Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Do You Mark-up Your Books? Write in the Margins? [You're The Expert]

I was reading this New York Times article today, and started asking myself why I stopped writing in the margains of my books?  Just because I'm not in school anymore, and I don't have to reference my books for a report (oh wait, I sorta do, kinda... only it's called a book inspection), and I don't have to write long essays arguing why I thought the author wrote that particular sentence in that particular manner, doesn't mean that I can't write my thoughts in my books.  Or does it?

I share a lot of my books with my friends.  If I write in the margins, write my feelings, my thoughts, my epiphanies, would I still be willing to lend that book out?  Would I still be willing to share those things right alongside the original text?

The blank pages of my current read (Exile by
Anne Osterlund), and a demonstration of
the way I currently mark things to remember.
Part of me thinks I could with certain people, and that it might even lead us to more deep conversations (and don't smirk and say that deep conversations cannot be had because we're adults discussing YA lit) and could benefit both parties in an intellectual context.  Then another part of me thinks I'm cheating me and any posterity I may have out of thoughts and feelings that whatever particular book brought forth in me.  How much of a treasure would you consider a marked-up copy of Pride & Prejudice from your grandmother?

The author of the NYT article, Sam Anderson, starts off by sharing an anecdote about how he found an unreadable  book on how to read a book, but took one golden nugget from it, "The author argued that you didn’t truly own a book (spiritually, intellectually) until you had marked it up."

It made me sad.  It made me feel like all of the books I've read and own are not truly mine, because I wanted to keep them clean and nice.  So, I'm going to experiment with the next book I read, and I'm going to write in the margins.  We'll see if it gets lent and if it does if it leads to anything curious, and I'll let you know how that goes.

But for now, I want to know your thoughts.  After all, you're the expert on you and whether or not you mark-up your books, whether or not  you would feel comfortable lending them if you did, and the reasoning behind it.  Make your point, share your perspective, we're eager to hear it!

For those of you not familiar with You're The Expert here at I Heart Monster, it's a type of post where we share some information with you, then ask you what you think about that information.  We encourage you to leave your opinion or answers in the comments section, and even write your own post as an answer if you are so inclined.  See, we're all different, and we all have different experiences, and that's part of what makes the blogosphere such a fun place - we're all experts about what we think and how we feel and our particular view on the world.  This is just a forum for you to share those with the rest of us.  If you do write a post, we'd love it if you share the link with us.


Orchid said...

Personally, I don't like marking up my books (I don't even bend a page corner to mark my spot). But, oddly enough I don't mind getting buying a used book that has a little bit of writing on the front flap, but other than that no marking for me. ^_^

KelseyAnne said...

I personally don't mark my books =] Not because I dislike it or think it shouldn't be done, but because I personally love it when my books are spotless and look almost brand new =]
But if i did, I don't think I would want to lend it out, as they are my private thoughts and ideas about the book. I would get quite embarrassed if someone was to read it. lol. But I wouldn't mind reading someone else's copy that's marked-up.


heidenkind said...

I like the idea of marking up books, but I don't usually do with fiction. With non-fiction, thought, that's a whole different story.

I don't think you necessarily OWN a book you mark up, but it does seem to be a sign of intellectual engagement.

La Coccinelle said...

*gasp* Sacrilege! I just can't do it. Even when I was in school, I couldn't bring myself to take a pen or highlighter to my textbooks. It feels disrespectful to me, somehow. And I don't agree that you have to mark a book before you can really own it. That almost seems akin to marking my territory like an animal. I might as well pee on the pages.

I Heart Monster said...

I must admit that all of you ladies so far make me feel a WHOLE lot better about my lack of writing in my books and having chosen to not write in them so far. THANK YOU.

I'm still going to experiment and see what it feels like.

@KelseyAnne - I LOVE that you don't want to share your feelings, but that you don't mind reading others. I totally feel anxious and totally feel the same way.

@heidenkind - I think that it's really an owning of the intellectuality, but you make a great point because a lot of the books I read are not intellectually engaging whatsoever.

@La Coccinelle - *gasp* back! Peeing on pages! I see that you feel super-strongly about this.

Anonymous said...

When I was in college, I always tried to get used books that had notes written in them. It was like getting other opinions on a topic I was studying.
I bought a used copy of a book that I have read many times and it was totally marked up. As I was reading a very familiar part of the book, I read the note that had been written in the margin. It was amazing! It was like a catalyst that sent my own thoughts soaring to areas never before considered or even thought about. It helped me to go beyond my regular thought concerning the matter and I was able to go to an area of thought beyond my own or the notes I had just read. It was like opening a treasure chest! I love that old marked up book.
I love your thought question about having a copy of Pride and Prejudice that was marked with your Grandmother's notes and thoughts. Wow! What an opportunity to get to know my Grandmother in a way that I never did. It would create such a connection with her that I would have loved to have had. I think I will do this for my Grandchildren with the hopes that we may have such a connection. Thanks for the great idea!!

titania86 said...

I don't mark up my books for pleasure usually, but I mark the heck out of school books all the time. I was a comparative world literature major in my undergrad and writing in the margins and underlining things made essays so much easier to write for me. Other than school books, I want all of my books to be pristine and new looking. I want them to last a really long time.

Lawral the Librarian said...

First of all, thank you for the link to this article!

Apparently I'm in the minority here, but I still mark up my books. A lot. For the most part, I only underline, but every once in a while, commentary sneaks in as well. I've started marking things up less because the upswing of library books in my TBR pile has gotten me out of the habit. There have been times, though (most recently with Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd) when I've stopped reading a library copy and gone out and bought one of my own just so I can mark it up.

Enbrethiliel said...


I don't like writing anything on my books! Well, yes, my name and the date I read it go right inside the cover--but that's it! So I certainly don't agree with the statement that one doesn't own a book until one has marked it. On the other hand, I do believe in a variation of that, because I feel I haven't truly read a book until after I've written intelligently about it somewhere.

Jackie said...

Sometimes I mark in books, sometimes I don't. If a pen is within reaching distance, then yes, definitely. If not, then I can't be bothered to get up usually. I mean, unless it's something mind blowing or totally awful.

The beginnings of books are usually more marked up than the middle, and the end typically isn't marked up at all. The more "in to" a book I am, the less I will mark the pages up. I don't have time to make notes when I'm totally smitten by a book.