats the point. A few quotes don’t bother me too much but pages and pages are uncalled for. It is like it REALLY needs the help.

  13. Dorothy

    My pet peeve would have to be books as coasters. Eeeek! If you have to put a mug of tea/coffee somewhere, don’t put it on a poor unsuspecting book, leaving it with a ring of shame.

    • Oh god yes! That is dreadful. The Beard is always using my books as coasters or ‘rests’ for something. I then get told off for ‘leaving them lying about everywhere’. Tut!

  14. EllenB

    I loathe the Book Police who feel compelled to make corrections to small editing or grammatical errors or innocent typos in library books. They usually do this in pen rather than pencil. More often than not their corrections are incorrect. Please leave the rest of us alone Book Police. You don’t own those library books.

    • I think damage to library books is probably the BIGGEST offence of all. If it is your book do what you will (though it pains me to say that), if it is a library book respect it and leave it nice for the next keen reader.

  15. persephonenich

    Very funny post : ) My pet peeve is repetition within books e.g. the same simile used several times or unusual words being repeated or even constant explanation of the situation. I always think it smacks of laziness by the author and/or editor.

    • Ha glad you enjoyed it. I need to write with more of my sense of humour in the mix I think. Interesting to hear peeves from an author. I do rather dislike repetition in books, it makes you feel like the author doesn’t trust you to use your brain.

  16. Brilliant post – did make me chuckle to myself 🙂
    Agree with 99% of points made – unfortunately I am a spine cracker (only of my own books, not those belonging to others or the library!)
    Ref point 5 – I read Dawn French’s Oh Dear Silvia – never in my life have I seen a book with so much underlining, has to be seen to be believed. Very annoying!

  17. heather

    Oh Simon the italics in books! It’s why i have never been able to read Tim Lott. Oh and for me, if a book starts in an airport I can’t continue with it. I have no idea why but my eyes just glaze over. Great article.

    • Ha your airport phobia in books is interesting. Wonder where that comes from?

      Only books with italic speech I’ve managed are Tom Rob Smiths. They are brilliant so you stop noticing.

  18. Hannah

    Agree with the Oh Dear Silvia comment. Had to give up on that, also The Other Typist that used italics mid-sentence. Presumably you were supposed to read it like “she HAD to buy lunch”.

    Stickers on books are annoying, especially ones that have been on so long that when you try to take it off the cover rips. Personally I’m a very neat reader and my spines generally look untouched but I don’t mind more abused second hand copies; though I don’t understand why people tuck the book behind the back as they read creating a sloping spine!

    Oh and finally I hate that weird (large) size of paperback they make between the hardback and mass paperback release that’s awkward to carry and shelve!

    • Ooh sloping spines, they nasty 😉 though I have to admit some books just seem to do it. Generally the really small but thick paperbacks which are my nemesis. Like old penguins but new, not as pretty and nowhere near tall enough. I’m off again.

      The underlining sounds horrific. I’ve not encountered that in recent memory. Seems like the author is trying to highlight what the reader needs to be ultra aware of. Surely in the best writing that’s all obvious anyway?

      • Carol S

        Oh yes to ticket stubs and newspaper cuttings, I even found a tiny b&w photo once. Best was an annotated concert programme. How I annoy my lovely family with attachment to such. I still wish I’d kept the copy of Time Out some fellow lecture attenders left when they departed half way through the day long event. They’d written margin notes to each other commenting on the crass lecture concluding their lives would be better spent shopping. I agreed with them but determined to give the guy a last chance, asking a question as soon as he paused briefly to draw breath (and check his tape recorder). Heads turned in horror at my interruption, no answer forth came. I did then leave at the next break

  19. Carol S

    I hate smears: food? squashed flies? worse? in library books. There used to be a fashion for certain borrowers to put their mark on a specific page to remind themselves or prove to others that they’d read the book. No, I don’t care whether you’ve passed your eyes over the page, you probably haven’t really read it. Mug/glass rings on book covers are horrible, no no. And no to dog earing and spine cracking and stickers on stickers….
    Well used softened books are lovely, dedications too – though worrying sometimes ie to a beloved. Why then is the book discarded? I like prologues and usually love quotations, have often learnt from them. (eg Anthony Storr on Personality quotes Confucius: ‘The Way Out Is Through The Door’ – didn’t need to read the book then). i’ve learnt from the occasional margin note too, straining my eyes to read when written in pencil.
    Great post

    • You see I love dedications… They make me want to know the story and mystery behind them.

      I don’t like squashed flies, food or (as I discovered recently) cigarette butts in books. I do like finding old tickets, press cuttings and other gubbins in them used as bookmarks though, again that story within the book.

  20. I so totally agree with 3, 2 and 1. What I’m finding especially inexcusable these days as I’m getting a couple of books a month from the public library is that I receive the book in very poor condition. Either it actually feels dirty or the pages are overly bent or there is writing inside or, as in the case of my latest read, there are literally PAGES MISSING from the middle. The obvious request is, of course, for people to take special care of their library books. The second request would be for people to be honest and report to the library when they actually do damage a book. Is that too much to ask?

  21. Carol S

    PS I received an ex-library copy of How to Decorate With Books yesterday. The photographs on which the book depends are all captioned start on the front pages. The book has a sticker in the centre of these pages neatly avoiding all the ISBN and other reference numbers but obscuring 2 crucial picture captions. Don’t librarians care about anything but filing???
    (I’ve carefully peeled it off but it’s left a fine layer of paper behind)

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