Sunday, July 04, 2004


Pet Peeve

This month I'm peeved about college students who disfigure their text books with sophomoric jottings in ink, or with those hideous yellow highlighter markers, then sell the books back to bookstores.

I recently bought William Langland's Piers the Plowman with notes by W.W. Skeat. It's a good, sturdy copy, and I got it for only two dollars, but the first eighty lines have interlinear and marginal notes in ink. Obviously the original owner didn't read more than three pages of the text before giving up. I find this very often with secondhand school editions of Greek and Latin texts -- English definitions of practically every word, scrawled all over the first few pages, then nothing.

If you're going to mark up a book, do it lightly, in pencil. The next owner of the book will thank you for it.

Many students are quick to discard their college text books. Sometimes it's understandable. One of my college buddies, after two frustrating semesters of calculus, went home, balanced his calculus book on top of a fence post in his back yard, then blew the book to smithereens with a shotgun. But here's what Thoreau has to say on the subject in his journal (February 19, 1854):
Many college text books, which were a stumbling-block when studied, I have since read a little in with pleasure and profit.

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