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