Monday, July 20, 2015

in between the lines and margins

I grew up with a healthy respect for books. Or perhaps obsessive. . . I'll let you judge.

GIF Stich with a book

My mom loves books. Our living room decor IS books. (Okay, it's actually jungle print. . . it's more bookish than jungle if you ask me though.)

Shelves upon shelves of books. When I would help dust, I'd always find a title that I hadn't noticed before. My mom accused me of cleaning too slowly because I would read all the titles and pick a book up every now and then.

I would visit a friend's house and find it strange that there were no books in sight. I mean, who doesn't read?


 (Apparently, a lot of people. . . Boring old stuffies.)

So of course, I had been taught from a very young age to never, ever deface a book.

Be careful with the cover. Do not think of removing the jacket. Don't dog ear the pages. Never stick anything inside it to keep your place aside from a bookmarker (Oops, the iphone is too large?) Don't set things like cups of water or food on top of your books.

And NEVER ever in a million years- don't you dare, you villainous devil- WRITE IN A BOOK UPON PENALTY OF DEATH.

mulan, dishonor

 But you know something? While actually reading books, I read about people who had written notes inside their books. Notes for other people to find. Notes that their children found helpful. Notes that reminded them of the things that they thought of while reading their books. Notes expounding upon their favorite quotes. And so forth.

Well, that's strange. Books promote their own desecration?

No matter. I would never think of doing such a dishonor to my beloved books.

Check that.

I never thought I would, until, um. . .

I read The Giver by Lois Lowry (If you haven't, it's positively amazing and what are you waiting for? This post can rest; go read the book!). That book. Just wow. There was this one part- I won't tell you which if you haven't read- but I had never been so teared up over a book before. Especially when it wasn't even a character death (though I will say there did seem to be some things very dead and long cold on that page).


I sat with my bed light on, late at night being the only one awake, and hoping so much that all my tears would not ruin the pages of my book because, uh- there were a lot.

 I had to get all that I was thinking out somehow. And being a writer, I turned to a pencil (well, pen actually, since no pencil could be found. . . oh, technicalities).


Oh, horror upon horror! If I ever confessed to my mom, what would she say?

But I convinced myself that this was a special case. And that it would never happen again.

You know, at least until some chapters later, and- and-

You guys, it was terrible! It was the second worst thing ever (second to the first time). So I wrote again. I know. I have no will at all when it comes to the heavy sadness that books can incur. And that's what this last one was. It wasn't the crying and can't stop kind of sadness. It was the heavy kind that comes with the loss of something you didn't know you had lost.

Needless to say, after having written these notes in a state of desperation and in pen of all things, none of it was very legible. Even to myself. But I know what it says. When I look at those scramble of mushed together words because the margins were terrible small, I remember those things that I first felt while reading The Giver. The emotions that an author can incite in a person. I remember just why exactly it made me so sad (because in a way, it all seemed too probable).

And now what do I think about writing in books?

"Surprisingly Okay"

I have no shame. My mom might be horrified. But I think it makes a book personally yours when you share your thoughts with it like that. And I see nothing wrong with it, you know, as long as it doesn't hamper your reading it again.

I've been reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I've underlined some of my favorite quotes (that book is full of good stuff). It's so small though. I mean, I have to actually open the book ALL  the way. I didn't even realize that I only openbooks halfway to keep from bending the covers until it pained me to open this book completely. It's a subconscious thing, I guess- to protect books (that sounded weird. . .). I've written in some smallish notes, but I've had to resort to taking scraps of paper and sticking them in the pages. Also I've been writing a lot of notes on my phone (mostly because I want to do a review/discussion on it for you guys).

 I vote that book publishers make margins and the in between lines larger.

So what do you all think? Do you write in your books? Or is that an abomination of mass grievances? Have you ever considered it in the least?


  1. I've actually been meaning to write a blog post about how to be more effective at writing in books! I didn't used to write in books, more out of force of habit than anything else, and then I got into high school. Book annotations are SO IMPORTANT then. SO IMPORTANT. To me, anyway. And so it makes me smile that you're getting into the habit of writing in your books because, you know, it's going to be a skill you may actually need by the time you get to college. So, rock on to writing in your books! Keep at it. :)

    1. Haha! Thanks. :)

      I am in college, but strangely I've done much writing in my textbooks. I do underlines things that I need to quote for essays. But that's about it. For some reason though it seems very different to write in a textbook for school and to write your thoughts on a scene in a novel.

