Scrawling in books

Tags: personal

I sometimes commit sacrilege.

I make notes in my books. I scrawl in the margins. I underline important sentences. Sacrilege! It horrifies some people that someone can do that to a book.

Why do I do it?

  • I want to pay more attention when reading. Keeping on the look-out for paragraphs that draw my attention makes me pay attention. And for instance numbering items (when the author hasn’t done it despite telling he’s going to make five points) helps me pick out the author’s intention better.

  • I use my books. At least, some of them. I have several books I re-read from time to time. Often I won’t take the time to read them in full, but I just browse the paragraphs I put a line next to in the margin or sentences that I underlined. A very handy way to get more mileage out of a book.

  • They’re my books. I’m legally allowed to set them on fire or to chop them to little pieces or use them as toilet paper. So don’t start complaining about a bit of ink I’ve put on some pages.

You know what’s real sacrilege? Making notes in your bible :-) One of my bible study group members shuddered at the thought of not keeping it as tidy as possible. Well, mine is missing part of the cover, has notes in it and has lots of marks from been carried across town in many different kinds of bags… Sacrilege or usage? Both attitudes are fine, I think.

The kinds of notes that I make:

  • I put a vertical line in the outer margin of paragraphs to mark them as important or funny or worthy to read a second time.

  • I underline individual sentences that strike me.

  • If I especially want to remember something, I simply make the horizontal or vertical line thicker.

  • I write short words in the margin to trigger me. For instance “c.s.r.” to remind me that I saw what the author is describing in my student club once.

  • I put slightly longer thoughts at the top or the bottom of the page with an arrow to the part of the page where it belongs to. People that want to keep their books clean will really hate those inelegant arrows :-)

Maybe it is time for you to start making notes in your books?

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About me

My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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