Should You Write in the Margins of Your Books?

Book readers generally fall into two camps: those who write in the margins of the books they read and those who don’t. “Marginalia” is what those writings in the margin are called, and if you are a writer yourself, those marginalia could be valuable someday if you ever become famous.

People against writing in books often have this idea of books being almost sacred. They are objects preserve.

These same people hold books like pieces of china. They get really worked up when a book’s spine is broken.

Instead of writing in the margin, they carry extra notebooks to record their thoughts.

Not writing in margins is usually something they were taught. They were perhaps chided as young children for drawing smiley faces in textbooks.

Still others avoid writing in margins because they hope to resell their books. We have Amazon and the used college textbook market to thank for that one.

But is writing in the margin of your books really so bad? If you have no need to pass your books onto someone else, why not write in the margin?

Marginalia is a sign of active reading, meaning that you are fully engaging with the text. You are reading so closely that your mind has thoughts it wants to get down on paper before you forget. That’s a good thing.

Less mindful reading, on the other hand, gives you less reason to pause. You race through what you’ve read, perhaps even quickly forgetting what the book is about.

The educational benefit of marginalia is that it aids in memory and facilitates your understanding of difficult texts as you grapple with their content.

One other benefit of marginalia is that has become quite valuable. It is not unusual for an author to find posthumous fame. That sometimes means that not only their work, but possessions, become valuable, too. A writer’s thoughts recorded in the margins of a book can be both collectible and informative.

A recent article highlighted the marginalia of Sylvia Plath in her college copy of the “Great Gatsby.” Many of her notes would portend her later work and experiences.

Other famous writers with revered margin writings include Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde.

Please share: Do you write in the margin of your books?

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