  2. *Sighs* This is what sticky notes are for.

    I personally don't like to write in books (although my mom does, and it drives me crazy) although I often use sticky notes to write little thoughts, and they're especially useful when I'm gonna write a review on it. There have been too many times when I've left sticky notes inside books then returned it to the library. Oh well. Now the next reader will know the rating of each story in that anthology.

    1. I can almost see your outrage. :) Sorry. I didn't mean to irk you. But I definitely see sticky notes being very useful. Plus, you have the advantage of more room to write if the book is on the smallish side of smallness.

      When I was younger, if I let my friends borrow a book, sometimes I'd slip torn pieces of paper in with notes on a particularly scene. They seemed to liked that. . . if my notes didn't fall out. :P

  3. I was going to write a blog post on this exact subject, I am not particularly good at keeping books perfect, but I have still never written in one. I have started wanting to though. I think it's cool to leave bits of yourself everywhere.

    1. You should go and write it! I would love to read that post. :D

      Yes, especially inside books. XD

  4. You're right, I'm scared to spdesecrate my books! But boy, does it sound like a lovely idea. It makes reading so much more personal. Books and their readers are interdependent and that's the beauty of reading. :) Lovely post, I think I'll whip my pen out for the next book I read...

    1. It's is a scary threshold to step over.

      Unless your crying your eyes like I was. :P

      So it's scary to contemplate. I mean, books are the most precarious things in the world. But at the same time, it does make it more personal. And just. . . I don't know. I cherish it more I guess. And it helps me think about what I'm reading if I can write.

    2. Precious. I meant precious. . . not precarious. *hides face in shame* I hate spelling.

  5. I never write in books either, even though I do unspeakable things to covers and spines and page corners. But I write in the margins of my own manuscripts all the time, and perhaps it wouldn't be such an ill thing to try it with an actual book. I wonder, does having other people's notes in the margins improve a book or no? I know I love reading author's footnotes a lot.

    1. Yes! Author's footnotes. They are so insightful.

      I once had this special edition Pride and Prejudice book. The people who published loves this classic. They decided to do an edition that had notes in the margins where they would print things like info on the movie editions, quotes from Jane Austen, romance advice, or just a note to point out something they, the publishers, personally liked. That was one of the best books ever! I enjoyed that edition so much.

  6. I don't write in books, but it's not because I think books are too precious or anything. It's usually got more to do with my messy handwriting and perfectionism... If I could think of appropriate things to add to book margins, I would do it. But I can't, so I don't. Fascinating, I'm sure!
    Beth x

    1. Oh, yes messy handwriting. . . I do have that dilemma actually. :P I can understand.

  7. I remember being in S3 (grade ... something ... aged 13-14, I mean) and studying Of Mice and Men for English, and it was the first time I'd ever properly studied a book, and I was terrified to annotate said book! I remember underlining things so tentatively in pencil! But soon I lost this fear and I was scrawling in biro with gay abandon.

    I absolutely love annotating for school in this way, so if you picked up my copies of Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, Lord of the Flies, The Great Gatsby or Macbeth they're absolutely covered in notes and underlining in black pen. But aside from that, curiously, I never write in books -- I do have something of a horror of it. I find I want all or nothing. Either I annotate properly -- notes on every page, discussion of the theme, underlining key motifs, the whole shebang -- or I don't at all. This summer I've been reading books with the view to finding a topic for my Advanced Higher dissertation, but I've been making notes in a separate notebook. The Mill on the Floss I couldn't bear to annotate because it's such a pretty copy, and A Farewell to Arms was a library book!

    But you know what, Ashley? You've inspired me. Currently I'm reading When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro, which is neither a pretty hardback nor a library book, and I think I'm going to pick up a pencil and get to it. Because actually, I absolutely love finding secondhand books that have been underlined in. It gives you the chance to look into the soul of the previous reader.


[insert witty saying about comments] And you may insert your comment below. :)