On Annotating Books and Financial Stability

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Hi everyone! I was just sitting outside reading a poetry collection and came across a line that I loved. It was Danez Smith’s poetry collection Homie, and in one of the first poems, “how many of us have them?”, Smith mentions something about two boys being friend-drunk. These specifics don’t matter, really, but the point is that I loved that term so much that I wanted to underline it. Highlight it. Grab my pen, draw a little arrow towards those words, and write “love it!” in the margins. But like many, many times before, I stopped myself.

For the past however many years I haven’t really been treating my books like they’re mine. Yes, I bought them and they were on my shelf, but I made sure to never do anything to them that might be seen as damage. Because, for years, I wasn’t in a place where I was able to buy whatever book I wanted. And if I ever wanted a new book, I had to go to this Facebook group and sell about 3 of my old books.

So, you see, my books were never really mine. I was just holding on to them until I could pass them along to the next person, make about 3 euro off of the book, and buy a new paperback. If you’ve been reading my blog for some time (if you have, then thank you. Really. I appreciate you so much.) you’ve probably seen about a dozen unhauls and saw me getting rid of basically every book that wasn’t a favorite.

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People don’t tend to want to buy books where the previous owner has underlined their favorite passages, or wrote about what the book means to them in the margins. So if I ever came across a sentence I loved, I’d try to take a picture of it (which would get lost in the sea of the thousands of pictures I have on my phone) or try to tab it with those little sticker tabs (which I would always forget or lose or just be too lazy to stand up and search for them). So all of the books on my shelves were in pristine condition, ready to be shipped off to the next person. Maybe I’d have to take some of those tabs out, but that’s it.

I know that having your books in near-perfect condition is the dream of a lot of readers, but for me it’s the opposite. My dream is to have my shelves filled with books with cracked spines, doggy-eared pages, underlined and highlighted passages and writing in the margins. Books that I love so much and reread passages of so often that it’s falling apart and I have to duct-tape the spine back together. Books that I can flip through and immediately be able to find the passages that mean the world to me, and read my favorite quotes over and over again. And read in the margins about why exactly this quote meant so much to me when I read it for the first time. Or second time. Or third time.

So when I was reading Homie I stopped myself, like I always do, thinking about how I might want to sell this book someday. About how this book isn’t really mine. But then I realized that, for the first time in what feels like forever, for the first time in my life, I don’t have to do this. That I’m currently in a place where I’m financially stable and I don’t have to sell multiple books to be able to afford a new one. That I could go online right now and buy a new book and I won’t have to worry about it. So I can finally treat the books I own like my own, and build the very well-loved library of my dreams.

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And I’m still hesitant. Yes, this is something I really want to do, but what if I come to a point in my life where I have to start selling my books again? What if I end up regretting this a lot? But I think I should probably put those worries aside because… I don’t know. Maybe those 3 euros I might make off of a book are worth losing if I can do this thing I really want to do. 

So I’m going to grab my pencil (small steps), grab this one book (small steps) and underline these words. Because I finally feel like I can.  

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Een gedachte over “On Annotating Books and Financial Stability

  1. Shealea zegt:

    I love this post so much! This really resonates with me.

    Growing up without books, I had to rely on libraries and my friends’ personal collections. But even when I started buying books for myself (as a college student with a limited budget), I also had the same mindset that “hey, I need to keep my books pristine because I’ll have to sell them one day to buy more.”

    Like

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