Okay, so this week’s Musings Monday is going to center around the topic of annotation. As everyone probably already knows, annotation is marking up your books by highlighting, circling, underlining, and/or writing in the margins of your book while you’re reading. This also falls under the category of close reading. I do this to most of the books I read (as long as I own them) and many of my friends do this as well. So, you can imagine how excited I was when I bought myself some pretty new highlighters and pens for this task, excited enough that I posted the following picture on my Instagram:
Now, as you can imagine, I posted this to further show off my love for books and in no way intended to offend anyone. However, I received a comment from an Instagram user that outright attacked me, called me a despicable human, and told me that I didn’t respect books. My stance is quite the contrary. Books are my life. Seriously. I majored in professional writing and publishing in hopes of landing a job in a publishing house someday and also minored in English Literature just because I love reading and talking about literature so much. Books have saved me in more ways than I can put into words. I was personally taken aback by the comment and offended that someone could challenge my love for books.
Now, I’m sure it goes without saying that this is my book that I bought. It is not one I borrowed. It is not a library book. It is not one I’m planning to give as a gift. This is my book, so I can treat it in the way that suits me best. And the way that suits me best is to mark up the pages to help grow the ideas that the book is trying to convey. But, in the heat of the moment, I unfortunately retorted back to this person. I tried to respond in a very nice manner and I in no way personally attacked her feelings. She then retorted back in a very passive aggressive way telling me that the difference between us is that she respects what she spends her money on and I don’t. So, at that point, I had calmed down some and decided to just delete all the comments, since I don’t want that kind of negativity to be associated with me or my blog. But I still wanted to address the issue. So, here you have me addressing this issue.
First off, you might ask why one might want to annotate their books? Well, there are many reasons including but not limited to: conducting a close reading of the text, pointing out symbolism, keeping track of literary devices the writer uses, highlighting passages that are significant or mean something to you, making notes, and just purely enjoying adding to your reading experience. When I was in college I never once had a professor tell me I shouldn’t mark up a book or look at me with disgust for doing so. In fact, every professor I have ever had has only encouraged me to annotate (always, of course, assuming the book was solely my property). This is a fantastic strategy to help you pull more out of your reading and expand on ideas and really does help to get your brain thinking more than it already does while reading.
On top of helping you think more clearly and deeply about the text you’re reading, annotating also helps encourage you to take more from the book itself. Books themselves are just a jumble of letters on paper. They literally mean nothing. That is, the letters and paper mean absolutely nothing UNTIL you combine them with the reader and writer’s brains. That is where the real value of books comes in. It is not how pretty the book is that you are reading; it is the IDEAS you take from what you are reading that really matter. That is where the real power of books comes into play. This strange hold that books have over us come from reading those letters on those pages and bringing the story to life inside your head. The pages mean nothing. I could look at a book in a language I don’t speak, and it could be the prettiest book in the world with crisp pages and clean margins, but it literally wouldn’t mean anything to me if it wasn’t a book I knew. The physicality of books is not what entrap us. The unseen ideas inside these books that we learn and expand on are what does that. Now, if you were to show me that same book in a different language with bent pages, sun-stained pages, and markings all over it. Then it would hold a power over me. Because then I would think, “Wow. That book meant something to someone. That book really changed them.” And this is what is important when reading. Not how clean you keep your books, but how much they imbed themselves into your mind.
Another quick point. I am an aspiring writer, and I can honestly tell you that if I ever finish a book and publish it, I would love readers to mark up every single inch of whitespace. Destroy the copy of that book if it allows you to take away the ideas. Rip it to shreds if that’s what you need to do. It is not the pages that carry the story, but the reader. Books themselves are meaningless. We give them meaning. We assign feelings and passion to these words. Books are an internal experience that you get to carry with you long after the letters and the paper are gone. Make the experience yours in any way you see fit.
Now, the third and final thing I want to touch on is that, despite me having said all this, it shouldn’t matter. Someone should not be that concerned with what I do with my books. They should worrying about what they want to do with their own. Books are not something that are supposed to drive people apart. They are supposed to bring people together. If you want to keep your books crisp and pretty with no folded pages or markings, GOOD FOR YOU. I applaud you. Do what makes you happy. This is not a competition and in no way should ever cause you to talk in such a derogatory way to someone else. It really says something about someone’s character when they think they are entitled to bully someone over something as petty as this.
So, I say to all of you now. All of you lovely readers out there. Go forth and read in any way that you choose. If annotating adds to your reading experience, GO FOR IT. If annotation doesn’t add to your reading experience or you don’t find joy in it, DON’T DO IT. It’s as simple as that. Let’s take another step towards living together in harmony and being nice to one another. Let people do what makes them happy and worry solely about what makes you happy and not what others think of how you achieve happiness.
Well, that is all for now. Have a lovely Monday everyone and thanks for reading. As always, here are the following thinks to my other social media platforms. Never hesitate to follow or stop by for a chat! Tumblr Goodreads Instagram