For the most part I enjoy this brave new world of mail-order book buying.
But it does have drawbacks.
The other day, for instance, I got a book that was billed as “like new,” only to find the previous owner had underlined a great many paragraphs.
I thought about returning it, but I’d gotten such a great deal I decided to keep the thing and read around the markings.
I remembered the day President Gordon B. Hinckley asked to borrow President Boyd K. Packer’s set of scriptures. He took one look inside and handed them back.
“I can’t read this,” he said. “Somebody has crossed out all the words.”
Marking up books, of course, has been the topic of more debates than baseball’s designated hitter rule.
Purists despise it.
Practical-minded people see marking as a helpful memory tool.
When my great-grandfather died, I was given the copy of the Doctrine & Covenants he’d used on his mission in Montana in 1898.
The book was more dog-eared than Lassie.
But there was not a mark on any of the pages.
I suspect when Grandad came across a scripture worth remembering, he simply memorized it instead of highlighting it. That would have been his way.
My mother, on the other hand, left a set of scriptures with more passages underlined than not. You could actually learn more about my mother by reading the things she refused to mark rather than those she did.
I’ve looked for middle ground between those two forebears.
I’ll set off a scripture with two small black dots — one at the beginning of the verse and one at the end. It looks more like a printing error than a marked passage. And sometimes, when speaking in church, I’ll read right through those dots like a bus going through a stop sign.
Oh there are times, with a cheap paperback, that I’ll slash away with red ink and highlighters.
In clothbound books, I tend to use Post-It Notes.
To each his own.
I guess it all depends on if you’re planning to resell the book.
Which brings me back to my recent mail order.
The book I got is called “The Oxford Book of Ages” and features quotes and comments from famous people about every age of life.
The person who owned the book before me must have been in his mid-30s since great swaths of copy have been highlighted between ages 30 and 40.
Of course, the first thing I did was see what people had to say about my own age, 64.
I found there a thought from Charles Wesley, the Methodist minister who gave us the hymns “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
At age 64, Wesley wrote:
“How foolish was my hope, and vain, that age would conquer sin.”
I carefully put a black dot at the beginning, and the end, of the thought.