Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Marginal Notes

Most recent read: The Joy Diet

Do you write in your books?

This seems to be a topic that people have strong feelings about.

First of all, I am not opposed to writing in books as a rule.  I know some people who consider it to be an act of desecration.  Others are willing to do it, but only in pencil.  I have no such limits (except for my Bible, which has pages too thin for my beloved Pilot G-2s).  I have no moral qualms with scribbling in the leaves of my current read, but the question is whether I really want to, or if I will get anything out of it.

As a student, I always had to read with a pen and/or highlighter in my hand.  I didn't feel like I was studying if I didn't have a pen in my hand.  Holding a pen was a signifier of assigned reading instead of pleasure reading.  I would scribble all over printed articles and books alike.  It was certainly helpful for study purposes, but it seemed to add something to the general reading experience as well.  

When I am doing personal reading, my feelings about writing in books are mixed.  For non-fiction books, I tend to lean towards reading with a writing implement.  If it's a "personal development" book, I often want to note things that to remember or write my own thoughts for later.  That process feels natural to me.

However, I haven't read a novel or a book of poetry with a pen or highlighter since American Literature with Dr. Lucas my senior year of college.  for some books, it breaks up the rhythm of reading a compelling story.  However, there is something intriguing and romantic about writing insightful and witty comments about characters and plot in the margins.  I confess that the possibility of discovering penned thoughts in the margins is the one of the main attractions of used books for me (in addition to the thrifty price, of course!)  Isn't there a love story about a man that falls in love with a woman because of the notes she wrote in book he's reading? 

So what are your rules and habits regarding marginal notes?  Do you?  If so, do you have specifications for genre of book or writing implement?  If not, is it because you are philosophically opposed or simple find no pleasure or use in the practice?  Do tell!!


Han said...

I used to at school/college too because you were sometimes allowed to take the texts into an exam with you so they were handy then.

I just finished reading Making History by Stephen Fry and ended up carrying around a pad of post its with me rather than just highlighting the words that I didn't understand and not being able to find them later. I'm doing the same now with the Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

Megan said...

It totally depends on the book for me... I do write in my Bible, but with a special pen so that it doesn't bleed. Sometimes, depending on the book and who it belongs to, I obviously won't write in it, instead I'll mark it with a sticky note and then go back at the end and collect my thoughts in a notebook...

Carolyn said...

I rarely, if ever, write in fiction books (except in school when I had to). In nonfiction I tend to be a highlighter. :)

Art Wall Katie said...

I don't usually re-read books so I don't feel compelled to write in them. I'm not opposed to it though, sometimes if I read something that someone else has written in, it feels like I'm reading a little secret of theirs.

Kirsty said...

I once gave an ex boyfriend a book which I had read, and written notes in - comments on the text, and also little notes to say hi for when he read it. It was the most imaginative gift I've ever given!