Veneration or idolatry?

Books. I've said before that I love them, and I'm suspicious of writers who don't read a lot (a lot for them, for some people that's twelve books a year, for others three hundred) but I don't get book idolatry.

For me it's the content, not the object, that matters. Most of my books are paperbacks because they are easier to transport and all the good ones have notes in them. My notes. Scribbed in margins.

They have pages turned down, highlighting, bookmarks - you name it, I've found a way to deface the pristine page.


Because I'm a writer. Because thoughts, ideas, comments, questions, strike me as I read and where should I record them? In the book that inspired them, of course. Where else?

Lots of people seem to think books should be treated like relics and I just don't get it! First, I believe that my ideas are as important (to me) as those of the published writer I'm reading and second because I'm engaged in a conversation with that book: an interrogation or commentary, and I want my responses to be right there alongside what prompted them. Third, I can always find my fleeting inspirations - they're in the place that gave them birth.

My Terry Pratchett's, for example, are so annotated they can barely be read by anybody except me. My copy of Treasure Island (first read age 8, then 11, then just about every year since) is cross-referenced to a history of Samoa and a biography of Fanny Stevenson, Robert Louis's wife, so that reading one leads me to a section of another and back again. Why not? Does the author know or mind? No. But do I feel each reading reinforces and reinforms my own writing, yes I do.

So do you idolise your books, or venerate them enough to want to mark them up?

And yes, I am nanowrimo this year, but everybody will be writing about National Novel Writing Month as it starts today and I thought I'd do something different ...

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