Welcome to another Wednesday where I share with you a controversial opinion as my weekly Bookish Thought. This week I want to talk to you about the rebellious act of writing in my own books.
As a Librarian I know I should be anti annotations, anti underlining. I should cringe at dogeared pages. Except I’m a special collections librarian, and the museum I work for cares deeply about the stories behind our objects. That includes our books. We have children’s books covered in crayon and design texts with the margins full of notes. When it comes down to it I find the books that have been changed to be more interesting, more personal.
However I also underline my own books. I translate foreign phrases in the margins so I don’t have to look up the same information on a reread. I make notes about themes, and jot down thoughts in the blank spaces between lines or at the bottom of the page. I also dog ear. Usually the dog earring is to point me back to a phrase or paragraph that I found particularly moving. In that case the phrase will be underlined or bracketed, depending on length.
I have poetry collections that look like oragami from marking the poems that resonated with me.
And I think this is all okay.
I often times see readers posting on twitter, facebook, insta, basically everywhere showing articles about book art and screaming. It is always the same. “HOW COULD YOU DESTROY A BOOK,” “THIS PHYSICALLY HURTS ME,” “YOU MUST BE SATAN.” I am always a little shook by this. I understand strong feelings, but is this really the hill you want to die on? I always run through the same few thoughts.
- I also appreciate book art. Books today are not made to last. Their binding is traditionally more glue based than sewn and it makes them next to impossible to repair when a signature comes loose.
- Please give books a second life. Make them into hiding places for treasures or turn their pages into art, cards, or bookmarks. There is no shame in creating something from an overloved book that is already falling apart or from one that has already found its way to a secondhand sale.
- Being a book purist is one thing – love your hardbacks, your special editions, refuse ebooks or audio. However, don’t force your opinions on others.
- You do not have a psychic connection to the book in question. You are not in real pain because someone tore a sheet or made a mark on a page. Everyone needs to calm down.
Now I’m not here to shame the book purists. I get it. Books are pretty. There is something amazing about a new book that is free from scuff marks with a fresh off the printer smell. Except life is messy. I’m messy. I can’t do notes on post its. I don’t want to keep a second notebook for jotting down my thoughts. I sure as hell do not want to have to leave a bookmark every place I find a good quote. So my books will still be loved, and for me that love involves pens and pencils, crimped pages and less than pristine dust jackets.