Cataloguing personal histories through books.
I am a real book nerd. I love a good book. I've spent the vast majority of this very weekend getting 2/3rds of the way through a long book - I'm sure I'll have finished it by tonight. Nothing can beat time spent under a blanket, with a brew, wiling away the hours (at this time of year anyway, when it's dark by 4pm). A couple of things happened this past week that got me thinking about the ways that books carry our personal histories, and pass them on to others. It's a beautiful thing really.
Early in the week, I gave away the majority of my academic books at work. I'm not precious about possessions, and given the impending move of our university to a new site, I thought it a good opportunity to ask some of my students if they wanted any of my books. It was only a small collection of about twenty on my office shelf, but I'm now down to two. What caught my attention was the books that I saw being selected, remembering times when I read the books, or reviewed them, or made furious notes early on in my PhD. The students were flicking through pages with sticky notes, penciled annotations, and overused pink highlighter.
It made me think about how, looking back on these pages, the annotations and notes represent a point I was at then, and how my thinking has changed since. It also gives the students an opportunity to explore my own early thinking, and perhaps use this as a basis for their own thinking on particular topics - mental health, bodies, and women's studies.
On the flip side, I myself went to explore my local library, wanting to see the offerings they have on topics I'd enjoy. I love picking up a book and seeing what someone else has underlined. You feel like you get to know that person, what stood out to them - and that really helps in questioning your own thinking, or thinking about issues from different perspectives.
I used to feel quite strongly about not marking books, but from now on, I'll endeavour to leave some of myself in books, if not for myself, but for others to see pieces of my thinking.