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Go Ahead And Write In That Book

I’ve always been a proponent of writing in books, even dog-earing pages on occasion. To me, that’s just showing the book a little love.

When I’m finished with a novel, I want the novel to look like I’ve read it. And what better way to do that than writing my thoughts in the margins?

Mortimer Adler wrote a book appropriately called How to Read a Book. Time recently published an excerpt in which Adler explains why you shouldn’t be ashamed to write in your books.

I love this. 

When you buy a book, you establish a property right in it, just as you do in clothes or furniture when you buy and pay for them. But the act of purchase is actually only the prelude to possession in the case of a book. Full ownership of a book only comes when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it— which comes to the same thing— is by writing in it.

Why is marking a book indispensable to reading it? First, it keeps you awake— not merely conscious, but wide awake. Second, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written. The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks. Third, writing your reactions down helps you to remember the thoughts of the author.

Reading a book should be a conversation between you and the author. Presumably he knows more about the subject than you do; if not, you probably should not be bothering with his book. But understanding is a two-way operation; the learner has to question himself and question the teacher. He even has to be willing to argue with the teacher, once he understands what the teacher is saying. Marking a book is literally an expression of your differences or your agreements with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him.

I’ve always thought that, by writing in the book, I’m engaging more with the content. As Adler says, reading should be active. And marking the novel as I read is certainly a way to actively express myself as I read.

What do you think…especially in regards to those final two sentences: “Marking a book is literally an expression of your differences or your agreements with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him.”

I’ve heard some people say that marking up a book is disrespecting the book and the author. I couldn’t disagree more, but what say you?

Source: Time Magazine

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41 Comments Post a comment
  1. Matt #

    I mark up my books all the time (pretty much a necessity for an English teacher), but I never EVER dog-ear pages. I feel like notations and comments add to the book while dog-earing pages damages the book, Crease covers drive me nuts too!

    Liked by 1 person

    June 24, 2015
  2. kenyonarcopeland01 #

    Reblogged this on KENYONA R. COPELAND.

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    June 24, 2015
  3. Sometime ago, I read that Graham Greene had hundreds of books and all of them marked up.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 24, 2015
  4. Amy #

    I don’t write in my books. Instead I write on post it notes and stick them on the pages. That way my book isn’t permanently marked but I have engaged with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    June 24, 2015
  5. A lot of my books are from the library, so I use a notebook. Because I’m so used to it, I use it for my own books, too. Then I can loan them or give them away without worrying about what I might have written. I do like getting used books, though, that have writing in them – it’s fun seeing what other people thought and what stood out for them.
    I love the last sentence of that quote.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 24, 2015
  6. Reblogged this on oshriradhekrishnabole.

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    June 24, 2015
  7. Reblogged this on Between the Spine.

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    June 24, 2015
  8. Reblogged this on BetweenTheSpine.

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    June 24, 2015
  9. I wrote a post on this recently –
    http://confessionsofabookgeek.com/2015/04/16/you-want-me-to-deface-my-books/

    I think you can tell from the title what my thoughts are! I find the whole thing taboo, I’m wondering does it stem from childhood when you’re told not to write in your books (or at least I was). It makes things look messy, the book is no longer neat. My OCD idiosyncrasies have problems with that. Ironically, though myself and another blogger are starting a new feature soon which is all about defacing books. We’re challenging ourselves.

    Like

    June 24, 2015
  10. kh1789 #

    The only books in which I’ve ever written are textbooks. I can’t bring myself to write in my other books because I don’t like the permanence of it, and I would get distracted by my own comments if I were to re-read the book (which is why I also have problems with footnotes). I don’t believe that marking a book is in any way “disrespecting the author,” and I do agree with Adler that doing so is a sign of respected interest and dialogue instead. If I come across something particularly thought-provoking in a book, I typically mark it with a post-it note instead of a pen.

    Like

    June 24, 2015
  11. I used to keep my books in pristine condition, until I read Ulysses. That book changed the way I read because it frustrated the crap out of me (in a good way), but I still have a hard time marking up fiction books versus academic or non-fiction ones. If it is a fiction book I am much more likely to use a sticky tab to mark passages that have intrigued me, whereas with academic or non-fiction I will probably just write in them. The more I feel the need to mark up a book, though, the more I know it is making a lasting impression on me.

    Like

    June 24, 2015
  12. I have always done this with my books. The best is when someone else marks up your books with their thoughts too. Great way to see what you’ve missed!

    Liked by 1 person

    June 24, 2015
  13. I don’t care so much what people do with their own books, but I hate it when they write in library books, since I’m behind on the times I tend to still use the library, and it makes my head explode when I find myself trying to read someone else s thoughts, or trying to figure out why they high lighted something. I seen people who white all over their bible because they have literally studied the things, I think thats pretty cool.

    Liked by 2 people

    June 24, 2015
    • I agree. Not cool for library books–unless they were previously donated. That’s basically vandalism.

      Like

      June 24, 2015
    • I agree 100%! I’ve recently been reading a library book which someone so kindly left their notes all over… some of them make me feel like hunting them down and taking all their pens away from them.
      I also requested a book from the library “A History of Sexuality Part 1”. I was rushing when I picked it up, but got back to my desk later and found that someone had got a black texta and had put a line through all the parts they didn’t like, had ripped out pages, had written bible verses on it…. Thank you, dear reader, for censoring the text and making it entirely useless for the next reader. I ended up buying a copy instead!

      Liked by 1 person

      June 25, 2015
      • Ha, funny how absolutely terrible some people can be at attempting to preach. That would’ve made me mad too

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        June 25, 2015
    • Though, if you look at “S” by J.J Abrams, the whole premise of the book is around writing in library books and it’s very, very cool.

