Most of the books I own have places I’ve underlined, pages I’ve dog-eared, passages I’ve highlighted (sometimes I even underline the highlighted places) and comments in the margins. Some books have notes referring me to certain pages in other books.
And I don’t just do this with reference and study books. I’ve also been known to underline encyclopedias, concordances, magazines and even novels. John Steinbeck’s East of Eden has a few passages underlined, as does James Michener’s The Source, just to name a few. Autobiographies are not too sacred to be marked up, and my Bibles are replete with underlines, notes and references to other passages.
I see books as tools, and every tool I own has marks and scuffs on them from when it was used. Some people might say, “Well, I have a book I dropped and the cover is bent, and I spilled coffee on another book. Does that count?” No, it does not count. If you dropped mustard on a hammer, would you say you used the hammer for its intended purpose?
I believe the primary purpose of books is to learn something, to grow as an individual and to be entertained. This is why not all my books are marked up. Some of my reading is for pure entertainment. But even then if I find a great passage I want to remember, I’ll dog-ear the page and underline the sentence.
I hope people underline and dog-ear my book.
I have some friends who are using my book in their small group, and they asked me to write a study guide for them. And to tell the truth, I’m honored they would choose to use my book.
However, I do hope that everyone in the group is finding passages that are interesting enough to underline, highlight and dog-ear. My book is not a shrine to be cherished but a tool to be used. I hope one day to see my book on someone’s shelf, take it down, and find it is well-used and full of colorful underlines and highlighted passages.
I think I would be a bit hurt if someone read my book and didn’t feel that one sentence was worthy of being underlined. I want to know the things I’ve written have been useful tools in the hands of many readers, and it has helped them build a life worthy of living.
So, do you use your books? I know certainly hope so.