Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Reading Notes

Recently Sylvia wrote a great post about her reading notes and even has a photo from her notebook. I am so impressed by her note taking that I have been thinking about my own note taking--or lack thereof--ever since. I mentioned yesterday that I considered giving up on Proust. One of the reasons was the note taking. I diligently made notes on the top of nearly every page of Swann's Way. It was good in that I feel like I really read the book. But reading Proust is slow enough without the work of such detailed notes. And making all those notes truly became work. I began the next book reluctantly, still in the mindset of must note everything. After 20 pages of unhappy reading, I decided to let up on the notes and just read, noting only what I thought really interesting or really important. Almost immediately I began to enjoy myself again and reading Proust has returned to being fun. Generally, when I am reading fiction I don't actually write down any notes. Sometimes I will perform the sacrilegious act of marginalia, but for the most part I use page points to mark passages. Sometimes, especially if it is a Slaves book, I will use nearly all of my page points. Then, when it is time to write a post and discuss the book, I go back and re-read all the passages I marked. When the discussion is done, out come the points and oftentimes it looks like I didn't even read the book. Of course, the negative of this is that I have no notes to refer back to if I ever want to read or talk about the book again. When it comes to nonfiction I am better at making notes. As I read Emerson, for example, I shamelessly write in the book. Those notes will always be there for future reference. For other nonfiction books, especially ones I don't own, I will use a 3x5 card and page points. But the card is usually only page numbers or a jotted thought as I read. When I am done with the book, the information on the 3x5 card is distilled into other forms, a blog post, a TBR list, etc, and the card goes into the recycle bin. The page points are removed. The book goes back on the shelf or back to the library and that's it. I've been satisfied with my method of notation until Sylvia went and posted the photo of her beautiful notes in her moleskine. Am I missing something by not keeping my notes or being a better note taker? If I had a notebook like Sylvia's would I find it useful and actually read the notes? Or maybe I should just continue with my current ways? Perhaps there is a happy medium somewhere that would combine my current methods with a notebook or marginalia? The grass is always greener you know. Sigh. Such are the things a reader agonizes over. Now that the weather is cold--we had snow today, not enough to stick and accumulate, but snow nonetheless--I'll have more time to curl up and think about these kinds of things.