image – my copy of Lolita, marked up
There was a time when I would have said it was criminal to make any marks in a book. I look after my books. To treat books with care is natural for me. I don’t ever remember thinking, I must be more careful with my books. I always have been.
I always use bookmarks (or in the absence of them, something – post-it, receipt, tissue, whatever is there). The spines of my book only crack when it’s a book I re-read often, so it’s then a bit more like an old age character rather than neglect. I tell you this to establish that I love my books. I intend to have a proper library one day when I finally settle down somewhere and buy a house, so until then, all my books are waiting to have a permanent home.
However, despite my obsession with treating my books with care, I still advocate writing in books, underlining, making notes, and all sorts of things. I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Marking a book is literally an experience of your differences or agreements with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him.
– Edgar Allen Poe
5 Reasons Why You Should Write In Your Books
1. Active Reading
By underlining, or making notes as you read, you are turning reading from a passive activity into an active one. You are not merely taking in what you read, you are processing it at a deeper level. It’s useful for retaining information, but it’s also better for getting more out of what you are reading. Before you can keep an effective reading journal or a commonplace book, you need to become an active reader.
2. Thinking Out Loud
People usually mark their books when a relevant, or somehow important thought occurs to them as they read, usually because of what they are reading. By noting this down, you are thinking out loud – or rather on paper, and capturing your thought process. This will also give you invaluable insights on how your personal inner commentary relates to what you read.
3. Making Associations
Taking notes, while reading actively, will naturally lead you to make associations you might otherwise not have made. Even if you think about them, chances are you will forget them if you don’t write them now. It’s curious how many unexpected connections our mind makes, and you will find yourself recalling information from various sources, often quite unrelated, and making associations with your current reading.
4. Looking Back
Browsing through one’s marked book is a fun and often insightful thing. As you look back, you will your notes and underlines, which will tell you what made an impression on you at the time of the reading. If it’s a book you often re-read, then you might find yourself changing your opinion over time, or you might find the opposite. No matter what the final result, your markings will tell you a lot about yourself.
5. Leaving a Legacy
Imagine leaving not just a library behind, but a library of your very personal books. That’s a legacy indeed. What a curiosity it would be for your children and grandchildren to look at your personal notes. It will be something that brings them closer to you (or at least one member of your family, because there is usually one who appreciates such things), even after you are dead.
How about you? Do you write or make marks on your books?