12 Tips From a Rare Books Expert to Keep Your Books Looking Great

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iStock

If you’re like me, you see books the way others see their closest friends and family. You return home and feel welcomed by the shelves, surrounded by the people who understand you. And, just like people, these companions need a little care and attention if you want them to remain with you. Luckily, books are easier than humans—only a few basic rules will keep them happy. Here are a few principles I’ve learned in my work as a rare book dealer at Honey & Wax Booksellers.

1. USE A BOOKMARK—BUT DON’T LEAVE IT IN THERE FOREVER.

I know this seems obvious, but we’ve all been interrupted mid-chapter. Who hasn’t been guilty of splaying a book text down onto a table? A little planning will save your book from dog-earing and any other little injustices you put that binding through.

However, if you leave a bookmark in a book for years—that plan to read all of War and Peace last summer just didn’t pan out—it’s easy for bookmarks themselves to put undue pressure on the binding or leave unwanted traces, like outlines.

2. KEEP NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS AND HOUSEHOLD TAPE AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS.

A man dispensing Scotch tape
iStock

Speaking of unwanted traces, newspaper typically has a very high acid content, which can eat away at neighboring paper over time and leave an ugly burnt-orange shadow in its place. As a bookseller I’ve seen many relevant newspaper clippings tucked into secondhand books, and I always cringe when I look under the clippings to find that tell-tale shadow.

Household adhesives, like Scotch tape or Post-it notes, similarly shouldn’t be used in books. A well-intentioned repair of a ripped page with Scotch tape is one of the worst things you can do to a book; better to leave it ripped. Seriously. In a few years every part of the paper touching that tape will be orange.

3. TAKE OFF THE DUST JACKET WHEN READING. (BUT DON’T YOU DARE THROW IT AWAY.)

The dust jacket is your book’s first defense against the little bumps and nicks it will face in its lifetime. It’s also your book’s beautiful face: There’s no need to subject it to further aging. But keep the jacket in a safe place while reading. If you have any hope of keeping your book looking shiny and new, that jacket is important.

4. AVOID WRITING IN YOUR BOOKS.

Don’t even think about writing your name on the first page; modern ownership inscriptions are considered unsightly flaws in the current collectible market. But if you cannot resist the compulsion, use pencil. Even better: Keep a modern commonplace book, a notebook (digital or print, I won’t judge) where you record quotes and thoughts from the books you’re reading.

5. YOU REALLY ARE ALLOWED TO READ THEM. JUST BE NICE ABOUT IT.

Older woman reading book on couch
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You don’t need to open the book so wide that it breaks the spine. You can feel when you’re putting unnecessary pressure on the book, so just stop. Don’t be a jerk.

6. DON’T PULL THE TOP OF THE BOOK’S SPINE.

It’s so handy, that extra bit of material on the head of the book’s spine. Perfect for curling under the tip of your finger and pulling the book down from the shelf. Stop right there! That little section of the book is one of the weakest parts. The more you fiddle with it, the more likely you are to damage the book. Just reach a bit further back and pull the book down by the edges of the text block, or grab the book by its sides.

7. DUST YOUR BOOKS.

This is a small task that will save your books from all sorts of grime. Start the duster at the spine and sweep away from it, toward the edge of the text block where you open the book. It’s a small hassle to keep your books looking fresh.

8. KEEP BOOKS OUT OF DIRECT SUNLIGHT.

Books arranged on white shelves in a library
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Just like a sunburn, too much exposure to UV rays will change the color of your books. Some colors are notoriously fugitive, like the red band on the dust jacket of the first edition of The Sound and the Fury—but an unfaded red band on that jacket can make a difference of $10,000 in the rare book world.

9. PICK A ROOM TEMPERATURE AND STICK WITH IT.

No attics! No garages! No cars! Books ideally like their surroundings a little bit cool, but the most important aspect of temperature is consistency. Any room that experiences wide variations in temperature is going to wreak havoc on your books.

10. GIVE BOOKS BREATHING ROOM.

A woman pulling a book off a shelf at a library
iStock

If you pack too many books on a shelf, the pressure will squeeze the bindings and hurt the integrity of their structure. Be generous with the space you give them; is it really so bad to have to purchase another bookshelf?

11. STACK BIG BOOKS ON THEIR SIDES.

Vertical stacking is fine for smaller books, but for larger volumes, the weight of all that paper will pull on the hinges over time. Don’t stack too many on top of each other, though: then you’re back to the problem of pressure on the bindings.

