Writing in books, a personal history

Hit and Miss #53

Hi there!

A very happy Sunday to you. It’s gloriously sunny and cool outside, which has me in a splendid mood.

In the last little while, I’ve found myself rereading moreso than reading anything new. Perhaps it’s a subconscious break from reading before diving back into school.

As you may know, I write in my books. Rereading has deepened my appreciation for my marginalia:

  • I can see what I used to find interesting or notable.
  • I can laugh along with my past self. (I often write “hehe” or “haha” as I read—they indicate slightly different feelings; noting these reactions helps me feel them more fully, like sharing a good passage with a friend.)
  • I can more quickly locate passages that exist as fragments in my mind. I often know roughly what an author wrote about, but need to find a specific quotation; more often than not, I’ve underlined or annotated those sections.
  • I can track my reactions over time. I’ve slowly changed my annotation style over the years: from black pen to blue; from a thicker pen to a thinner one; from breaking at descenders when underlining to continuing straight through; and so on. I can estimate when I last read a book, placing my former reactions in context.

Sometimes personal histories are active creations, like journals. But I think there’s also value to this passive creation—the personal history emerges from the sum of what I found interesting in the past, tracked in the underlines and margins of my books. Indeed, marginalia can be the object of serious study.

I hope you have a great day today. All the best for the week ahead!