Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Marginalia? Yes. Then No.

Writing in books has stirred up just as much controversy as whether or not to dogear pages. Some of us prefer our books to remain pristine, others prefer proof that their books have been thoroughly read and understood. Are you wondering which camp I reside in? Read on!

In my younger years, I dove into books with different colored pens and a notebook by my side. I came by the tendency honestly: I have books previously owned by both my grandmother and my mother that contain their handwritten notes, and I will admit that those underlined passages and pithy comments in the margins give both insight into the books and into the minds of those two women.

I went out to grab one of my own books to show you what I was like as a writer of marginalia. The first book to hand was one of my college textbooks, and although the markings, underscorings, and marginalia may be a bit more prolific than those in my recreational reading, they are very similar.


I turned the pages of the book until I landed on a favorite poet and one of my favorite poems, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Arrows, underscores, asterisks, circles, comments, post-its, and pages of additional handwritten notes. Ah, Coleridge!

As the years passed, I added two more tools to my arsenal: post-its and highlighters, and when manufacturers came out with highlighters that were erasable, I was extremely happy. But I did say "in my younger years" as though times have changed. What am I like now?

Those of you who have won one of my giveaways already know. It can be difficult to tell that I've read a book now. I try my best not to leave a mark on them. Why the drastic change? Back "in my younger years," I did not share my books. I'm sharing them now. Being the daughter of a librarian and a former librarian myself, I was raised to treat books that do not belong to me with care. If I own a book, I can do what I like with it. If it's going to be passed on to others, easy does it. (Which is another reason why I do not dogear anymore. It's bookmarks all the way.)

If I'm not going to keep a book, I mark passages I want to refer to in my reviews with post-its. If they are passages that I want to remember forever and ever, I write them in my book journals. Now my erasable highlighters are used solely for my desk calendar.

Am I going to disparage anyone who dogears their books or who writes, draws, or scribbles in them? No... as long as those books belong to them. If I find out that they're doing that to library books or books that they've borrowed from friends, it's an entirely different story!

How do you feel about writing in books, in dogearing pages? Are you a strict disciplinarian or more laissez-faire in your attitude? Inquiring minds would love to know!

And now I'll end with more of my marginalia (just because I want to show you a page of Shelley).


20 comments:

  1. I dogear any books I read. But they are mine so I guess that’s okay,. Interestingly, when I reread a book that I previously dogeared, the marks have all gone.
    And, I seem to be able to comment on your blog all of a sudden!

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    1. Although it’s doing in anonymously! LOL. I’ll have to remember to put the Ax after any comments!
      Ax

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    2. Blogger has been putting its users through a long period of frustration as it forced changes on us-- a bit like Facebook, although much more rage-inducing. It could be that you were caught up in that fiasco, Angela, so it's good to see that you're able to comment.

      By the way, if your dogears vanish, then you must not be the readers I've seen who run their thumbnail back and forth over the fold bearing down with lots of pressure as though they want the dogear to last for time and all eternity!

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  2. That's an interesting question, Cathy. I don't dogear or write in my books. I've had some of them so long that they've gotten worn with age (and/or multiple readings), but not markings. Part of the reason is that my handwriting is illegible. Part of the reason is that I grew up reading a lot of books that were not mine (library books, my siblings' and parents' books, etc.), and like you, I was taught not to mark up things that weren't mine.

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    1. I still remember the old farmer back where I grew up who always checked out and read a lot of westerns every winter. Well... I remember him and his black Sharpie!

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  3. My grandmother was a librarian - writing in books, dogeared pages ... big NO NOs! I remember searching through all the used textbooks on the shelves in college to find the ones that did NOT have any previous highlighting/writing in them because I just couldn't stand that!

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    1. And here I searched through all the textbooks to find unmarked ones so my additions would be the only ones on the pages!

