Saturday, June 2, 2012


I bought my monthly magazine of 'Good Reading' on Thursday afternoon and began reading it at my chiropractors while I waited for my appointment to come up (I'm always a little early with doctors). Anyway, I came upon an article in the magazine for this month about books that have notes in the margins, highlighted bits and underlines.  The editor herself does these things to her own books and says it's her way of understanding the books she reads better, finding parts she enjoys easier and being able to look up parts she needs as well.
Personally, I find this kind of thing done to a book a big turn-off.  When I peruse a book in a second-hand bookstore, I want nice clean pages to read, without underlines, notes or any other bits of other people's thoughts in the margins.  If I want to take notes from a book, I'll get a separate notepad and a pen and note down the page number, chapter and where exactly I saw the thing that I spotted and put in a little post-it note to remind me to look there later.  Writing in a book isn't needed seeing post-it notes have been invented and they don't damage or leave marks in your books.  And if you keep good-enough notebooks, you need not lose them.
Besides, I was always taught that writing in a book - any book - was something you just didn't do.  Even in high school, it was frowned upon by my teachers; and so I didn't do anything like it.  I didn't even dog-ear my books - instead using a bookmark of some kind.  So, I've been very kind to my books and they have been kept nice, clean and free of pen/pencil marks or highlighter pens.  
Now, what do you think?  Do you write in the margins and underline in your own personal books?  If so, why?  If not, is it because of what you were taught?  Or is it because of your own personal reasons?  Well until my next post, Happy Reading!


  1. I agree that if I were to get a book from a bookstore, I'd want it to be clean. But, if I'm always going to have a book in my collection, I don't mind marking it. For instance, I think it would be kind of cool to have multiple copies of Moby-Dick, one highlighted with references and thoughts about Good and Evil, one on nihilism, one on the sublime, one on shrunken heads. I'm not kidding, I think I'm gonna do that.

    Another thing is that I'd be interested to see what my parents or grandparents highlighted and found meaningful in a book. It can be a unique sort of journal to shed light on a person.

    And finally, making notes in books (especially bad ones) helps to engage me and keep me reading. I suppose that I could do the same on another sheet of paper, but I don't always think to do that when I'm out and about.

    And actually, I think it would be kind of fun and funny to find a book in a bookstore with lots of angry and frustrated comments from a reader who hated it. A sort of Mystery Science Theater 3000 experience.

  2. The only books I ever wrote on/defaced were textbooks but I don't write on any of mine otherwise. However, I'm always intrigued whenever I do get a secondhand book and there's marginalia. Sometimes they're just fragmentary notes that I can decipher, but even the half-thoughts or just underlines or exclamation points make me pause and start thinking about what that person before me had been thinking about. It's almost intimate, getting a peek at that other person's inner workings.

    1. Yeah, I'm not sure I appreciate "marginalia" for giving me any greater insight on the book (when it's from someone else)...but it can give you interesting clues about a person.

  3. I look through my Grandparents' books and there's nothing in them to show what they were thinking about the book. I think it's just something I was taught; not to write in books... no even my textbooks. Oh well, I guess each person has their own ways of reading books - and reading books :)