Marking in the margins, yes or no?

Loran Mueller, Assistant Editor

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In modern day, books are available in more ways than ever before. Accessing written material can mean anything from pulling up a pdf file found online to listening intently as an audiobook runs its course. Many students are bombarded with assignments throughout the school year and it can be difficult finding the time to read for pleasure. However, with summer just around the corner, reading books solely because of the desire to do so is becoming a more realistic idea for many students.

One of the great things about books of any form is that everyone is able to create their own story and find their own way of interpreting the details. Though, some readers believe that the personal thoughts surrounding a book should never touch its written pages. These readers prefer to leave their books untouched. However, there are also readers who live to mark up the margins of their pages and record their thoughts and feelings next to the words that inspired them.

Though, is this helpful? Is it better to annotate the pages or is it more beneficial to keep books in pristine reading condition? Truth be told, this debate is not infrequent among readers. Surveys, forums, and even articles published by larger companies all illustrate how people continue to be wrapped up in the reasoning or lack thereof behind writing in novels.

For an assignment, it’s normal for students to annotate what they are reading, however, this is much rarer when reading for fun. Having a book in hand is often considered a time of relaxation and it can remove some of the story’s immersion from the reader should they be constantly stopping the story to make note of details. Another issue many have with writing in the margins is that it may alter or distort the reading experience and quality of the book. Keeping a book as bare as the day it was bought means that future readers will get to get experience the same words and scenes without having to read the thinking and analysis of someone from the past.

However, writing in the margins is also something that helps with the understanding of a story. While it does undisputedly make the book special for the individual, it can also be fascinating to see what others have thought about a story. It can be interesting to see past lines of thinking and for readers of the future, it can be compared to a historical commentary. Writing in a book allows for a greater engagement and it can even increase the focus that many have when reading something.

Whether or not writing in a book’s margins is objectively “good” or “bad”, people should ultimately try to understand and engage with their stories to the best of their ability. It can be forgotten when reading textbooks and articles throughout the school year, but reading at its core is about experiencing a new world and putting the lives of people (real or fictitious) into perspective. Reading offers enjoyment when done for fun, regardless of the number of margin marks.