Write or Wrong?

A brand new pristine book—it needs to be kept that way, right? No breaking the spine, no dog-earring corners, no staining the pages, and certainly no writing in it!

But… why?

I mean, I get it. I used to feel exactly the same way. Books are precious and should be preserved. We take pride in our books, how they look, and how much we love them.

Thing is, it’s not the books themselves that are important—it’s the words they contain.

I have always been one to read and reread certain lines and passages in books that—for a variety of reasons—stood out to me. Maybe they struck a chord with me, maybe they amused me just so, maybe they were just perfectly constructed, or maybe they were a wonderful bit of character development. Whatever the reason I loved it, I would stop and read it several times over to absorb a little of the magic and just truly appreciate the writing.

This habit has since evolved.

When I started blogging, I also started properly recording the quotes that caught my fancy. I started pausing in my reading to type them up and post them on my tumblr. I love being able to scroll through the quotes I’ve shared and re-read them at my leisure, or search for specific quotes and from particular books.

This did cause problems, though; I didn’t always like having to stop reading in order to type up and share the quotes. I tried various methods to get around this. I’d wait until the end of a chapter to go back and find them… except I’d get caught up in the story and forget. I’d take a photo of the quote to sort out later… except then I’d take dozens of photos of my cat and the quote would get lost amongst the adorableness. I’d dog-ear pages (don’t shoot me!) to go back to… except by that time I’d’ve finished the book and couldn’t remember or find the specific quote on the page.

No. The best method that worked—and continues to work—is writing in my god damn books. Underlining a line or two, or marking the margin of a particular passage. It’s so much easier to flick back to them, they are clearly denoted, and the act of marking them also marks a memory in my mind to go back and type them up.

I did start with pencil, but it only took a single occasion of not having one handy for me to progress to pen. Really, I like the idea of re-reading a book and seeing all the parts that struck me previously—will they still resonate with me? And the idea of sharing the book with someone else—wondering what they will think of the parts I’ve highlighted.

I’m sure as I continue to deface my books I’ll evolve into leaving more little notes and thoughts and doodles. I look forward to that natural progression.

Because for me, a pristine book is an admired object, but a worn, annotated book is a story the reader has truly engaged with, taken from, and left something of themselves behind in.

That’s what reading is for me. Not a perfect ornament on a shelf, but fully absorbing the words and concepts contained within.

Feel free to leave a comment expressing your shock and despair at my graffiti practises, or share with me your own way of annotating books!

About Wendleberry
I'm odd.

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