Posted in Blog Posts

Reading a Book: it’s a journey, innit?

Are you a corner folder, an enveloper or a proper bookmarker? I want to know how you keep your place when you are reading.

For years and years I would place whatever I had to hand between the most recently read pages of my book, reluctant to do anything to damage it. I love my books; I define myself by my books and have bookcases in almost every room of the house, each one full to brimming, as well as a Kindle stuffed with titles yet to read. Why would I want to vandalise something which means so much to me?

Then I started to share books with my daughter.

While she was always respectful of my books, when I borrowed one of hers it was dog-eared, spine-concertinaed and the pages annotated by her thoughts on the text. The book was totally and irrevocably Claire’s and I loved it. Reading a book after her was almost like reading it alongside her. And it got me thinking.

Why was I so keen to preserve my books in a way that made them look unread? Surely if the words had an effect on me, stayed with me, changed me even, it was justifiable for me to leave my mark on the pages? In fact, not only is it justifiable, shouldn’t it be expected?

I have taken a page out of Claire’s book (yeah, it’s a pun, deal with it) and now underline or comment on the words I read if they evoke an emotion from me, and you can follow my journey through each book by the corners I turned down to mark the places where I stopped to rest and take in the scenery before moving on another day. Granted, it’s a bit harder to do this in an ebook, but I can ‘bookmark’ each place I stop and highlight text as I go along.

If I am loaned a book I wouldn’t presume to leave my mark on it. It would be bookmarked using a piece of card or old envelope But I’d like my books to show their life, wrinkles and all.


Writer, photographer, creative fantasist.

15 thoughts on “Reading a Book: it’s a journey, innit?

  1. Nice bookmarks that I made from fabric or cross-stitch when I was ill … when I can find them, otherwise, leaflets, old envelopes, bits of electricity bills.
    I had the fear of God put into me about “vandalising” books and it’s still with me, no marking, bending of corners, putting them flat face down… oh no, my mother would rise from the grave shrieking if I did.

  2. I could never bring myself to damage or mark a book in any way. Which I suppose is a bit silly, but it’s how I was brought up. When I was young I got bawled at by a teacher for sliding a book across the floor to a friend. So for me it’s proper bookmarks to keep my place and nothing else.
    On another note, if I lent a book to someone and it came back in anything other than pristine condition, there would be bloodshed.
    But that’s just me 🙂

    1. I would never, ever turn down the corner of a book which wasn’t mine. And I don’t want anyone defacing my books, but when it’s my own, that’s a different matter.
      But just for you, I won’t turn down the corners of Monkeygeddon when you get your finger out and finish it.

  3. It makes me go all weird when I think about corners folded in books – I can’t bring myself to do it, although I have done it in textbooks when studying before – they get written on and arrowed and circled and all sorts. But with novels, I have to have a bookmark (of which I have many) my favourite being my 2 plastic aliens!

    1. I knew there would be people who couldn’t bring themselves to dog ear a book, but thought I’d be brave and admit to it anyway 🙂

  4. Nowadays, I only ever read ebooks on my kindle. But back in the day, I used to leave the book laying face down to keep track of my progress whenever I could. I never wrote a word inside the pages of my books. I remember once when I’d borrowed a friend one of my Animorphs. He’d returned it with all sorts of markings and notes. Needless to say, I was quite pissed at the time and I never borrowed said friend another book. But now, many years later, I look at that particular Animorphs and those markings take me back to a time when life was less complicated.

    1. Exactly. It’s like snapshots you take on a holiday, each one a memory of what and who you were then.
      Thanks for stopping by, Michael

  5. Thanks for posting this Nettie – you’ve just inspired me to go and dig out my pretty bookmarks (I am a geek, I even cross-stitched one for the OH with a choo-choo train on it!) and I may end up collecting them on my holiday

  6. I’m pretty careful with hardcovers, probably because of the prices paid for them. But paperbacks?! I have been known to mark my place with cigarette ashes (in the days when I smoked), orange peels and candy-wrappers — to reveal just a few of my disgusting behaviors. But mostly I just turn them upside down, leaving the pages to be affected by whatever is on the bathroom countertop…water, make-up. I’m not so much a pig as I am impulsive – and when I don’t want to read anymore, I just stop; leaving the future of my book to fortune or lack thereof. Go to any garage sale in the world and you will be able to identify a book that has been read by me.

    But I have never left a note or an underline or a thought in the margins. If a book gives me the space to think my own thoughts, I feel that it has not its job.

    1. Interesting point you make, Robin. I find it really interesting how many different ways we have a relationship with our books.
      And I too have used whatever was to hand to mark my place – so long as it didn’t stain the pages!

  7. I do have dog-eared, note-laden books, but they are mainly university text books. As far as fiction, or even non-fic books I read now, I admit to an incredible sensitivity on note-making, page-turning or even leaving them open and turned face down! In fact, the mere thought of it makes my heart race and panic set-in. Instead, I remove sleeves from hard-covers to keep them looking pristine and I use colourful tags from clothes or boarding passes as bookmarks. I also use post-its to make notes on…. I guess you could say I’m on the verge of showing OCD signs in terms of my books!

    1. Hahaha – it’s me who is finding this all distressing. I seem to be in a very small minority regarding my treatment of books: maybe I’m wrong? (perish the thought)

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