Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Highlighting or Underlining in Books


It took me a really long time before I became comfortable with either highlighting or underlining important passages in my own books. Having relied heavily on the public library as the source for much of my childhood reading, it was a struggle for me to put marks of any kind in a book. I also can remember having to erase marks left behind by other students in my junior high school textbooks- it has been deeply embedded in me to not mark up a page and I still get frustrated if I order a used book online and it arrives with highlights or underlines.

Having said all that, I have been going pretty wild lately with that red pencil. Several years back when I first started teaching workshops and wanted to be able to recall relevant content, I finally began making notations after unsuccessfully trying the dog-ear and post-it route because it wasn’t specific enough. I think my newish habit may have also come from the ease of highlighting on my e-reader. I enjoyed recalling the passages so much that I might have just finally gave in to marking up my paper books.

Do you highlight or underline your own books?

8 thoughts on “Highlighting or Underlining in Books

  1. I am torn. Half of me wants to preserve the pristine page. Half of me wants to save my thoughts. All of me wants to have my cake and eat it too. That’s why the great readers of the past savored commonplace books. Commonplace books kept handwriting neat, the printed text clean, and the mind well furnished and orderly.

  2. I do write notes in and highlight some books, mainly textbooks, for ease in skimming the most important points later on. I cannot recall ever marking in another type of book.

  3. I never highlight or use pens in a book! I believe books should be able to be passed from person to person in relatively pristine condition. I like to buy used books as much as possible and to pass them along to others, and I don’t like being distracted by what the previous reader thought was important. I use Post-It’s and flags or take notes on a separate sheet and slip it into the book. I will sometimes make notes in textbooks in light pencil, but I always erase them before selling or giving away the book.

  4. I do, depedning on the book. If it’s poetry I tend to mark up certain passages or phrases I find inspiring so that when I”m in a creative slump I can easily find inspiration.

  5. Oh yes…without the slightest twinge…depending on the genre. You could open any of the poetry books on my shelf and lay witness to the conversation I have with the text…the reminders I leave myself. This one makes me think of this place, or that time when… or that person. AUGH! appears quite regularly as well…it seems important, somehow, to express the feeling of beauty even when beyond words. The book on my own shelf is an intimate object…as such, I can interact with it. The book on a library shelf can be an intimate experience…but not an intimate object. In that lies the difference to me…personal v. public.

    Oh, and I am a librarian! ;)

  6. Like yourself, I had it drilled into me in my youth that you do not write in books. As an adult, though, I have at times resorted to highlighting/underlining when I’m somehow not able to take notes from a book. It drives my wife nuts, though. “What if I want to read that book sometime?!?” So I try to avoid the practice.

  7. honestly no, I don’t underline nor highlight my books; more, you can hardly say they’ve been read.
    If I need pinpoint something, I copy it or on my (paper) notebooks or on my PC

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