12. A WORD ABOUT MOLD …

According to Michael Frazier, Conservator at University of Nevada, Las Vegas’s Special Collections, mold is “a tricky and dangerous business.” In other words, any time the word “MOLD” appears in a sentence with “books,” it should be read in ALL CAPS. If you see MOLD on a book, isolate that sucker ASAP. If you can bear it, you may just need to dispose of the book entirely. If not, throw it in the freezer (seriously) and talk to a specialist. In the meantime, address the source of the outbreak (perhaps a leaky pipe?).

Take care of your books, and they’ll take care of you. Who knows? Maybe you have a few first editions that may eventually be worth something if you’ve kept them looking like new. And if you want to read more on the details of storage and handling from the pros, preservationists have created detailed websites on the subject, which you can peruse to your heart's content.

The 10 Best Movies of 2018, According to Rotten Tomatoes

The Weinstein Company
The Weinstein Company

We're a few weeks into the new year, but it's not too late to catch up on the best movies of 2018. If you're looking for a place to start, why not check out the top 10 films most widely loved by critics last year, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

The list, reported by Cinema Blend, includes a mix of family flicks, action-packed blockbusters, and art house films. Marvel's Black Panther—which was a hit with both critics and moviegoers, and just became the first superhero movie to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture—tops the list as Rotten Tomatoes's best-reviewed movie of 2018 with a wide release. It's accompanied by two other superheroes movies: Incredibles 2 and Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (both of which earned Oscar nominations for Best Animated Film).

Last year proved that critics aren't prejudiced against sequels if they're well made, with Paddington 2 and Mission: Impossible - Fallout making the list along with the second Incredibles film. This list is limited to movies that had a wide release in 2018 (600 theaters or more), so some awards darlings like Netflix's Roma didn't make the cut. But there were a few indie hits that received wider showings and earned critical acclaim, including Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade and the Mister Rogers documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor?.

After checking out the full list below, you can start getting excited about the highly-anticipated films coming out in 2019.

1. Black Panther
2. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
3. BlacKkKlansman
4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
5. A Star is Born
6. A Quiet Place
7. Paddington 2
8. Incredibles 2
9. Eighth Grade
10. Won't You Be My Neighbor

[h/t Cinema Blend]

11 Fascinating Facts About Sam Elliott

Christopher Polk, Getty Images For Critics' Choice Television Awards
Christopher Polk, Getty Images For Critics' Choice Television Awards

Hirsute. Rugged. Laconic. For more than four decades, actor Sam Elliott has practically trademarked the persona of a latter-day cowboy. When Patrick Swayze needed a mentor for his philosopher-bouncer in 1989’s Road House, producers called Elliott. When the Coen Brothers needed a wise baritone narrator for 1998’s The Big Lebowski, they cast Elliott. When Bradley Cooper needed a foil for his remake of A Star is Born, he wisely got Elliott, who just earned his first-ever Oscar nomination (for Best Supporting Actor) for the role.

Check out some facts we’ve wrangled up about the performer’s life, his time on the casting couch, and one strange coincidence involving Smokey Bear.

1. His dad didn't want him to become an actor.

Sam Elliott and Bradley Cooper in 'A Star Is Born' (2018)
WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES INC.

Born in Sacramento in 1944, a 13-year-old Sam Elliott moved with his family to Oregon, where both he and his father pursued their love of the outdoors. (His dad worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in charge of “predatory and rodent control.”) While they bonded over nature, their relationship grew divisive when Elliott told his father he wanted to become an actor. They were never able to resolve the matter before his father died of a heart attack when Elliott was just 18. “He died thinking, 'Man, this kid is going to go down the wrong path,” Elliott said. "And I think on some levels that was either hard on me or made me more focused in my resolve to have a career.”

2. He played Evel Knievel in an unsold TV pilot.

After moving to Hollywood in the late 1960s, Elliott scored a small role in a big film: 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. (He’s glimpsed only fleetingly during a card game.) In 1974, he had the opportunity to be the featured star, portraying daredevil legend Evel Knievel in a CBS television pilot. The series never went into production but wound up airing as a one-off special that March. Elliott went on to guest star in several series, including Hawaii Five-0 and Gunsmoke, before landing a lead role in a feature, 1976’s Lifeguard.

