I used to be a pristine reader. No crumpled pages, no scribbles in margins, not even sticky notes on the corners. My books were precious, and there was no way that I was going to infiltrate and potentially deface their status.
And then I started buying second hand books. This was largely because they were so much cheaper than buying new (obviously), and my shelves began to be stacked with yellowed pages, tea-stains, and the occasional squashed insect between the pages. There were scrawling annotations from owners decades before in margins, little inscriptions that spoke of birthdays or graduations, and sometimes I would find train tickets dated before I was born.
I fell in love with the romance of it all. These books not only told their own stories, but as objects themselves they were imbued with so much meaning and history. These books were not clinically white, spines in tact, and yet I loved them all the more for that.
As a student I began by not annotating my reading, or if I did it was a cautious line under a word. I really struggled to come up with interesting points when I was finished with it simply because my brain hadn’t truly been switched on the whole time. Annotating became a way for me to be present when I was reading.
While often now I can’t always break out of the rhythm of reading to write down my thoughts, my fear of tarnishing my books has well and truly disappeared.