My take on the  New York Times "Letters of Recommendation" column 
As readers, there are rules. Long debated and wildly personal these rules govern how we are to engage with text. Readers can be snobby, or as I prefer to put it, particular with their books. Dog-earing pages, highlighting sentences, spine breaking, these actions can make many bookworms cringe. The most offensive of all though? Writing in them. For many, it’s considered sacrilege to use a pen or pencil on the pages of a crisp new book. 
I am one of those people. Or, so I thought.
There was never a time in my life when I wasn't reading. I loved feeling the paper in my hands and smelling the pages. But for a majority of my life, I found it sinful to write in them.
I remember being no more than 7 years old the first time I got upset about it. I had opened my copy of “The Giving Tree” after a few years and became angry at all the smudgy swirls and red scribbles covering the text. I went to town on those pages and basically ruined it. I think the book police can forgive that incident considering my age and that I probably mistook it for a coloring book. But from then on writing in books felt worthy of a low-level misdemeanor (not quite warranting jail time but at least a small fine). 
As I got older, I was determined to atone. I managed to keep my books in pristine shape (save for the occasional corner fold) and my shelves clean and dust free. I was a tiny librarian shushing everyone for being too loud. I thought using post-it notes to keep track of quotes and make comments would be the best alternative to putting pen to page, but even this backfired. I made the mistake of placing them in a very old copy of Pride and Prejudice and the adhesive lifted the letters off the page. Lesson learned. 
One summer, at around 17 or 18 years old, I betrayed all my previous rules and underlined a quote in one of my books. I was rebelling as many of us do at that age (I was a wild teen, I know). It felt weird, but not entirely horrific so I started taking baby steps. I starred parts I loved and bracketed meaningful sections. Eventually, I began to write a few small cursive words in the margins, and much to my surprise the books did not burst into flames—and neither did I. 
I liked the idea of leaving my thoughts on the page, it was a way for my future self to see what was significant to present day me. Annotating allowed me to enter into a secret conversation with the author, with the characters, and with myself. This felt like time traveling. 
As I got older my perspective shifted. I saw annotating as a way to decorate my favorite books, not destroy them. Then, people who borrowed my books could experience the story with me. I recommend anyone who is like the old me, to give annotating a chance. Be as messy or as careful as you please because either way, the prints you leave behind create something new. 
A story of your own. 
I currently occupy some space in the middle. There are still a few books that I refuse to mark up, but I now have a collection of novels that are unique to me. I'm a firm believer (and book snob in remission) who thinks books were not meant to be indestructible. The human value within a physical book— rather than a piece of technology— is the sheer fragility of it. It's got a finite lifetime just like us. And in my opinion, the best things in life are left covered in markings of messy and imperfect humanity. 

**Disclaimer: This recommendation applies only to books you purchased (please don't go all Jackson Pollock in a public library)
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