I Can’t Read without a Pen


Reading David Blight’s book on Frederick Douglass for a class I’m teaching

I love libraries.  I mean, I never go to a library.  Haven’t for years.  But I think they’re great; in fact essential to healthy communities that value education.  They serve a critical need in many places.  I’d close any boutique to keep a library open.

In college, I sometimes found a nice nook by a window in the school library and studied my books … not library books, for the most part, but my own.  Why?

I can’t read without a pen.

I have to mark a book. . .underline, bracket, check, circle. . . to gain and retain the information, to hold the knowledge, and then to write or teach whatever I may glean from the printed ink and ink I’ve added.

I also can’t write without a book.  Obvious, I suppose.  That is, without books, and reading a lot of books, I couldn’t have as much to say about many topics that nab and grab my attention.  Though much of my writing comes from personal interactions, the book of my brain and reading online, the main resources are often books.

So, to summarize:

I can’t read without a pen.

I can’t write without a book.

Now you know (underline and dog-ear if needed)


Categories: WritingTags: , , , ,


  1. Interesting. I was raised my whole childhood that you never ever write in a book. Except for workbooks that were made to be written in, all other books were off-limits. Since I always had library books around, this made sense.

    But now I’m reluctant to make any mark in a book, even my own books. I feel guilty when I make an annotation in a cookbook, or correct a typo that is bothering me. But sometimes I’ll need to have an additional notebook alongside, mostly for when an author has too many characters introduced too quickly, and I need the notes to keep track of what is going on. I remember having to do that for James Clavell’s Noble House and for J.K. Rowlings The Casual Vacancy especially.

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