Judging a reader by their bookmark

A few of my bookmarks: a tin knight, memorial to my grandma, St. Jude prayer card, pic of my husband and I in high school, Super Grover, a friend's business card

True, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But we do anyway. And we also judge the reader by the cover of the book they’re reading. In college I often had people remark with surprise that I was reading say, Victor Hugo or EINSTEIN’S DREAMS. Of course in college I looked like a 12 year old, but still. People judge. But while people were judging book covers and what that meant about the people reading them, I often  looked at the bookmarks.

Bookmarks are more personal than the book being read. A bookmark is something you’ve chosen yourself to mark your way through a story and it stays with you long after the book has been finished and returned to the library or retired to the bookshelf. The whimsical ones point to a person’s sense of fun. The kid-drawn ones speak to their love of family. Pictures, to nostalgia. Fancy ones from the store mean they’re serious readers, and the prayer cards that end up as bookmarks reveal that the reader had at least once been accosted by a little old church lady at the end of service.

Then there are the utilitarian bookmarks, like sticky notes, which tend to mean the reader’s page-deep in research. The bill from last-night’s grocery, or the piece of junk mail that was sitting near the door, speaks directly to the fact that the reader was too busy to find a proper marker when they were heading out the door with their new read in tow.

I wonder what people might judge about me based on the sampling of my bookmarks above?

No matter what you use, bookmarks do say a lot about you. And in the mounting e-book revolution, these slivers of personality will increasingly lose their place, a fact recently discussed on Amanda Hoving’s blog. I do miss them when I use my Nook, but they’re always ready for me when I pick up a real-live paper book.


11 thoughts on “Judging a reader by their bookmark

  1. Patricia says:

    What an interesting approach. I never thought to look at people’s bookmarks. But you’re right – they say a lot. Hey, what an idea for a short story! Or did you write it already?

  2. Tracey says:

    Uhh… that you’re ATTRACTED to CHANGE?
    (I thought I was the only person who had magnetic butterflies! I use them on my bulletin board.)

  3. Amie Kaufman says:

    I love this, it’s so much fun! I’m going to be checking out bookmarks. I’m sure you can judge me by the fact that I don’t use them–it’s purely down to the fact that I’m too disorganised to ever have one when I need one!

  4. Tracey says:

    I’m just as likely to use any old raggedy piece of paper I find lying around as a real live bookmark, so don’t feel bad Amie.

  5. Amanda Hoving says:

    Well, you know how I feel about bookmarks, and I think they do say a lot about the reader: about their habits and hobbies, or their complete lack of organization (I’m looking at myself here).

    Great post, and thanks for the shout-out.

  6. SAS Fiction Girl says:

    I love collecting bookmarks and giving bookmarks as gifts. My bookmarks sit in a glass chalice on my bookshelf, each awaiting its turn to join me in a good book. 🙂

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