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Should I Use A Bookmark? A Narrative Review

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Vivienne Woodward


Vivienne Woodward lives in Philly and works as the events coordinator for an indie bookstore. She can often be found drinking too much coffee in the sunny spot on her couch and over-identifying with fictional characters. She enjoys collecting hobbies, dancing to radio pop, and rearranging the book stacks on her side tables.

I was recently gifted a magnetic bookmark. If you can’t picture it, it is a piece of fancy paper with a magnet on both ends that folds atop a book page and sticks to itself, thereby holding your page between its magnetic claws. It is not the first time I have tried to use a bookmark, but historically I am a turned over corner gal (I know this will be shocking to some, but it’s my truth). I have experimented with several types of bookmark to little or no avail. This lack of availment has led to me to consider: should I even use a bookmark?

At one time I became very attached to an independent bookstore bookmark I found in a library book. It came from Skylight Bookstore in L.A. and I enjoyed making up the backstory as to how it ended up in Philadelphia (of all places!!). (The story goes: a book-loving Philadelphian travels to Los Angeles, visits Skylight Bookstore, purchases a book therefore winning a prized bookmark to go along with, brings the book back East with her, reads the book, finishes the book, needs a new book, goes to library to procure said book, reads that book, then tragically leaves her beloved Skylight Bookstore bookmark inside it upon returning, there to be picked up and separated forever from original book owner by me. [I am considering submitting the story, I’ll report back.]) I loved this Skylight Bookstore bookmark because it was sturdy paper in bright colors, so I had no trouble locating the page where I left off, as a bookmark is intended to facilitate. Unfortunately, just as the girl in my story, I suffered the fate of misplacing this bookmark and have as of yet not been reunited. The downfall of an independent bookstore bookmark is that it is just a smallish piece of paper, easily misplaced and not easily located again.

After losing my prized Skylight Bookstore bookmark, I tried using my library receipts as bookmarks. It worked fine, kind of similarly to the Skylight Bookstore bookmark, but ultimately I found myself frustrated. Why? Because actually a lot of people leave those receipts inside the books when they return them. I kept getting confused by other people’s receipt bookmarks—wasn’t I further into my book than the inside of the front cover? And when had I checked out Dr. Oz’s Essential Guide to Your Best Body? Another failure to launch.

I am also quite familiar with the variety of bookmark that is made out of metal and kind of looks like a tuning fork. My boyfriend has one and I understand it is meant to be decorative. Some even have little charms that dangle onto the book spine. They are sturdy objects, not easily misplaced or accidentally recycled by said boyfriend. But this type of bookmark has become my nemesis. Recently, boyfriend and I were reading the same book. We had only one copy of Milkman and were both reading it on a deadline for the book club I lead. You could argue that gives me priority with the book, but I was trying to “compromise.” We took turns reading and he used his metal tuning fork bookmark to save his place. Well. When I surpassed his progress, his metal bookmark inside was an impediment to my page-turning! No longer could I turn the book around on itself, as is my preference. Indeed, when I did so even the slightest bit, his bookmark made indents in the pages, threatening to cause a tear! If you think I could have simply removed the bookmark and replaced it when I was through, you underestimate how much brain power was required in reading Milkman. I never would have remembered his place.

should I use a bookmark

All of these previous disappointments were alleviated by the arrival of my magnetic flap bookmark. I loved this bookmark, used it in every book I read, until one day I discovered its fatal flaw. During an early morning reading sess, I opened up to the page my magnetic bookmark was holding, but it betrayed me. I started reading, but was completely lost! Some sleuthing later, I discovered that I had turned to the backside of the bookmark, which was marking a page I had not yet reached. I missed a crucial scene wherein the narrator describes being seduced by a certain type of cheese! I started reading mid-brie! User’s manual for magnetic bookmark does not remind you to be sure you’re opening to the front page of the two it grips.

Upon further investigation into whether I should be using a bookmark, I have discovered that the jackets of a jacketed hardcover will lose your place 100% of the time when you drop your book. An attached ribbon will get destroyed 100% of the time by a nearby kitten. A fabric bookmark will look ridiculous 100% of the time. In conclusion, there is no reasonable solution but to keep folding over your corners and ruining your book and getting confused by whether that was the place you stopped reading or just a passage you wanted to revisit.