Writing in books is something many readers feel passionately about, whether they choose to do it or not.
I’ve always felt strongly about not writing in my books. I prefer to keep them pristine.
But not only that: when I read, I never feel the urge to take notes. Even when I read on the Kindle, I don’t pause to highlight a particular phrase that I find meaningful.
Sometimes I’ll hunt a quote out later, if it sticks in my mind. But while I’m reading, I’m too caught up in the flow of the words to stop and write something down.
Taking notes reminds me of my days studying English, which is no bad thing. At university I read more intensely, more in depth, and I was more conscious of the underlying meaning in a book, searching out themes and motifs to discuss in my essays.
There are times now when I wish I still read that way. Sometimes I finish a book and I know I haven’t scratched the surface; I’ve read for entertainment and if it’s been lacking, I’ve persevered, but I haven’t peeled back the layers to understand what makes the book tick.
At times I envy people who enjoy taking a pen to their books and highlighting the sections they find most meaningful, so that they can return to them again and again. Perhaps the meaning will change over time, perhaps not, but they’ll always know that here is a sentence that struck them, once. They found it powerful enough to note something in the margin, or underline it.
It’s not something that comes naturally to me.
I remember studying The Handmaid’s Tale for my A-Level in English Literature. We weren’t allowed to take the book into the exam, but we would need to quote from the text. I spent months searching for the perfect quotes to convey my arguments, printing them out and sticking pieces of paper around the house in an effort to aid my memory.
I wish I still had that list of quotes.
For me, nothing beats opening a novel and drawing a finger across a smooth unmarked page. I enjoy discovering someone else’s world contained within the pages of a book, my own thoughts kept separate.
Sometimes I find it curious to see the passages that others have marked on their Kindles while I’m reading a book. At other times I find it a distraction.
But I understand the impulse to write in the margins and capture the moments that make a story personal.