Writing in Books

Hi guys! I have a whole post written–stop laughing! I do!–but there’s a lot of tweets embedded and it’s kind of long, so it’s hiding behind the jump.

Before I get into my bit, here is a long list of tweets for you to read. (Can you tell how late I am with this post? Hint: Look at the tweet dates.)

I can practically see you guys cringing right now. I’m pretty sure I can hear everyone going:

Oh god, no! I would never do that to my books! Crazy!

Listen, I totally understand. I am personally not of the variety of people who find it A-OK to write in books. But that’s the whole point of this post. Why have I come to believe that writing in books is this horrible, awful thing? Essentially, why do I treat my books like “holy relics”?

Well, it could be the cost of the books. “I spent X amount of money on my books and HECK NO! I’m not going to ruin them like that.” That’s fine, but I spend money on a lot of things that end up getting used, abused, and eventually trashed. My point is: what is the purpose of buying something and then refusing to use it or make it yours? I know reading counts as using the book, but that’s only one part of it.

When we buy coloring books we check out all the pictures and then we grab our crayons and get started. Notebooks are purchased for the sole purpose of writing. Planners and diaries are marked up. Textbooks are highlighted left and right. Novels are… read. We’re encouraged to write in other forms of books, but not novels. Makes sense considering they’re made for reading, but who says we can’t write in our books? It’s become some type of Unwritten Rule and I think it’s bullshit. I think it’s like buying a WRECK THIS JOURNAL and then refusing to wreck it. Refusing to make it yours.

Why shouldn’t I underline that quote that I adore?

I personally love it when I buy a used book and realize someone wrote inside it. Those notes are little stories within the story. I will even go out of my way to buy a marked up copy of a book if the thoughts written inside are interesting enough. They become part of the book. It’s almost like reading a review or even an add-on to the main story. You’re getting to know a complete stranger. It’s great.

I think what I need to remember is that it’s not so much the physical books that are important, but the stories. Why shouldn’t we want to add our thoughts and ideas into those stories? It’s all part of the experience, isn’t it? Who ever said we weren’t allowed to add to the story? I don’t know, guys. I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what. One day I hope someone buys one of my old books and gets to know me through the impassioned notes I scrawled in the margins.

One day, maybe. (But probably not any time soon because I’m still too uptight about it. Haha!)

Anyway: as a parting note here is one of my favorite tweets back to Rainbow’s thoughts.

Okay, so bring on the fire! Because I know a lot of you won’t agree. What do you think?


22 thoughts on “Writing in Books

  1. I… I write notes in books if I’m going to use them to write an essay, but not if I’m reading them for my personal enjoyment or to write reviews which now that I think about it is kinda weird. Why one and not the other? *shrugs*

    I’m not a huge fan of finding notes written in books when I buy them used. Quite often I don’t agree with the point someone else was making, and I find them distracting. Especially so if it is the first time I’ve read the book.

    Loved the final tweets. It’s actually an interesting point, and writing in books can be useful.

    1. I think people are more inclined to write in books when it’s for school because they know they’re doing it for a reason and it’s going to help them in the future. I mean, it makes sense to do that but not write in books for enjoyment. Like, why would you if you don’t NEED to?

      Ah, yes, that’s a good point. For the most part I don’t really find too many notes that apply to the book written inside. It’s usually names on the front cover or something like that. In my super old copy of Gone with the Wind it says something about whose book it is and “Please return” or something. Little things like that make me happy. I don’t know why.

  2. I love how Rainbow Rowell says, “What’s wrong with marking up a book that’s leaving a mark on you?” SO TRUE!

    I don’t know where or when it became implanted in my brain that writing in books was a big NO NO, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how much more bonded I would become with the book and author if I did write in it. Then also when you write little notes in the book and you read the book years later, how cool would it be to reflect on those notes? It would be memories in physical form! Great post! 🙂

    1. Yes, definitely. Like if there is a super corny scene and you write “Oh, PLEASE!” or something. Or mention how something made you sad or whatever. I think it’s such an interesting concept. I think our future selves would like that, you know? I do know a lot of bloggers have so many books to read that maybe getting to a single book again isn’t likely, but still.

      Thanks for stopping by! 😀

  3. This is such an insightful post! I love picking up books with thoughtful writings and looking through to see what that person thought of the book (unfortunately these are mostly school books and generic notes, but still interesting). I often mark my pages with post its that can be taken off. But I like the idea of making a book yours. Would love to see one of the books you’ve given some love marks to!

