Mortimer Adler, Miami Bookfair International, 1988

Mortimer J. Adler

“I contend, quite bluntly, that marking up a book is not an act of mutilation but of love.”

Mortimer Adler’s wise words stand ground even today. In his piece, ‘How to Mark a Book’, he carefully explains why marking up a book is indispensable. He begins by saying that full ownership of a book only comes by writing in it.
He believes that active reading is in essence, thinking. Consequentially, this act of thinking expresses itself in words, spoken or written.

Adler strongly disputes the viewpoints of those who have a greater reverence for the craft of the printer rather than the genius of the author. He says that it is imperative for the reader to write down his points since it gives clarity in thought and understanding. He reaches out to the die-hard anti-book marker by suggesting the use of small papers which can be inserted between the pages. He adds that they can also purchase a cheaper edition to mark it.

Good reading comes from intelligent marking – by using margins, vertical lines, circling and underlining.

He iterates that speed has no correlation to intelligent reading. Reading a book is essentially a conversation between the reader and the author.

As Adler rightly said, “It is not how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through you—how many you can make your own.”

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