If you flipped through most of the books in my bookcase you might be surprised to see penciled notes, highlighted sections, book marks or post-it notes scattered throughout them.
Now, I know it’s not necessarily a good thing to mark the pages of a book, but since I don’t have any intention of getting rid of any of them anytime soon, I figure it’s OK. They’re my books to do with what I like. Of course, I’d never write in a borrowed book, but rather use a post-it or a bookmark.
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The reason that I make notes or highlight parts of books is because I’m constantly learning.
If I read a passage and there is a word I've never heard of, I’ll make a note to look it up. If I like a particular descriptive word or phrase, I’ll make a note to use it in my own writing.
I remember reading a particular story in which one of the main characters spoke Japanese, so there were a lot of Japanese words and phrases scattered throughout. I made a note of each of these, looked them up and learned them. Who knows? They might come in handy one day.
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I even underline names I like, or places to look up. I recently read an autobiography by an author who mentioned that her parents were buried in a particular cemetery that I passed regularly. I made a note of it and, one day when I was passing by, I stopped and sought out the grave – not for any morbid reason, but out of curiosity. It made me feel more of a connection to the writer and her story. I imagined her standing there and the feelings she must have experienced.
On another occasion, I read a line that talked about a particular dish the character cooked. I hadn't heard of it before, so I looked up the recipe, tried it and loved it.
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Stories – especially well-written ones – can do more than entertain us. They can open up whole new avenues of thinking and learning.