The Best Thing To Do with a Book Is Ruin It!

By WritersOntheMove member Carolyn Howard-Johnson

I always suggest that people mark up their books. I suggest it in The Frugal Book Promoter ( I even market with a photo of the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter that publisher Nancy Cleary sent me. The book is bristling with her Post-It notes and fat with turned-down pages. And pictures speak a thousand words.

When you make notes in the margins, your book becomes a much better resource than when you turn corners down. But either approach is better than a pristine copy stuck away on a bookshelf somewhere.

I once fully annotated to a paperback biography of Michelangelo when when I was staying in Florence for an extended period of time. I just wrote anything that popped into my head including that I had just walked down the street where M's museum marked his birthplace.

I eventually gave that book to my grandson who was big on literature! I think it was a much nicer gift than something new.

Usually teachers discourage marking books because it seems destructive. I think it's just the opposite. It makes a book your own. My new year's resolution is to mark up more of my books and it turns out that Antoine Wilson, author of Panorama City, plans on doing the same thing in 2013. He says, "For years I've been folding down page corners as a means of noting remarkable passages, but when I go back to these, they're baffling." He resolves to do more scribbling in books, too

And how do I know this? I read it in the LA Times. It's not too late to make a resolution of your own, is it? At least not too late for something this simple!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .


Magdalena Ball said...

I have to admit that I'm a book ruiner. My books are marked up, dog eared, and very useful resources! I still feel a little guilty about it but it doesn't stop me!

Karen Cioffi said...

I've been a book ruiner of my books from way back. I found the same as Antoine Wilson, when I bent the corners and went back to the page I'd have to scour it to find what I thought was so important. So, for years now I underline words, sentences, and write on the sides! I still use the dog ears to quickly find the page though. :)

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I have a hard time even reading a magazine without a pen in my hand. And, yes. I've been known to try to tear out a page (or a corner ad) as silently as possible. HA!

Suzanne Lieurance said...

Hey, Carolyn,

I mark up books, too. But it's the way I learn. And, when I was in college I used to love to buy used books that already had tons of things underlined and notes made in the margins. You probably can't even buy used books like that anymore. But I thought they were the BEST!

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

I love finding used books I want to read all marked up. Not only do you get a new book but a window into someone else's mind.

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