Sunday, February 20, 2005

Underlining Books

On perusing a copy of David Chalmers' The Conscious Mind that I purchased recently, I was shocked to find that the previous owner had highlighted portions of the text up to and including the last page. This was unexpected, I realized, because in every other used book I have ever bought -- quite a few -- the underlining/highlighting starts hard and heavy in the first chapter, starts petering out in the second chapter or thereabouts, and completely disappears after that.

From that pattern, you can infer one of two things:

1. Authors put all of their important or memorable points in the first two chapters, while the rest of the chapters are superfluous fluff; or,

2. Authors OUGHT to put all of their important or memorable points in the first two chapters, because hardly anyone reads past that point anyway.


Stuart Buck

6 Comments:

Blogger Mike said...

Authors OUGHT to put all of their important or memorable points in the first two chapters, because hardly anyone reads past that point anyway.Most authors already do this, since it's understood that book reviewers only read the first two chapters. I've read this in several reliable places, although a quick Google search doesn't provide me any cites.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that a lot of books don't say nearly as much as they have in word count. Authors do often put most of the main thoughts they have in the first part, to draw readers in, then they put a lot more book that says the same thing, in order to justify a higher price. Really good books are good throughout.

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps it means that people rarely sell books that they care enough to finish and underline.

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous2, that's a good point. I know that the books that I have underlined heavily in are precious to me. Not only is the book one that I want to keep, but I underlined in it for a reason: I like to go back through and easily find and examine particularly notable parts. I wouldn't want a fresh, clean copy of the book without my underlinings, since I put them there for a reason. So a book with my underlinings would hold a "sentimentality" of sorts. It is personalized to me.

Anonymous1

2:44 PM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

Good point!

5:09 PM  
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9:23 PM  

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