Reading second-hand books: annotations and underlines

annotations 300x243 Reading second hand books: annotations and underlines

Because apparently I dont have enough to read, Ive taken to borrowing books from my fiances parents home. Many of these are old high school texts, and as such theyre full of highlights, annotations and doodles. These little scribbles and notes are fascinating to me as a reader: they give an insight into the mind of the reader who came before me, and I think add to my reading experience as well.

The most recent such book I read was How Many Miles to Babylon by Jennifer Johnston, and I found myself pausing at each addition in the margin or underlined word to ponder why something in particular had been marked as important or had been queried by the reader.

Some were simple word definitions or translations of foreign phrases or unfamiliar idiomsinteresting in that it made me wonder whether the author had missed the target audience here, or whether these idioms and phrases were meant'to remain opaque to the target audience.

Others were underlined sections and highlights of meaningful dialogue and moments. But each time I read one of these, I found myself realising how very different my own reading of the book was from the reader before me. Why was this line highlighted, I wondered, and not the one three lines later, a line that to me seemed to make a much more important point. Was the reader before me missing something? Was I missing something? Or were we just reading the same book in two very different ways?

Perhaps what was most interesting about the whole experience was that my fiance (or perhaps his sisterIm not sure who studied the book) was not the first to own the book. So the underlines and annotations were the result of at least two separate readings, and I cant help but wonder whether the first set of highlights influenced the second, which in turn influenced mine. A cumulative reading experience, if you will.

I have to say that it tempted me to underline some entirely irrelevant passages to see how the reader after me might fare

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