So, for the longest time I shared the opinion of most book lovers I know: the books on my shelf had to be in the most pristine condition possible, no matter if read or unread.
I’d read paperbacks very carefully, barely opening them so I wouldn’t damage the spine, which made reading extremely uncomfortable. I thought hardbacks were much better than paperbacks because they look cleaner and more “unread” on the shelf and would cry every time one of my books got a tiny dent (figuratively – I never actually cried over that).
In school, however, I loved highlighting the crap out of my books and scribbling annotations in the margins. For my books at home, I’d use post it’s to highlight quotes or passages that I liked, the idea of writing in or even highlighting parts of my precious babies filled me with horror.
I’m not exactly sure what changed my attitude towards that. It may have been the fact that I finished school and I simply missed using my highlighters. I think what I really missed was analyzing texts and looking at them in a critical way. I also kinda distanced myself from the idea that books have to look perfect on your shelves – yes, having paperbacks with undamaged spines is nice – but having some that look like they’ve been read several hundred times and show everyone who sees them how much you as a reader enjoyed reading them are awesome too. That’s my opinion, at least.
I gotta admit I was a bit nervous when I first sat down with my book, a pencil and a highlighter, but I got used to it pretty quickly. Today I prefer paperbacks to hardcovers because they’re so much easier to read (and cheaper!) and I don’t care if the spine breaks while I’m reading them. Books were made to be read and enjoyed, so why should I make myself super uncomfortable while reading. I highlight passages, words or sentences in my books and write comments in pencil, sometimes just because I like a scene/quote or because I want to comment on the plot and how it’s making me feel, sometimes because I want to analyze a scene like in good old school-days. And I’m okay with that. I think one of the main reasons why I used to think like most people was – well, because most people thought like that, so it had to be the right thing, right? I’ve now gotten to a point where I’ve realized that every reader should treat their books however they want to – if you love pristine looking books, then go you; if you love annotating and highlighting your books like me, then that’s great too. Unless you don’t go bashing other people’s opinions it’s perfectly fine. (Seriously though… DON’T BEND PAGES, USE BOOK MARKS!!! I’m joking, you can do whatever you want, but that is one of my bookish pet peeves that still remains, even now that I think books don’t have to look brand-new in order to look pretty.
If you’re curious about annotating/highlighting books – just try it! It won’t kill you. If you don’t like it, don’t do it again. But maybe you’ll feel like me and realize that running your highlighter over your page can be So. Damn. Satisfying.
Here’s some pictures of annotations I made in my current read, Dracula by Bram Stoker. I made these because I noticed some things about his writing in these particular passages and I really wanted to comment on them and analyze them a bit.
What is your opinion on this topic? Do you keep your books squeaky clean or do you annotate as well? Let me know!