I used to be a puritan. Don’t tell my students, though, because I think they have finally stopped believing that I used to be Amish. If you told them I used to be a puritan, they would think that they could now explain why I tend to wear skirts when the majority of the female population at my school wears slacks. In truth, it is simply because they make me feel professional and I don’t have a lot of pants to wear. In their minds, it is because I was Amish but converted to Catholicism.
Anyway, I used to desire pristine books. Now I love the underlinings and stars that easily mark the places that I found enlightening or beautiful.
I love books. I’m perhaps mildly obsessed with them. My number one expense this year besides gasoline has been on books, I believe. Amazon.com is a dangerous thing. Especially when it saves your credit card number and all I need to do it click “Buy” and the books are being shipped my way.
I plan to do lots of theological reading this summer and underline and highlight books that I have been intending to read all year. While I would like to borrow other people’s books, I find myself wanting to embrace them fully and write in them.
To the casual reader, this might not seem like a very significant thing. But I need to tell you about this moment of conversion that happened in my life. When I was younger, I rejoiced in the beauty of pristine books. I loved when their pages were immaculate with nary a bend or crinkle. No dog-eared pages for me or an underline to note an interesting passage. Now typically these weren’t deep and thought-provoking books but it is still interesting that I fiercely opposed anything that made the book look less than a brand new bookstore copy.
Somewhere in my late high school and college years there was a transformation. Initially it was just prayer books that I would faintly underline a particularly earth-shaking line, but these were few and far between. College classes propelled me to full out highlighting and underlining passages while bracketing paragraphs of text at a time. It was a leap into the next stage. I looked behind me at untarnished pages and plunged into lengthy side notes and repeated asterisks. Now I will lovingly flip through the pages of the book and see the carefully placed notes and lines. It is the sign of knowledge while simultaneously a source of foolish pride, I suppose.
Yet one thing remains: dog-eared pages are out. I will leave book marks, paper clips, a bit of string, a random lunch receipt, but I will not condescend to insult my book by folding over its page and degrading it in such a way. Many will denounce this as behind the times or ridiculous but I will hold fast. You may annotate your books but I will not abide by dog-eared pages.
I used to be a puritanical book lover. Now I embrace the life of books that show the wear of time and the branding of deep contemplation. Read on, dear lovers of paper bound books (forget it if you are “modern” and use Kindles or electronic readers of some sort), and know that I will be joining your illustrious ranks come May 23rd. Until then, know that my library is beginning to overflow with books ripe for the reading and knowledge free for the imbibing.