3. He got himself in some hot water with a studio.

Lifeguard looked to be Elliott’s breakout role: It’s a tale of a man approaching middle age who wonders if being a first responder is what he wants to continue doing with his life. Paramount, the studio behind the film, marketed it differently—as a sun-soaked teenage melodrama. Elliott chafed at the ads and made his thoughts known. “The one sheet [poster] for that film was an animated piece, and it had me in a pair of Speedos and a big busted girl on either arm,” he told NPR in 2017. “And it said, 'Every girl's summer dream' over the top of it. And I was like, wow.” Elliott complained in press interviews, a move he speculated led to Paramount cooling their heels on hiring him again.

4. He was the voice of Smokey Bear.

Early in his career, Elliott was advised by people in the industry to hone his smooth drawl into something more in the leading-man mode. “They wanted me to speed up and enunciate,” he told The Saturday Evening Post earlier this year. “I went through trying to do that for a time, but I’m glad it didn’t work out.” Elliott’s voice become one of his hallmarks and was eventually put to use as the voice of forest fire mascot Smokey Bear in 2007.

The message hit home for Elliott, whose wife of nearly 35 years—actress Katharine Ross, who earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for playing Elaine Robinson in The Graduate—saw her home burned down in 1978 after a camp fire spread. He and the spokesbear even share the exact same birthday: August 9, 1944.

5. He got propositioned. A lot.

Going from audition to audition early in his career, Elliott told syndicated columnist Rex Reed in 1980 that the proverbial casting couch was real. “You cannot believe the casting couch stories I could tell you, man,” he said. “The clichés are all true. I’ve had propositions from men and women, and I’ve turned them all down. It’s probably hurt me, but I’m the one who has to live with that guilt. My conscience is clear, even though my career is still not setting the world on fire.”

6. The Coen brothers kept him working just because they liked hearing him talk.


Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Shooting 1998’s The Big Lebowski, Elliott has a climactic meeting of sorts with The Dude (Jeff Bridges), whose adventures he’s been narrating throughout the film. Shooting the scenes, Elliott was beginning to get exasperated at the Coen brothers's insistence he keep doing it. When they clocked 15 takes, Elliott insisted they tell him what they want. It turns out take six was perfect. They made him do it nine more times just because they liked watching him deliver his lines.

7. He's got a "big three" resume.

Elliott has dozens of acting roles to his credit, but he believes he’s best-known for just three roles: The Big Lebowski, Road House, and 1992’s Tombstone. “That’s the big three,” he told Vulture in 2015. “And it’s really because they repeat that sh*t all the time. None of them had great box office, and I wasn’t so good in any of them. You just can’t escape them. They keep showing up.”

8. He doesn't like social media.

Elliott is not one to broadcast his thoughts on Facebook or Twitter. In 2015, the actor told AARP Magazine that social media is of little interest to him. “Everywhere you look, people are looking at their hands,” he said. “In restaurants, it's like you're sitting in a patch of jack-o'-lanterns because everyone's face is lit up by their phone. Nobody's relating to each other.”

9. He doesn't really get the fascination with his mustache.

Sam Elliott, Garret Dillahunt, and Timothy Olyphant in 'Justified'
PRASHANT GUPTA, FX Networks

For most of his roles, Elliott sports a soup strainer of a mustache: Thick, plush, well-weathered. When he goes without—as in his turn as a villain on FX’s Justified—it can be a little disarming, in the same way Superman looks a little odd without his cape. But Elliott doesn’t quite understand the cult of hair around his facial style choices. “The whole mustache thing is a mystery to me,” he told Vanity Fair in 2017. “I’m working on this thing now, A Star is Born—somebody showed me on their cell phone one day that there was this contest online between me and [Tom] Selleck about who had the best mustache. It’s so bizarre.” (For the record, Elliott won't comment on who has the better lip warmer.)

10. He's an Oregon local.

Elliott and his wife spend a month out of the year near Eugene, Oregon. The sight of Elliott visiting hardware stores, restaurants, and other local haunts is common, and Elliott has become a beacon for people seeking a selfie with the actor. (He usually complies.) Eventually, Elliott hopes to move to Oregon full-time.

11. He's got a secret to staying grounded.

Elliott doesn’t appear to be too invested in the trappings of celebrity. “We stay out of town, and we don’t get in too deep,” he told Vulture in 2015. “We don’t believe all the sh*t in the rags. And we work hard. Katharine and I have a lot in common. We’ve got a 30-year-old daughter [Cleo] that we’re deeply in love with and still incredibly close to. Life’s good. We live in Malibu and have horses and dogs and cats and chickens. We shovel sh*t, man. That keeps you humble."

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