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      June 25, 2015
  14. penonpapergirl #

    I almost always do that on my books…most especially medical textbooks, and on novels and other physical books. It’s often comments, or thoughts, or things that a particular line made me remember something important. Other times, I draw stick figures or write “haha” on the margins for parts that made me laugh.

    Marking up a book makes the reading experience more fun and interactive, and I feel that I have essentially made it a part of me when I do.

    Like

    June 24, 2015
  15. uju #

    I ALWAYS write on my books. If I don’t, how else will I show that this– the process of reading– is a personal experience? By writing, dog-marking, and maybe spilling my drink on it, I have told anyone who touches it that “This property has been owned and loved.”

    P.S I never remember to write my name on them.

    Like

    June 24, 2015
  16. uju #

    Reblogged this on A girl with many voices and commented:
    This is a brilliant post about writing on books. I’ll write my thoughts about this in a few days.

    Like

    June 24, 2015
  17. Just had this conversation on my blog, FifteenThousandPages, the other day! https://fifteenthousandpages.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/writing-in-books-a-creative-outlet-or-cardinal-sin/

    My answer: don’t mind it in the slightest, even if it’s not something I do on a regular basis with my own books

    Like

    June 24, 2015
  18. I don’t write in the book, but when I finish to read her I write in diary of reading my comments about her and contents and similar things. Last few year I start to write diary where I write about books what I read, like things what I mention before. I also don’t like when someone make dog-earing pages, becouse with this you demage the book…

    Like

    June 24, 2015
  19. Well that’s the power of being a writer and also of being a reader. Well told

    Like

    June 24, 2015
  20. Reblogged this on cheekychapters and commented:
    I don’t want to sound all airy fairy when I say that reading is a shared experience.If I were an author, I would love my readers to write all over my book. That way, I would know the conversation isn’t all one-sided, and I haven’t spent a big chunk of my life talking to myself….write in books, spill coffee on them, bend them, fold them, love them, hug them.

    Like

    June 24, 2015
  21. E #

    I have to day, I find this really hard to do! I wrote in textbooks, and this stretched to novels I studied at school, but normal novels? Never been able. I think I’ve become more precious with books as time goes on; I can vaguely remember folding corners back, but now it’s bookmarks all the way.

    I do understand your point though, about being engaged. I sometimes make notes in a notebook, so maybe I should do this more.

    Like

    June 24, 2015
  22. I am not sure if you are a fan of Booktube, but Ariel Bissett did a lovely video on how we should all embrace annotating our books! I am still a little nervous to start doing this! I usually stick note the heck out of books though.

    Like

    June 24, 2015
  23. I always write in my uni books, because it helps me to remember the thoughts I had when I go back over them later. I write quite extensive notes and have a colour coding system in the books I use for my thesis, so it’s all a very colourful affair, though I’m sure many would absolutely cringe at the destruction of the book! I also now like to write little notes into the books I read for fun, especially when I feel very strongly about something or really love a line! I like coming across them when I re-read them =)

    Like

    June 25, 2015
  24. Reblogged this on Christopher Ghigliotty.

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    June 25, 2015
  25. Reblogged this on Words&Dreams.

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    June 25, 2015
  26. Reblogged this on mmockingjay.

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    June 25, 2015
  27. Anne Fadiman wrote an essay on this topic in her wonderful book ‘Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader’. She concludes that some people are ‘courtly lovers’ of books – adoring them from a pristine distance, while some are ‘carnal lovers’ who feel the need to physically interact with the books themselves (writing, turning down pages etc). She’s got some great anecdotes of what happens when these two different kinds of readers try to share their love of books!

    Like

    June 26, 2015
  28. I often write in my books. This is one of the many reasons I prefer hardcopy to my nook. Reading a book with a pen in hand increases my engagement with the author’s ideas. I also keep a quote book to record any especially poignant ideas.

    Like

    June 26, 2015
  29. creativedreamer #

    Very nice book loving article! I think it depends about book and kind of marks.. some books are like art itself with proper paper and its really painful to write in it or dog-ear its pages)) i think its better to put some sticker which can be easily removed. And if the book is not so precious, i think nothing wrong to write in it, but again- very carefully.. to me a book is a living creature and i think it should be treated with respect ^^

    Like

    June 26, 2015
  30. 🙌 Yes !

    Like

    June 27, 2015
  31. Hello,

    We are a not-for-profit educational organization founded by Mortimer Adler and we have recently made an exciting discovery—three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos—lively discussing the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

    Three hours with Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, lively discussing the art of reading on one DVD. A must for all readers, libraries and classroom teaching the art of reading.

    I cannot exaggerate how instructive these programs are—we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

    Please go here to see a clip and learn more:

    http://www.thegreatideas.org/HowToReadABook.htm

    ISBN: 978-1-61535-311-8

    Thank you,

    Max Weismann, Co-founder with Dr. Adler

    Like

    June 28, 2015
  32. Most of my books are from the library so I usually read with a notebook next to me. Even when I’m reading my own books and have the option of writing in them, I’d rather use the notebook. I tend to get wordy and then that looks sloppy and I don’t like my precious books looking sloppy – that’s what my notebook is for!

    Like

    June 28, 2015
  33. Reblogged this on The Backbencher Perspective.

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    July 6, 2015
  34. In the case of our library books, it’s probably best to use a pencil, eh?!

    Like

    July 21, 2015
  35. I will read it … and will add it to my list …

    Like

    August 24, 2015

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