My partner and I have been together, more or less, for fourteen years. In that time, I have learned all sorts of odd things about him– some of which are charming, some of which are kind of gross (because ew, boys), and some of which are probably pretty normal. However, only one of his weird idiosyncrasies stresses me the eff out: the man doesn’t use bookmarks. Ever.
I don’t mean that he avoids fancy, expensive magnetic bookmarks or tries to avoid free advertising for the local indie bookstore by refusing their giveaway bookmarks at the register. I don’t even mean that he refuses to dog ear his pages or won’t soil a book by using a discarded receipt or business card in his novel. I mean exactly what I say: the man doesn’t use anything as a book mark. Ever.
His logic is kind of sound, I guess. According to him, if he can’t remember where he was in the book, he shouldn’t be reading there. So he will flip backwards through the book until he remembers a key plot point or, in the case of non-fiction, important fact. On one hand, this feels like a pure way to read– it ensures that he really and truly pays attention to all the plot points and arguments made in a given book. On the other hand, ZOMG that is ridiculous! Not every single plot point is important! What if you remember one thing but not something else? Do you go back to the last point where you can remember everything that happened up to that point? What if you read a spoiler or a magazine article and then you think you remember a thing but actually you’re remembering it from a different source. Clearly, this is a manifestly absurd way to manage your reading life.
I am an all-the-time bookmark user. I suspect that at least some of this is a product of surviving the hazing that is graduate school. If I went back to re-read sections of books that I forgot, well… let’s just say, I’d still be reading for my qualifying exams. Plus, graduate school taught me how to read 3-6 books at the same time– a skill I value but that also sometimes leads me to jumble up ideas and arguments as kind of vaguely in one of a few books I read at the time. Without a bookmark (and a decent note-taking system) I’d have been a mess.
My aversion to a bookmark-less life may also have to do with my deep hatred for backtracking. I plot my errands and hang-out time so that I can avoid covering the same section of the city at all costs… To the point that I will sometimes turn down activities because, eh, I’ve already been in X neighborhood today. I know this is silly and yet my argument stands: backtracking is inefficient. Why backtrack when you can plan ahead? Rereading because you forgot a minor point feels like the reader equivalent of backtracking because you couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to what you needed to do/get/see the first time. Plus, when you’re always carrying a book, it’s easy to kill half an hour in a park or in a cafe while you wait for your next appointment!
My partner has, very patiently, listened to all of my pro-bookmark arguments. He just smiles, nods, and flips through his book until he finds the right place to resume his reading. No paper scraps, quirky bookmarks, or dog ears in sight.
Please settle this for us, dear Book Rioters. Do you use bookmarks all the time, sometimes, or never? I am sincerely hoping for a great “I told you that you’re a weirdo” result but fear that perhaps there’s a lot more of you “meh, sometimes… depends on the book” bookmark users out there.