Thursday, November 15, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Perservatives

Today’s question comes from
Conspiracy-Girl: How many of us write notes in our books? Are you a Footprint Leaver or a Preservationist?

I love the image the label Footprint Leaver leaves in my mind. What a great concept! Or is it? I occasionally come across a used book that has a hand written dedication inside and those types of footprints I never mind. Those kind warm my heart. I am less than thrilled, however, when I come across a book that is littered with margin notes, underlining and highlighting. It would be too easy for my attention to stray to those comments and absorb them into my view or interpretation of the book. I would rather approach what I read with a clear mind, able to form my own opinion and without distraction. And yet, if the book had belonged to someone like my mother or grandfather for instance, someone I am or was connected to, I take a different view. In a case like this, it would be a part of my history, my own life. I would love to travel with my grandfather into a literary world he had visited before. There's a something almost magical about an experience like that, being able to share in his thoughts and perhaps pick out what stood out most for him at the time he read the book. He died when I was a teenager and there is so much I wish I knew about him today. Or, how exciting it would be to see what my mother thought of a book when she was a teenager, a book that has faded from her memory all these years later! As you can see, I am of two minds on this topic.

Myself? I tend to be a preservationist at heart. I prefer to leave the margins of the books I am reading clean and empty. I do like to sometimes take notes or mark a particular passage, however, and in desperate times when no paper is to be found, no post its or page markers handy, I will pull out my pencil and lightly mark an arrow in the margin pointing to the beginning of the passage I want to remember. Tiny brackets will denote the beginning and the end. That is as far as I go. The idea is that I can go back and carefully erase my markings as if I was never there. If I remember. Sometimes I forget.

I do occasionally write in a book to mark when and where I received it, almost always in pencil, but this too is rare and only when I cannot get to my computer to log the book in. I also have been known to write a dedication in a book now and then. My parents are partial to this practice, while my husband detests it. A lot depends on who I am giving the book to and the reasons behind my gift.

I am not the kind of person who gasps in horror at the thought of someone writing in his or her books. We each have our own style, our own preferences. I think that if a person is planning to trade, give away or re-sell a book, the less writing, the better. If the book is a loaner of any kind, there should be a law against marking in a book unless it is agreed upon by the borrower and the owner that it is okay. If it is a book in your own collection, then by all means, write away if that is what you need to do to get the most out of your reading experience.

(Exemption: College text books were an entirely different matter for me all those years ago. Highlighting and margin notes were used freely as necessary).


  1. I like to receive books with dedications. It is so personal. Only people who love you and understand your reading habits do that.

    I cherish those books I receive from my brothers or a few friends. They know what I like and get me those books.

    I do not leave any foot prints. Not my thing.

  2. I'm a preservationist but reading a book that someone I love read and having their thoughts is different.

    Ditto on dedications.

  3. I like dedications too. I just bought a book at our local recycled book store that had a lovely one from a mother to son with a date in the fifties. I wondered how someone could get rid of it. But I am with you, everything else distracts.

  4. I usually leave books note free. Not so much when it comes to poetry. But usually I know I'm not going to give those away or sell them. So the notes are really just for me anyway.

  5. I've never received nor given a book with a dedication in it. I feel deprived now, lol. It would definitely make a book twice as special.

  6. A light-footed Literary Feline! I agree with you that old dedications are nice, and actually I like my old secondhand books to have a name and a date in them, so I may revise my practice on that. I don't write dedications myself, but treasure a few books that have personal messages in them.

  7. I cherish my books too. I usually get very upset when someone has written in them! I do admit it would be fun to read a family member's thoughts and favorite passages though.

  8. So many books I have found at second hand shops and ended up not buying because someone had written and underlined all through them. I agree--I don't want to be distracted by someone else's notes or have them influence my perspective before I'm finished.

    Happy BTT!

