Friday, July 22, 2016

Your Book Ground Rules

First, the confession. Depending upon the book, I may dog-ear pages, write in the margins, underline, put stars next to particularly important parts, scrawl a point of disagreement with the author, put question marks next to points that are unclear, etc.

Ultra-expensive books rarely get such treatment. Non-fiction is more likely to be scrawled upon because I see it as a tool. A cheap paperback novel might get dog-eared but I use index cards as bookmarks in most instances.

There may be some bias. A copy of War and Peace will receive reverential treatment. A paperback mystery or western may not. 

Do you have ground rules for the treatment of your books?


Daniel Richwine said...

Some books are like old friends. I keep them around even if I haven't read them in years and don't really intend to - it makes me feel better that they're just there. Others I get rid of as soon as I finish if not earlier.

Most of the books in my house I haven't read - they serve as a humbling reminder of how much more there is to know just in my own little home that I don't have time to study, in case I get too impressed with my own knowledge.

As far as treatment, I've never owned an expensive book so I can't speak to that, but I usually feel a well worn book is the sign of a well used mind, so I don't mind digging into anything I read.

Michael Wade said...


I always have a large number of unread books; some purchased years ago. When the mood strikes, I'm ready.

Other books are kept for possible research or because I plan to re-read them. [I've started re-reading the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patriuck O'Brian. I also know that certain books, such as "War and Peace," will be re-read.]


Michael Wade said...

Make that "Patrick O'Brian."

Bear with me.


Anonymous said...

I don't really own any books I consider expensive, so if the book is mine it is fair game for notes, underlines, lines, arrows, symbols, braces, square brackets, dogeared pages, and particularly notable pages being recorded at the back of the book. I freely annotate the table of contents and index. The main exceptions to this are books I consider of sentimental, historic, or sacred value.

More than once I've loaned a trusted friend a book and offered them an unmarked or annotated copy and they sometimes prefer the annotated copy. If you're not a trusted friend, well ... I'm still reading it. This more or less matches my philosophy on loaning tools.

Yes, I've been known to buy more than one copy of a book, particularly if it is a hard cover; such tend to disappear off the shelves and go out of print rapidly unless it becomes a best seller. I especially enjoy being able to give a friend their own copy of a favorite book.

I value the author's and my thoughts more than the physical object, and annotation makes those thoughts more readily available. I also put my name and date purchased on the first page after the cover. Doing so provides a quirky kind of audit trail of what I've learned and when.

I stopped using highlight markers since, depending on the color, photocopiers obscure the marked text.

Unfortunately bookmarks captured on ebooks aren't really portable and adding notes varies by application - most not at all. A consistently formatted export function would be a real boon. I keep meaning to review and record the bookmarks once I've finished reading a book, but I'm usually on to the next one and the old bookmarks languish.

Recently my favorite ereader (a lightweight 5" diagonal eInk ereader) died, and all those uncaptured bookmarks are lost to me. I've already begun to rethink how I bookmark and what happens to those bookmarks based on this experience.

For especially notable books, I write my own review and append the bookmarked passages. Granted, some ereaders or ereader software makes copying text from the book a breeze, and for that I am grateful.

I have saved a large collection of quotations, and hold them in high regard. And of course I have notes in those as well.

Hey, lookee what I found:

Theis is also fun:


Michael Wade said...


Those are great practices and I appreciate the links!

A client of mine recently told me that her system involves writing key points on large index cards. She often organizes them by subject rather than by book.

I really like your practice of writing a review. For some time now I have been writing key page numbers and their topics in the front and/or back of the book. That has been helpful.

As you've noted, the e-books have their limitations. If I'm going to make notes, I need a paper copy.