Porcupine Books

I do not write in books. I do not highlight in books. Books are our friends, and I do not believe in marking up my friends.

The only exception to this was the one time I was studying MacIntyre and trying out new study methods. I reasoned that I did not even like what I was reading, so I should get over my fear of disrespecting the books and write notes in the margins for discussions with my professor. A few days later my professor sent me an email. He wanted to know whether he could borrow one of my books to make copies for one of his classes. He knew that I did not write in my books and his were all covered with notes… thankfully I had only begun my attempts to defile the pages and the section of interest to my professor was still clean. But that stopped me from further attempts to get over my respect of books.

Since I could not write in books I turned to excessive bookmarking with 3×5 cards with notes written on the cards. But then one day someone picked up my book incorrectly and many of my notes fell out. So I started using post-it page markers. And now certain books bear a strong resemblance to porcipines.

How do you mark your books? Please share your strategies, but if you are one of those people who is so into writing and highlighting in your books that you also mark up library books, please do not tell me. I do not want to put a face on the one I have hated for all these years.

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9 thoughts on “Porcupine Books

  1. Erin

    You remind me of two of my Indian friends from college. They lived next door to me freshman year and one day I walked into their room after class and put my books on the floor and sat on one of their beds (it was a dorm with two beds). They both seemed uneasy, but I didn’t know why. Then I rested my feet on my stack of books that was on the floor and they went nuts! They explained that in their culture, knowledge was one of the most important things and it was to be valued. The books represented knowledge, and thus books do not belong on the floor, and they most certainly shouldn’t be used as foot rest. I now think of them whenever I am mishandling a book. So no, I do not write in my books, I use post-its and write on them. Or I xerox the page and write on that. The one exception is that I was on a plane and really enjoying a book I was reading and I knew I would want to re-read a few passages. So I put the tiniest black dot next to the first line of a passage that interested me. This is my personal book – I’d never mark in a book that needed to be returned.

  2. Dawn Farias

    I do not want to put a face on the one I have hated for all these years.

    I suppose it’s a good thing you don’t know what I look like then! Oh wait, unless you’ve paid attention to my profile picture on my blog…

  3. Roz

    Forgive me in advance.

    Yes, books are friends. My book and I have a reciprocal relationship. He offers himself to me little by little, and I receive with gratitude, mentioning to him, via highlighted exclamation or notes, what parts of his offering are most valuable to me. He, in his turn, responds gratefully, giving me more enlightenment in the next pages.

    When we have to be apart for awhile and then spend time together again, we don’t have to start from scratch. Rather, we can recall easily what we have meant to one another.

    Of course I would never highlight a borrowed book. That would be like taking a liking to a friend’s date and running off with him that evening. If I find him fascinating, the least I can do is contact him on my own after discreetly obtaining his [ISBN] number and build a separate friendship rather than interfere with the relationship they have between themselves.

  4. Elizabeth

    I used to not mark up my books, and then I threw that out the window. I don’t want to completely destroy my books, though, so I primarily just underline in pencil. When I don’t have post-its handy, I’ll also dog-ear. I would never mark in a book that wasn’t mine, but I have to confess I do dog-ear library books sometimes.

  5. Katie

    This actually prompts me to think of marking in a particular book…

    I’d love to read a blog post on what you think of the occurence of people who mark in Bibles…in a Catechist Certification class I took, I was taught that it was fine…but mention that to my grandma, and I’m sure I’d be excommunicated…

    love to know what your thoughts are….

    1. Rae Post author

      Oh, that is a tough one. Technically there is not anything wrong with writing respectful notes or underlining in Bibles, but I cannot do it. I actually feel as though something is wrong when I put a Bible on the floor (I often stack books on the floor and don’t have a bedside table) but I do it anyway.

  6. Christine

    I also have difficulties writing and marking up books. I’m a fan of using post it notes and writing the important things on them. I occasionally highlight or underline (like when I’m reading really dry chemistry textbooks or marking scientific/mathematical texts for open book exams ) or write notes when I don’t have anything else to write on and I want to keep that thought. When I’m doing book studies or whatever I have so much difficulty writing in anything. For example, I was at a book study last night with a pen and the intention of writing down important things , but I didn’t and couldn’t write a single thing.

  7. Genavee

    I’m with you on the book-marking hate. My husband does that with his books (not library, thank goodness) and I can’t bear to watch. I make him swear up and down that he will do no such blasphemy whenever he wants to use one of my books.

    If there is a book that I feel the need to take notes about or otherwise create references, I’ll just use a notepad, and latter tear the page out and keep it folded up in the book. I like having all my notes in one place anyways.

  8. Andrea

    I have the same issues with writing in books – it shouldn’t be done. I knew a few “academics” who did this and made it sound as though it was the ONLY way to handle a book. I found them to be a smidgen pretentious. Anyway, now that I have an iPhone and Kindle for iPhone app, it’s easy to digitally highlight and make notes! As for paperbound books, I usually just go without notes. Though, the post-it idea is worth trying.

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