Friday, 10 February 2012

Notes in the Margin: Good or Bad?

I’ve had a copy of Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom sitting on my shelf to read for some time. This particular copy of the book was originally in my second hand bookstore inventory, but I removed it because firstly I wanted to read it, and secondly because in my view it was close to unsellable. Almost every page had notes in the margins, pink highlighted passages or underlined quotes. You can see what I mean in the image to your left. Most book sellers view this as book vandalism bordering on the sacrilegious, but I’ve always found myself hanging around the fringes in this debate. On the one hand, I agree that good clean second hand copies of books make for easy selling and easy reading. On the other hand, I sometimes find things like inscriptions from previous owners on the inside front page of a book endearing. These kind of markings show that a book has been loved, enjoyed and devoured, and give the book a sense of character beyond its’ content.

So what about my copy of Tuesdays with Morrie? Did the notes in the margins enhance or detract from my reading experience? The book on its own is brilliant. So brilliant, that I can’t resist giving it a massive plug. It should be on everyone’s must read list and that’s that! The book itself took me on a journey, but the notes in the margin told another story and I found myself simultaneously getting to know Morrie and Mitch, as well as the anonymous jotter. It was like solving a mystery where each scribble gave me further insight into the person behind it. Whilst I will never know the true name or nature of the anonymous jotter, I have formed a picture in my head. In my head, the mystery person is a “she” and she was at the time studying to be a nurse. I imagine that she wanted to work in palliative care and that she was fascinated by the transition of a patient from illness into death. She is compassionate, caring, empathetic and intuitive. She is spiritual and is looking for direction and guidance in her life. She wants to be more present and the book seemed to be providing her with the tools to accomplish that.

It’s safe to say that I could be severely off base here and that my psychoanalysis is more the result of a rampant imagination than actual perception, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is how it made me feel about my reading experience. The book alone took me on a spiritual journey, but the notes in the margin made me feel like a good friend was travelling with me, and we all know how much better a holiday is when you have someone to enjoy it with.

What about you? Have you had any similar reading experiences? And, what are your thoughts on notes in the margin. I imagine the general reading public is divided on the issue, but nonetheless I’d like to hear what you think, or what your preferences are.

Friday, 3 February 2012


During the month of February, to celebrate the National Year of Reading in Australia, Reading Habit is offering you the chance to win a $100* gift voucher to use in our online bookstore. There are three simple ways to enter the giveaway.

1. Make a purchase of any size in our online second hand bookstore ( anytime during the month of February 2012 and you'll automatically go into the draw.

2. Join our new online book social networking site – Reading Habit Community ( – anytime during the month of February 2012 and you'll automatically go into the draw. It’s free, quick and easy, and will put you in touch with lots of other book lovers.

3. Do both of the above and you’ll receive two entries. 

*TERMS & CONDITIONS: The winner will be randomly selected and announced on Thursday 1st March on our website ( and on the Reading Habit Community site ( The competition is open to residents of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, and the USA. The $100 gift voucher will be issued in Australian Dollars and cannot be used to cover postage costs incurred with book purchases.