    1. I’m definitely a post-it tag person too. I mean, even if we DID start writing in our books those would probably still be a fixture. Haha. But yeah. I know a lot of people have problems with writing in their books. That’s fine! I don’t really do it either, but I feel like we should decriminalize it, you know? It really ISN’T the end of the world if something is written inside.

  4. I absolutely love it when I find a secondhand book that has inscriptions and underlines in it. I like reading people’s thoughts, and when there’s an underline I always think: why is that underlined? Did it mean something to that person, or did they simply just like it? Either way, I really love it.
    But I would never ever write in my own books. And it’s not for a lack of love or adoration. I can love a book more than anyone else I know, and just because I don’t write in it doesn’t mean I love it any less. And I don’t really treat books as holy relics, either. I just like things to be perfect. It’s my perfectionist side that doesn’t want writing in the book. I like my books to look brand new even if I’ve read them (although for books I’ve read over and over this is actually impossible). I just couldn’t write in them because then they wouldn’t be my perfect pretties any more, haha. 😀
    But I think that it’s awesome that some love writing in their books. Kudos to them!

    1. I feel the same way. I just… I have a lot of trouble making my books unperfect. That’s not even a word, but whatever. Haha. I don’t actually have much to say that I would write in it anyway. I just want the option, you know?

  5. Oh I love this! She is so amazing. 🙂 I have to admit that I’m a both hesitant to make any markings or writings on my books, but I wished I was that sort of person. It would be so fun to go back and read what I’ve thought about some passage. I do notes and highlights with my Kindle, but I haven’t done it with my paperbacks. Maybe I’ll relax a bit and start doing notes on the margins. 😀

    Great post and insight!! 🙂

    1. I underline on my Kindle too. I don’t know, though… I feel like it’s sort of a pain to look back on those. It might just be MY Kindle. Anyhow, it’s useful. 🙂

  6. I just can’t bring myself to write in my new books and I’m not sure I will ever be able to. Now, if I’ve bought a used book and it was for class I would write in it, but that is the only time. I like post its more too.

    1. I’m sort of the same way. I often don’t even want to read my new book for fear of ruining it. I’m way more likely to pick it up if it’s already been broken in. Post-Its are good! 😀

  7. I never write in my books, I get your point and it makes absolute sense but I just wouldn’t be able to do it! Love the tweet by Rainbow Rowell at the end though.
    And yep, tags are definitely my thing too, I only recently starting using them but its so great, I feel like it helps me to appreciate the language in a book as well as the story so much more! Great post 🙂

  8. I totally mark my books! Mostly highlights. I strangely prefer well-worn books. 😛 I only feel embarrassed when I want to part with a book and there are highlights everywhere. I feel like the next recipient would think strangely of me :))

    1. I don’t know. I think most people either like the marks or don’t like the marks. I hardly ever hear people say that the previous owner is strange or whatever. That would, after all, mean the next reader of the book is strange too. Because obviously they were interested as well. 🙂

  9. I never really think to underline and mark in books, but I think part of it is in case I want to lend them, I don’t want to ruin the story by marking “hey this part is special” in case they have different feelings or something? I had a bunch of page flags in a book I just let my sister borrow and removed all of them and I was sad. I actually typed a quick list of where they went. But I don’t actually have anything against marking in books, maybe I will try it sometimes!

    1. You’re so considerate! I don’t even let people borrow my books because I hardly ever get them back. And I don’t trust them not to ruin my books. haha.

  10. For me, it’s not that I’m treating the book like some reverential object, it’s just… that’s the way I treat all my things. I want things to remain as perfect as possible. It drives me crazy when a DVD case gets scratched, or a blanket gets frayed. The DVD still plays, the blanket still keeps me warm, but it really bothers me. So I’m the same way about books… but it has nothing to do with the fact that they’re books and I’m a reader so I hold them up to some elevated status… no, they’re just another thing that I own that I want to keep as neat as possible.

    (Also, in my pre-computer days when I actually bought notebooks, I was equally uptight about them. If it was for school, all my note-taking had to be perfect. If I couldn’t get it “right” in class, I’d carefully tear out that page – can’t leave any fringey evidence that there used to be something there – and redo it. Same if I was writing a story; no wonder I never finished anything until I started typing instead, I could never make it to the end if I’m constantly editing as I go! So… no, my reluctance is definitely not specific to books for reading.)

    Not that all of your and Rainbow Rowell’s points aren’t perfectly valid… but I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to get on board.

    1. I totally understand that. I like my things to stay nice and pretty and fresh for as long as they can be. I guess I just don’t like that writing in books is some type of ultimate sin or whatever. As for if I will start doing it, psh! I also doubt I’d be able to get on board. I think whatever someone does with their books is their own thing, though. You know what I mean?

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