To Mark Up or Not To Mark Up

Posted by on Aug 26, 2013

A question born out of my own simple curiousity.

Do you leave your physical mark on your paper books?

Do you dog-ear, highlight, make notes, inscribe your name, or some combination of the above? I have to admit that I don’t do any of those things. I try to keep my books in as pristine condition as possible – it just seems wrong for me to do otherwise. I never even leave them open face down on a table when I’m gone for a few minutes (what I do instead is grab anything that’s handy and use it as a bookmark. The strangest thing I’ve noticed when I came back to a book was our iPad mini happily holding my spot.)

Cookbooks are the one exception to this rule, I’ll make notes off to the side, but not all that often. And it’s not like I’ve never harmed books, it’s just usually unintentional (i.e. dropped in the bathtub).

So, what is it for you? To mark up or not to mark up?


  1. intexplorer
    August 26, 2013

    1. I always write my name and the year on the inside front cover. A book is forever. I don’t dog-ear to save my place, but I do dog-ear pages to mark key pages.
    2. I freely underline key passages or make a vertical mark in the margin, so I can easily re-find a section that seemed important to me.
    3. I bought a “Sunday-go-to-Meeting” bible with extra-wide margins so I could write down Pastoral comments that seemed extra-profound so I can see them in the future in the context of the Bible verses that were being referenced.

    • lectorsbooks
      August 28, 2013

      I have to admit, I was thinking of you when I wrote the post. For someone who claims that e-books are a travesty, I find your willingness to mark up books to be quite strange. While it’s true that books are forever, it’s not always true that they are in your possession forever. Unless a book is “super amazingly wonderfully out of this world I will read it again every year for the rest of my life” good, I prefer to read and enjoy a book and then pass it along to someone else who will enjoy it next (or give it back to the library).

      That being said, there are times when I’ve reread hundreds of pages (literally) to try to find an important section to quote or just ponder again, so I really can understand why you’d highlight key passages, same with your Bible notes.

  2. Beth Hennings
    August 26, 2013

    I used to mark up my books, especially college lit books, because I thought I would keep them forever. Then we started relocating all over the world, and I found that it was easier to donate books than move or store our (previous) vast collection. I still have a lot of must-keep faves, but these are not marked up. The last book I actually underlined and dog-eared was Eugene Peterson’s LONG OBEDIENCE IN THE SAME DIRECTION, because practically every sentence was profound. What I should do is read with a notebook to hand for writing down quotable quotes, or thoughts worth pondering. But that sort of idea takes me right back to college lit courses, and if we go that far back, I might as well start marking up my books again!

    • lectorsbooks
      August 28, 2013

      Haha, it’s an endless cycle. I guess the question isn’t “to mark up or not to mark up” but more of a “to mark up and then not to mark up and then to mark up again” progression. You’ll have to let me know if you end up marking up your books again. 🙂

      And it sounds like I need to read Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Unfortunately, my to be read list has stacked up alarmingly high again.