Writing Between the Lines

I’ve switched to reading paperback books in the past few months.

While the convenience of the kindle app on my tablet can’t be beat, it also opens the door for for switching between reading and cruising the internet. Because I’m working towards focusing on one thing at a time this is counterproductive. Removing the temptation is the easiest way to avoid this, however leaves a new problem in its place.

The kindle’s greatest strength, in my opinion, is the note taking and highlighting feature. I can quickly highlight memorable passages and later review them easily when I am looking to recall that information. Paperback don’t lend themselves as easily to this.

The most recent book I finished as part of my 12 Months of Modernism reading program was As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. I ordered my copy off Amazon for two dollars. And for that princely sum I received a tattered old dog-eared copy of the book. It has an inscription at the front and is full of underlines and markings throughout, as well as notes at the beginning of some chapters.

The last reader was writing between the lines.


Marking up your books is known as Marginalia, and has been practiced for decades. While I used to draw all through my textbooks at school, I’ve always been hesitant to do so in my novels. That all changed when I saw the value of it in Faulkners work.

I’ve since come up with a small process to help keep things organized, and be able to recall the info as quickly as I can on the kindle.

1. Underline the passages or make notes on the page.
2. Dog-ear that page on the bottom.
3. Review each one when I’m done reading the book and write a quick summary of them.

In this way I’ve been able to start collecting notes on these paper books, for use in the future. All while keeping my concentration while reading intact. This in turn allows me to finish books faster, with greater retention.

Do you write between the lines? If you have made the switch to ebooks, do you read as much as you used to?

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