Scot McKnight has posted On Marking Books just to remind us how he can make the quirkiest thing into an interesting blog post. I’ve realized over the years that I’ve developed a few book quirks of my own.
I don’t tend to re-use bookmarks, but often find some scrap of paper that bears reference to the time and place in which I started reading the book. If I start a new book on an airplane, the bookmark might be my boarding pass. If I saw a movie that day, it might be the ticket stub from the movie. It could be almost anything, and when I’m finished the book I tend to leave that bookmark in the book.
Only rarely do I make notes in or underline in a book — I might make notes on a “Post-It Note” with the page number plus my notations, or just flag the page with the post-it. The post-it might also move through the book as I read and finish in the front or back of the book with my set of notes, quotes, and notations on it, with page references. Sometimes these reading notes go on a loose piece of paper which may mark my place in the book’s end notes as I read so I can easily flip back and forth between my spot in the book and the notes that correspond.
If I lend out a book, I remove my notes and my bookmark, then replace them in the book before re-shelving it upon its return to me. I would keep those items with the dust jacket, which I also wouldn’t lend out. I used to literally have people sign out books like a library and enter them into my database, but I’ve lightened up considerably. My books are all stamped with my name on the edge of the pages on the top of the book as well as inside on the flyleaf, where I use a stamp that has a picture of some books and scrolls and a quill pen, with the words below it, “Three things: old friends, old wine, old books.” Plus my name, of course. An un-stamped book cannot be loaned. The few books I have in which I’ve made notes right on the pages are, like an autographed copy, generally not loaned out.
I’ve made sure my kids learn how to properly open a book for the first time (children should be taught respect for books as well as love for them), and will do so myself to protect the spine before reading it (yes, even a paperback novel), or before lending if I loan it before I’ve read it.
I know people who write the dates in pencil inside the cover when they purchase a book and/or when they read it. It makes a lot of sense and I don’t really know why I don’t do it.
I think some of my friends would rather buy their own copy of a book I recommend just to avoid borrowing it from someone so unreasonably particular as me, and I secretly consider this a good thing; those who do borrow my books for the most part already know how particular I am and seem okay with it on some level. Yes, I know I somewhat exhibit a touch of OCD about the whole thing. Okay, maybe more than a touch. But no, I don’t want to change.
yah, I’m one of those people who writes the date of purchase inside the cover.. I like to sometimes pick up a book and remember the context of my purchase and what else I was engaging at the time.. and I agree to loaning the book without the jacket and notes and replacing them later :)
Alright – I am with you on most of your OCD. I will start to keep the jacket. I always forget who I give books away too. However, I do write and highlight and underline and exclamation points and on and on.
I borrowed a book from my last boss (we worked in the youth department) and it was John Piper, “Desiring God” and he had loaned it out previously to another woman…she dropped it in the bathtub while she was reading. I accidentially dumped coffee on it. He still has the book…worn and read many times.
I agree with your respect of books but I also love a book that looks like it has been enjoyed and devoured. One that looks like it has a life and a story behind the words on the page. Which I believe each books does if it is read by anyone.
It’s funny how we all have “strange” book habits, but we’re on the same page about several of them.
Senselight, I was going to mention my copy of “Desiring God” in my original post, but didn’t… I’ve written in that one and I no longer loan it. This particular book was one of the best I’ve read and I tell people who request a loan that they should own their own copy of it. In the margins of the book, I argue with him about his “Christian Hedonism” as an oxymoron, and you can see my comments change as he wins me over through the book. In addition to other reasons for not loaning a book, with this one I don’t want my margin notes to detract or discolour the original words that Piper wrote… let each reader have their own experience first, then discuss.
Also, the last paragraph in your comment (Senselight) reflects one of my own feelings about books, and shows me that we both “get it” at least partly in the same way. Of the oldest books in my library, I sometimes wonder what stories they could tell beyond the words in print as they passed through various hands over the years.
John, a new book should be opened carefully so that the binding won’t crack. Hold the book upright with the binding down on the table (or whatever) before you, and as you open it at the front, also open the back so that the cover is splayed out and the pages are standing up. Take a small amount of pages (say 10-30 pages depending how thick the book is) with from each side with your thumbs, and open them at the same time. Keep working in from both sides until you get to the middle, gently flexing the binding by smoothing the pages as you go. I hope that makes sense without a visual demonstration!
Ah, the love of books… ;^)