I don’t think people should burn books, ban books or throw books away but I do think they are meant to be used in a way that best suits the reader. I have books from university, graduate school especially, which are filled with my notes, thoughts, on related and even unrelated topics that come to mind.
My Norton Anthologies, Oxford and Penguin Complete Works, Histories of Art all have my scribbles in the margins along with arrows, highlights, underlines and circles, all precious memories.
There are the Dr. Seuss books from childhood filled with scribbles and an added face to the ones in the crowd and years later, my children added their own handiwork.
There is my Jane Austen with the bright orange fingertips across the back cover from the day Emma engrossed me much to my three-year-old’ s irritation, I dated it a wrote his name underneath.
Some of my grad school books even have the forever outline of a tiny apple juice or squash covered hand, right across part of a picture of a Degas ballerina or a Caravaggio painting.
My Penguin anthology is stained green and red from a fresh rose I pressed between the covers one day, the rose long ago crumbled but I’ll never forget it was once there. In my favorite history of art anthology, I have notes in the margins not only from the lectures but also from thoughts about being 20, married and an undergraduate, then about being 22, pregnant for the first time and a graduate student. The books are precious, the memories are precious and every stain, every dog-eared page, every crease, every written word added to a once pristine page tells a story from my life, and I like them that way. I like a lived in feel even in my books.
The books I won’t keep I keep pristine because they aren’t for me to imprint, they aren’t for me to add a piece of my life but the books lining my shelves are well-loved and sometimes well loved things lose and eye or gain a stain but they are still perfect in their seeming imperfection.
(Alison is one of the many members of Cozy First Mysteries. Isn’t this great?)