In high school, I remember having to write in the margins of books to prove to my English teachers that I was actually reading and responding to the text. I was always a fast reader, so I became annoyed with having to stop my reading to write my thoughts. But this past year I became intrigued with the idea of using writing in the margins as a social process.
In the book Life by Committee, the main character gets old books from thrift stores with annotations. She reads those writings to feel connected to whoever read that book previously. It’s like your own private book club.
Not even a week later, I noticed that my local public library has something called the Margin Project. It was started by Jen Malone as a way for people to share the reading experience. She says it started because, “in late 2013, a number of 2014 debut authors began sending advance copies of their books ‘on tour’ via mail to each other, in order to help spread the word of their upcoming releases. As great as it was to read the printed words, the notes and drawings the writers left on one another’s book as they read were just as much fun!”
Basically, the Margin Project says that it’s okay to write in this specific book. The books are labeled as being a part of the Margin Project and include instructions (basically keep it clean). The person reads and writes their reactions, feelings, and opinions in the margins and returns the book to the library when they are done. The next reader gets to see what the previous person wrote, as well as adding his or her own thoughts. And so on.
This could also be used in classrooms, book clubs, or just groups of friends. It is the same idea as a book club, in that it takes reading—which can be a very isolating hobby—and turns it into a social experience. But unlike a book club, the thoughts are anonymous, and can, therefore, be more honest and raw.
What are your thoughts? Do you think that it’s okay to write in a book if it makes a valuable shared experience? Have you participated in the Margin Project?
o Amber Gregg o