  9. Gautami - It's such a pleasure to receive a book that a friend or family member took great care in selecting for you. :-)

    Chris - It is different, perhaps in part because what we as readers get out of it is so much more meaningful and special.

    Jaimie - I love reading those dedications, and yet it feels almost like I'm intruding on someone else's special moment. I sometimes wonder what will happen to all of my books when I'm gone. Probably be sold or given away. I have no children for them to pass on to. Maybe that is what happened in the case of the book you found.

    Nikki - Yes, I can see why you do that. :-) I only really write in books that are among my "keepers"--ones I don't intend to ever part with. At least not while I'm alive.

    Trisha - It is common practice in my family to dedicate books! If I give a book as a gift to one of my parents, sometimes I'm given the book back so I can write a dedication inside if I haven't already. Haha

    GeraniumCat - That is a good idea, name and date inside. I've seen that notation in some of the books I've bought second hand too. It's interesting to see the path a book has taken. :-)

    Ladytink - It seems like common sense that you would treat someone else's property with respect.

    Breeni - I try and avoid buying used books with markings like that too.

  10. I like the amount of thought you put into your answer - more than I did :-). I like the idea of writing dedications; I've done it occasionally, but I think I'll try to make it more of a habit.

  11. Yes there is something touching about the personal dedication, especially one connected with a family member.

    That's why I find it sad when I pick up second hand books with personal dedications written in them. it often makes me wonder why they have been given away.

  12. Great answers, Wendy! I have forgot about dedications. Yes, they are so very special. And it always warm my heart to see dedications on books as a gift to me from other people (or vice versa). :)

  13. Florinda - Thank you! It's a question I've encountered before and so I've had some practice at answering it. :-)

    Stephen - I too find it sad to come across personalized books in used bookstores and wonder about the reasons behind it ending up where it did.

    Melody - Thanks! I like receiving books with dedications too, Melody. My husband doesn't like to write in books period and so he rarely thinks to do something like that. I have plenty from my mom and dad like that though. :-)

  14. I too, prefer to leave my margins clean. I can't stand reading a book someone has marked up with highlighter! And I had completely forgotten to think of dedications! I've received many books with dedications, but for some reason never write them myself. Maybe I should start.

  15. Interesting perspective, about the comments tying you to someone you love. And I agree wholeheartedly about dedication notes and bookplates and such -- heck, all the books I share have BookCrossing plates in them. But that's inside the front cover (assuming I put it in there).

    Neat thinking; I'm glad you stopped in at West of Mars today! Thanks!

  16. Jeane - I'm not too fond of highlighters in books either, although they sure come in handy at work when I want to highlight something in an article or my notes. :-) I did use a highlighter liberally in college, I admit. It served its purpose.

    Susan - Thank you. I use the BookCrossing plates also, but I admit I cringe when it comes time to putting them in. I know it's for a good reason, but it still feels off somehow.

  17. I like to receive books with dedications. It is so personal.

    I also like putting my signature in them because it makes me feel like I have something in common with my readers. That we both have a passion for the written word.

    There's a random drawing on my blog, be sure to stop on in.


  18. I'm back and forth on my views, too. If I know it's going to stay on my shelf, I may take notes. Usually, I prefer a journal.

    Except my Bible. I'm learning to jot notes and mark it up. I, too, love the term Footprint Leaver.

    Thanks for visiting Penning Prose. :)

  19. I'm a bit surprised at how many people "gasp at horror" at my marking the books. The notes help enrich my reading experience and I swear I don't ever mark books that don't belong to me.

    Now I have to switched to post-its I don't write anything on my books.

  20. Inspired Always - It is nice receiving a book personally dedicated to you, I agree. And I love it when an author autographs a book for me. It makes the book even more special. :-) Thank you for visiting!

    Audra - I think both have their advantages, depending on what you want to do with the book in the end. Thanks for stopping by!

    Matt - There have been quite a few strong reactions, that's for sure. It's not something I can get worked up about though. I can see both sides. Thank you for visiting!


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