When I was in college and had a choice between used and new books, I almost always bought new unless the used book was pristine and unmarked. Before that, I didn’t have a choice. I just had to live through the scribbles and highlights of the previous textbook user. If their name was written on the bookplate, and I knew them, their reputation was taken down a notch in my mind. But after high school, I had a choice and I chose unblemished books.
I admit, I don’t like reading ‘dirty’ books. I like to keep mine as clean as possible. Because of that, I keep meticulous notes in a separate notebook. I am not obsessive about keeping a book clean, mind you. I’ve had lapses when I didn’t have anything else to write on and I just had to make a note on the margin or highlight a passage. The reason I didn’t like books that have been highlighted or marked up when I was in school was not due to any OCD tendencies either, I just didn’t want any spoilers. I want to see a passage and say to myself, ‘Wow! that’s highlight worthy!’ When something triggers a question or thought, I want to be the one to jot it down on my notebook or on the margin. I don’t want other people’s mark ups to influence how I understand or absorb or react to any book.
But I found, in the process of reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, that maybe there’s another way of looking at mark ups.
My daughter read this book in high school and I told myself I wanted to read it after she’s done with it. But of course, I soon forgot about it until she left for college and one day something reminded me of this book. I searched her old book case and didn’t find it. So when I got the chance, I bought it and took it home. But yet again, I didn’t ever get to it.
Then this weekend, while I was looking for a book to pass the time with, I found my daughter’s old school book on the book shelf by the back door. How convenient, I thought. I can get started on this copy and leave it by the back door for when I want to read outside. I have the copy I bought in my room for when I want to read in bed.
As soon as I opened her copy, I was disappointed to find that it was all marked up! She had underlined, circled, annotated, illustrated and every other imaginable type of mutilation you can do to a book, she had inflicted on this poor copy.
But something happened as I flipped through more pages. I started enjoying seeing her handwriting. It was almost as if she had reached out from the page to hug me. I guess I was missing her more than I thought.
So I settled back and read along with her. It felt like having her on my lap again and reading aloud while she made her little comments and asked her questions. That was her, right there on the margin…
Then there are sections like this one where she wrote the lyrics to the Beatles song that just cracked me up. It is just like her! We still do that sometimes when we’re talking and our conversations elicit random song lyrics. LOL!
I think it is very apropos then that I am reading this book now and remembering her when she was two because this is her birthday week and she will be officially out of her teens. *sigh*
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BEAUTIFUL BOOK GRAFFITI ARTIST! You just made me see markups and doodles on books in a whole new light.
What kind of reader are you? Do you mark up your books? Or do you feel like you’ve been stabbed when you open a marked up book?
If you want to know, there really is a correct way to mark up a book and reading that list, I think my girl gets an A at book marking 🙂