Bookmarks

Keeping one’s place in a book, especially a book that contains hundreds of pages, is essential (why this is so is irrelevant to this post). Because I respect books, even cheap paperbacks, I never dog-ear my copies in order to keep my place. Instead, I find myself using all sorts of things as bookmarks. For a long time I would ask my booksellers for bookmarks that I could use when reading. Most of them were obliging, but all too often there were no bookmarks to be had. The Harvard Bookstore and the Coop in Cambridge always give a bookmark with purchases, and for this I am obliged. Of course, there are always selections of bookmarks for sale, some more elaborate than others. I would often buy bookmarks that seemed to accommodate the subject matter of the book I happened to be reading at the time. However, these were often lost or misplaced, and I found myself back where I started: frantically searching for something to place in between the pages of the book. This can be especially frustrating when the phone rings or the doorbell sounds or one of my children starts crying as if a bone has been broken. I do not like to place my books face down on the table opened at the page where I left off. If the book is a hardcover the spine can weaken and the book becomes less stable, less enjoyable to hold in one’s hands. Lately, I find myself using all kinds of things as bookmarks. For a long time I would use the book receipt as a page holder. However, these little white slips of paper often get lost and I am once again at risk of losing my place. I have even carefully cut longer bookmarks into sections to make several short ones. Since I travel a great deal I now find myself using airplane tickets and train tickets as bookmarks. I tend to save most of my receipts while traveling (I have never been good at keeping track of things like this, much to my wife’s dismay!) and some of my favorite bookmarks are museum tickets and vouchers from the various sites I have visited. This comes in handy since I always seem to have a book with me wherever I go. At conferences I try to slip a few business cards into the book I’m reading so I have them to give out—which is rare since not that many people seem to ask for them—but that’s another story. My current bookmarks are from a recent trip to Milan. There is the train ticket from Malpensa to the city center, a ticket stub for Il Codice Atlantico di Leonardo da Vinci at the Sacrestia del Bramante, an entry ticket to La Scala, and various others. When I’m finished with the book I try to leave that particular bookmark inside hoping that when I go back to re-read a certain passage I will come across it thus triggering a certain memory of a certain place at a certain time. Bookmarks can be just as memorable as the books we read, so they must be chosen carefully and thoughtfully. The experience of reading a book does not begin and end with the book itself, but spreads to other, more subtle aspects of the experience. Having a certain kind of bookmark, especially one that has special significance, can make the experience that much richer.

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