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Writing in Books: Enhancing or Vandalizing?

December 27, 2008

Although I’m a dog-earer, a page-marker, and a spine-breaker, much to the dismay of those who like their books pristine (My Minnesotan Friend, for example) I’m faintly disturbed by the idea of writing in a book in pen. Pencil, I can do, though I feel a little awkward if I’m not doing it specifically for a class. I have plenty of books from high school and college marked with my class notes and comments in the margins.

One of the gifts in my stocking was a “Pen and Think” bookmark,penandthink

It’s a bookmark, with a handy pen so you can make notes in the book as you read along.   Dad got one too.  He was thrilled.
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I love reading other people’s books, full of margin notes, dog-ears and other evidence that the book has been wrestled with, pondered, and maybe even well-loved.  Finding a secondhand book full of notations is always a mystery and a treat.   I wish the top of the bookmark held a pencil.  Pencil is okay with me.  Dog-earing is okay with me.  I love those little Post-It flags.  But a pen?  That’s not okay.   And I can’t even explain why I have such an adamant stance about writing in books.
I’m willing to bet some of it is about my handwriting. I’m sensitive about my handwriting on uneven book surfaces (like, squished against margins or curving spines of books.) It’s unwieldy and ugly, at least in those constraints.

What do other people think? Everyone I’ve talked to, so far, has strong, visceral opinions about how much writing you can do in books. So I’m opening the discussion.

You may never want to lend me a book again….

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Michal permalink
    December 27, 2008 6:53 pm

    Unless it is a cookbook, I am very much against writing in my books. I feel like cookbooks are a glorified and pretty workbook, at least the ones I enjoy cooking from. I will use post-it notes in some books. Very few of my former schoolbooks are written in, although several are highlighted.

  2. December 27, 2008 10:53 pm

    In high school and college I used to be a rampant book-scribbler. Marginalia, doodles, underlinings of favorite quotes, all sorts of things. And then I realized that old scribblings could end up being fairly embarrassing when viewed 10 years after the fact, and that pretty much squashed the habit. (Even pencil is not erasable enough.) 😛

  3. Rob C. permalink
    December 28, 2008 5:50 pm

    As long as they’re good notes, not a problem. Others are, however, horrified that I do this.

  4. samza permalink
    December 29, 2008 2:55 am

    I got the same requests to add some info to Book Blogs. Do you think I should make a group about bookish charities, mention it in the discussion, or leave these kinds of things out of the site altogether? What do you think?

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