Discussion Day: Do you write in your books?

13 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Discussion Day

Discussion Day

A few weeks ago, a bunch of my college friends and I got together. As often happens, the “party” degenerated into everyone sitting in the same room silently reading. One of my friends sat down with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (obviously re-reading) and *gasp* pulled out a PENCIL! I was a little bit horrified, I have to admit. When I asked her about it, she told me she has been passing her copies around to all her friends and asking them to re-read and annotate in the margins. Asking them to write in her books! I cringed.

In high school, I was much more tortured by this issue than I am now. I had several teachers who actually required us to highlight passages in our books for English class (Ayn Rand’s Anthem was a particularly horrifying experience for me – we were required to highlight in 4 different colors AND underline passages in ink! *shudders*) While I can understand the reasoning behind the assignment it still makes my skin crawl and my teeth itch. Those marks will now be in that copy FOREVER – what if I screwed up and marked the wrong thing?

As someone who gets most of her books from the library,  I’ve had “No damaging books!” drilled into me for a long time. Even writing in music is difficult if it’s not in pencil (I had one flute teacher who required us to have a set of markers to write on the music with because “it makes you play differently when you see that color, and you’ll notice it better!” I’m sorry, but I’d rather write the name of the color in pencil where it’s supposed to go than scribble illegibly in marker. But that’s just me.) The words or notes on a plain page are a kind of beauty to me, and I worry that my words are defiling that beauty somehow. Plus, what happens when the margins fill up?

The thing I don’t get about myself? I am PERFECTLY OKAY with a small dogear on a page of something I really liked, as long as it’s my own book. This too is defiling the book. Why am I okay with that, but NOT with writing?

I know I’m probably in a minority here. Annotating is a great idea, especially with something you know you’ll read a lot – you can keep track of your changing opinions and remind yourself of your favorite parts. And after all, it is your copy, and you can do with it as you choose. Isn’t that why you bought it in the first place? And yet, with all these reasons for writing in your books, I still can’t bring myself to do it.

Do you write in your books? Do you have pet-peeves about how others treat books?

Leave a Reply to Anne

13 Responses to “Discussion Day: Do you write in your books?”

  1. Idk…I can’t bring myself to write in my books either. I mean what if you want to lend them out. Do you really want your deepest thoughts on display? Plus like you said–we’ve had it engrained in our minds at a young age to not destroy books. Dogearing books hurts my heart haha. I just can’t do it. But I know what you mean about wanting to mark pages you like. I like goodreads bc you can record favorite quotes or as you are reading add status about your thoughts. And you can always revisit those thoughts there. Great discussion topic.

    • Anne says:

      I can only dogear certain things – ones I know I will not lend out etc. The main reason I do it is because I never manage to remember to STOP in the middle to write out quotes. I get so caught up in the book that I get to the end and don’t even remember any quotes!

  2. I think I’m more likely to put a LOT of stickies in a book, rather than write in it. I remember writing in my books through university and now looking back I hated it! I must have that same “don’t damage the books!” mentality. Of course, I also NEVER dogear a page — I’ll find any weird thing to bookmark it instead. A sock, a candy wrappy, a hair tye … anything to keep the book in perfect condition!

    • Anne says:

      I did that for my class on Harry Potter! I flagged just about every page – and it’s driving me NUTS re-reading with all those flags everywhere. Guess I won’t be doing *that* again!

  3. Stormy says:

    I would NEVER write in a book in pen, but I happily make marks in pencil and underline certain passages. I don’t normally actually make notes in my books–I’m more likely to underline sentences in pencil and then just write them down to remember later, or if they’re handy I’ll use post-its. I don’t like when there’s TON of scribbling in books, but marking in books doesn’t really bother me in small doses. I’m the opposite of you, though– I can’t bear the thought of bending pages even a little bit. I do have just a few books that are now out of print, so I guard those with my reading life and make sure neither I nor anyone else ever marks in them.

    • Anne says:

      I guess for me it depends on the kind of pages – I don’t like to bend the pages in hardbacks, because they’re a stiffer kind of paper. But a mass-market paperback I’d rather fold down the pages than make notes, even in pencil! If something is rare, or particularly special to me, I do take more care of that – I want to make sure they last a *long* time!

  4. Alexia561 says:

    Like you, I’m horrified by the idea of writing in a book! I had that drilled into my head so often I don’t think I’d be able to write in a book even if i wanted to!

    I’ll make notes in a cookbook, but that’s it. Yet, for some odd reason, I get a kick out of finding notes in a used book I picked up in a secondhand store. Not consistent, but there you go.

    • Anne says:

      It depends on the book for me – I hated getting textbooks with lots of highlighting and notes in them, but used books with just the occasional note in them are okay – especially if it’s in pencil so I could erase it if it bothers me. Most of the time, though, writing in books just makes me cringe!

  5. Oh no! *shivers* If there is something I hate, it’s damaging a book. I always try to keep my copies new looking. I can’t stand things like dog marks and cracked spines, so I can’t imagine highlighting sentences. That is where I use my notebook for.


    • Anne says:

      Oh now, see I don’t mind if the book isn’t “like new” – I feel like a little wear and tear gives a book character. Some of my favorites have ended up almost twice their size, because I open them too far, or something (I don’t know what it is exactly, but they seem to get fatter each read!) But the words themselves, I like to be pristine. Go figure!

  6. Jessica says:

    Oh, I can NEVER write in my books! I’m an English Lit minor, so when I have to read books for school, I have to use sticky notes. I use those notes to write the papers and when the classes is over, I take out the sticky notes so that I’m left with my perfect book again. Ever since my sister dropped my copy of Twilight into the bathtub, I’ve been obsessed with keeping my books as perfect as they can be. Haha, there’s just something about a new book with clean, crisp pages that makes me so happy :)

    -Jessica (Peace Love Books)

    • Anne says:

      That’s a good idea! I used sticky flags once, but the problem for me was getting myself to stop long enough to go and find them from wherever I left them the last time I was reading! lol

  7. […] wonders if you write in your books. I know I don’t — I have the worst writing ever that I just […]

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