Thursday, November 15, 2007

Booking Through Thursday -- Power of the Pen

It's Thursday, so here's the question.

I’m still relatively new to this meme so I’m not sure if this has been asked yet, but I’m curious how many of us write notes in our books. Are you a Footprint Leaver or a Preservationist?

I had to think about this question for a few minutes. The librarian part of me wants to tell you all to never, ever write in your library books. I have "Welcome to the Library/How to be a good borrower" lessons for everyone from preschool to PhD. and my first reaction was to say, "No, No, No!"

But the truth about my own books and even how I deal with books professionally is not nearly as simple. Visitors are very diappointed when they come in and see the sad state of my personal collection. Yes, I have more books than some small book stores. (I think I read Fahrenheit 451 at an impressionable age and have been hoarding books ever since. ) However, they are not organized, cataloged, or even shelved in some instances.

The real truth is that librarians are the least sentimental people in the world when it comes to books in general. It always shocks people that we actually throw books away/recycle the paper for a number of reasons. You would be
amazed how many people give us their books. They think of us a sort of like the animal rescue people only for printed materials. These are very often stained, torn, out-dated, written in, or not within the scope of the library's collection. Many are put promptly into the trash. I've decided we must be doing some kind of public service like providing a finial resting place for old friends.

Do I write in my own books? Yes. I put my name in my books because people borrow from me and don't always return my books. The name helps remind the borrower that they have my book. I have a nice little stamp and will stamp the book before lending it.

I also write in my Bible all the time. I take notes from sermons and/or Bible study, underline passages I want to memorize, etc.
I guess the Bible falls into a group of books I would consider workbooks. They are there to use in someway beyond just reading. I mark in knitting books to make adjustments to patterns or record problems in case I want to use a design again. Since we have a small copier in the house, I don't mark-up the actual books as much as I used to. I copy, write on it, and save the copy with the book if there's something I need to remember.

My copy of Lance Armstrong's two books,
It's Not About the Bike, and Every Second Counts are full of highlights and underlines. I even have post-its with more notes. I have read the books over again and sections over again. I struggle with a chronic illness and have found his observations on being a patient, being dangerously ill, recovering, etc. to be very helpful. Also, cancer has hit our lives hard so many times and his hopeful and courageous discussion of being a cancer survivor has changed my outlook enormously.

I don't often write in works of literature. I had to when I
was in school just to keep up with important points from lectures, studying for tests, ect. So my Riverside Shakespeare, my copy of Le Mort d'Arthur, The Canterbury Tales, etc. are all covered in student scrawl. It make it difficult to share my books with my kids. The marks and underlines are distracting to them, and they also want me to explain what I wrote and why. Often I don't remember. It could be something the prof. wrote on the board, a comment from a student, my own ideas for a discussion. Some of it is as foreign to me as it is to them. I can tune it all out because I understand the circumstances in which I wrote. Still, I might prefer a clean copy for general reading. Occasionally I will find something interesting among my scribbles but not all that often. I do have to say that I am quite attached to these books, marks and all. They are very much like long time friends that offer support and a sense of self.

I also take notes in poetry at times. Very often it is simply to remind myself of a word's meaning within the context of the poem or some other bit of information I'm not likely to remember the next time I read it. I sometimes underline passages I want to think about, ask someone else about, or memorize. My favorite poet is Gerard Hopkins. For those of you that don't read him, it takes some study and contemplation to read his poems. I love the metaphorical contemplation, his unique style, and the brutal honesty of his work, but it takes effort to really appreciate him. So, I have a "working copy" that is marked extensively. But, I also have a very nice hardbound copy that is completely clean. Reading from it can give me a fresh perspective, and it is also a copy I would lend to others. I almost never lend the books in which I've written. Either because the thoughts are private or because I think my marks would distract the reader or both. Writing in a book is something I do for myself alone.

The invention of the Post-It and having an in-home copier have definitely reduced the amount of writing I do in the actual book. I like it also because I can freely change what I've written or discard it all together if I want. I love having all of the choices on how I'll use/read a book. Oh, and e-books are even better!


Marianne Arkins said...

I think non-fiction books beg to be written in -- I take notes and highlight in all of mine.

But not fiction. No, no, no...LOL!

Thanks for visiting!

Literary Feline said...

I think a book that doesn't belong to you should be left alone. I never really understood why someone would feel it necessary to write in a library book or a book they borrowed from a friend (unless with permission).

I tend to be a preservationist these days, preferring to take notes in a notebook or on sticky notes. Occasionally I might make a small notation in pencil, which can be erased later. I was more free with college text books, but that's an entirely different story.

I think leaving footprints serves a purpose for some readers and I see nothing wrong with it. I would rather read a book without someone else's comments, but then again, sometimes it can be amusing or even special to walk with someone else through a book.

PJ said...

Very good question. First, I have to admit I've donated book to library like a animal rescue. To think they are just thrown away..*ah* ;) I like writing my name and the date I bought the book. Inspirational books I have ntoes on, but more over than not I do not write in books. I worry about the book police coming in to check mine. Also, I will not put shoes or a glass or plate on top of books....