The other night a friend posed an interesting question: Do you write in the books you’re reading? She didn’t present it as an accusation – more as a philosophical query. She seemed to really be asking not only, Do you write in books, but should you?
A colleague I never see any more always wrote in books, including ones he’d borrowed from the library. He’d sometimes come running up to me, open book in hand. I came to know this meant he’d found comments someone else had left in the margin of a book, as if to justify his own messy habit. I believe he’d usually jot something next to the remark, adding his comment to the ones he discovered left by some stranger. Kind of like being an early blogger, long before blogs existed.
As a person who often writes about books, I need to make some sorts of marks for myself when I’m reviewing. I usually rely on Post-It Notes, but have been known to dog-ear corners and even write on the sacred page, though I try to avoid this. I'll admit it, sometimes the urge to write on the page wins. This happens most often when I'm not enjoying a book, as in the poetry collection above with the note of frustration: me, me, me.
Yet even when I’m not reviewing, I often make note of pages I appreciate, and later transfer the passages to a notebook. Mostly, I restrict this to an inspiring line or phrase. But Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass series saw me scribing vast tracts.
I wonder, do other people do this sort of thing? And if you do write in books, do you boldly use pen (as I apparently used to) or pencil?