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  4. Great topic, Cathy! You might be able to guess that I am not a fan of writing in books or dogearing pages. There's that librarian thing. However, I did mark my textbooks in college with yellow marker (not sure the pink markers had even been invented - ha!). I did do some underlining as well with those - using a ruler as I recall. I have written in a few cookbooks - notes like 'really good' or 'never make this again - it's awful'. Ha! How fun to get to read notes by your mother and grandmother. And I'm very impressed that have a college textbook - mine have long been gone.

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    1. There were three textbooks that meant a great deal to me which is why I've saved them all these years. I always used the edge of my bookmark to underline, although I seem to remember using a 6" long ruler as a bookmark more than once!

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  5. I don't dog ear, but , I highlight and make notes. Usually on nonfiction, poetry, essays that speak to me and that I expect to read again. Most often, I make a connection to another piece of literature or history, ask myself a question, or note an allusion or example of word play. A professor once mentioned that he used a different color highlighter and a date each time he read a particular piece of fiction that he was teaching or read literary criticism he referenced. I like the idea, but have only tried with my favorite book of essays.

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    1. Yes, I've done the different colors of pens and highlighters myself.

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  6. Similar to the way you handle your books, I'm a big fan of post-it notes that I seldom bother to remove unless I placed them in a library copy that has to be returned. I do tend to make review notes in review copies, but only seldom write in books I've purchased for my shelves.

    I absolutely cannot bring myself to dog-ear a book no matter what the source may be, but certainly would never even consider doing that in a book I don't own. That's just a sin! :-)

    Even in e-books, I often highlight things I want to come back to for a review or for other reasons. And I sometimes highlight the dialogue by using different colors for different characters so that I can keep them all straight in my head until it starts to click for me.

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    1. I make good use of the vari-colored highlighting options on my eReader, too.

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  7. I didn't mark any books when I lived with my parents as the books were the library's books or theirs usually. Occasionally I had my own book, but I didn't mark them. While in college and when I read a lot of history, politics, philosophy, I marked my own books with underlinings, sometimes comments.
    I never touch a library book or haven't in general. A few times I borrowed a horribly edited book and I admit that I corrected spelling or grammar in a few books, but no notes. I do that with my own books, and I'll put in a few exclamation points or note a word, but since I lend them out, I do very little of that.
    But since I went to the library starting at age 3 and read many library books and grew up in a house full of books (with no underlining), I consider books sacrosanct. None are ever on the floor, but always on surfaces. I could not put a book on the floor. My parents never mistreated books.
    A neighbor put library books on the floor and I told her to pick them up, that they should not be on the floor. So annoying was I about that.

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    1. I refuse to keep books on the floor, too. Mainly because I was taught by example that they don't belong there, but also because I've lived around too many people with mobility problems, and I would never want to cause anyone to trip, fall, and hurt themselves.

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  8. I do not dog ear the books I am reading and I have never been able to write in books. I think it must be because I have always used the library profusely and would never mark up a library. But also, I find it hard to re-read a book that is marked up, even it they are my marks. I do have one Bible that I use as my "workbook" and have written in that, but I also keep another Bible of the same version with no or very few markings in it for reading.

    I like to use Post-it flags to mark things I like or want to recall for a review. I copy quotes I like into a Commonplace notebook. I enjoy reading through my notebooks from time to time.

    Interesting topic! Thanks for sharing what you do.

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    1. You're welcome. I'm glad you shared your thoughts with us. And may I just say that it's been a long time since I've seen someone use the phrase "commonplace book". I've got a few of those myself.

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  9. Yes, there is the disability issue. Since I have had fractures, I am adamant about keeping nothing but shoes on the floor or packed boxes, ready to be taken out.
    But I do regard books as special. Wouldn't put a book on the floor as I wouldn't put a toothbrush or food on the floor. But also so many of my books belonged to loved ones or were gifts that they are mementos, reminders of them,etc. So they are special.

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    1. Yes, they are. I'll be talking about one of my treasured books in a couple of weeks.

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