Lately I’ve been immersed in all things bibliophilic, reflecting on reading more, organizing my shelves, the value of keeping a list, and the costs associated with an obsession with books. And it occurred to me in the midst of all this that there was something else I could talk about that most of us take for granted, a semi-invisible and rather elementary facet of the reading life that is none-the-less worthy of our occasional attention. Bookmarks.
I don’t collect bookmarks, but I do accumulate them. Old holdovers from childhood, the gifts of well-meaning family members, and the make-do solutions to a temporary need that end up sticking around for many more reads. In thinking about my bookmarks I notice they have a peculiar life cycle very different then those of books — books, while they come and go, often don’t do so mysteriously (unless you have house guests that think of you as a lending library). Bookmarks, on the other hand, can be here one minute and gone the next.
One of the places they could be, of course, is in the book you left them in. Big readers are no strangers to having more than one book going at a time (before I started reviewing so much, I tended to read one fiction together with several non-fiction books at once), and no strangers, too, to suddenly discovering that a book you put aside with every intention to get back to it has sat untouched on your shelf for years. Open it, and you’ll see the bookmark, a diligent reminder of where you left off.