The Books-Lying-Around-Open Syndrome


I’ve always cheerfully owned up to being one who bookmarks by dog-earring books.

But the other day, I realized something.

I usually only dog-ear novels. It’s a totally different story when it comes to nonfiction.

I was coming downstairs, groggily in search of my morning coffee, when I noticed I’d left a book I was reading on the dining room table. In order to save my place in it, I’d left it open and face down.

Then I turned my head, and saw that I’d left another book, opened and face down to save my place, on the pass-through from the kitchen to the sitting room.

Both books were nonfiction works. (I’ve been on a bit of a nonfiction kick lately).

Eventually, I got my coffee made, and took it with me into the office. And lo and behold! There were another two nonfiction books, both opened and face down on my desk.


Intrigued, I went through the whole house. Yes. I apparently have this habit of leaving nonfiction books lying around opened and face down, so I won’t lose my place in them. This was actually news to me.

Here’s what I found lying around the house:

Dining room table: Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out, by Marci Shimoff. I’ve only just started this book (even though it’s on its last renewal from the library) and it’s been a fun read so far. I think a spiritual practice that incorporates a whole lot of happiness is really the way to go, so occasionally I like to dip into books like this one.

Kitchen pass-through: Thinking Write: The Secret to Freeing Your Creative Mind, by Kelly L. Stone. I discovered this book over at Janel’s Jumble, and put it on my next online book shopping list, which happened the other day (it’s Ward’s birthday this weekend, so I had to go online to buy cookbooks. I had to. Right? Yes. It was an absolute must. So, since I happened to be there anyway, you know, buying books …)

Also on the kitchen pass-through: Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, by Blake Snyder. I didn’t see this one the first time around, because I’d put Thinking Write on top of it. And no, I’m not making any plans to become a screenwriter (although I was very tempted to do Script Frenzy this month). But I’d heard this book recommended as a great book for novelists, too, so I bought it a while back.

I’ve been getting a lot out of it – it’s written in a very easy to read style, and there are a lot of writing gems in it that I’ll be applying to my own writing. As for the name, in case you were wondering what exactly is meant by the title, Save the Cat:

I call it the “Save the Cat” scene. They don’t put it into movies anymore. And it’s basic. It’s the scene where we meet the hero and the hero does something – like saving a cat – that defines who he is and makes us, the audience, like him.

Ever since I read that, I’ve been watching out for “Save the Cat” moments in every movie I watch!

On my desk (1): Live a Life You Love, by Susan Biali. I received this book from publicist Lisa Roe a while back, and recently took it down from my to-be-read bookshelf to glance over it. I was really glad I did! The steps outlined in the book are very much in tune with my own intentions for my life, and it’s nice to have an occasional refresher.

On my desk (2): What Should I Do with My Life?, by Po Bronson. A while back, my sister Dawn raved about What Should I Do with My Life? She’d lent it to a friend, so rather than wait for its return, I ended up buying my own copy. As is the way in my reading life, that was at least a year ago, and I only just recently saw it on my shelves and decided to read it. I’ve only just started, but it looks like it’s popping into my life with perfect timing.

On my nightstand (1): Admit One: My Life in Film, by Emmett James. Another thank you to Lisa Roe, who also sent me this memoir by actor Emmett James. James uses such a unique framework:

I wrote this book under the guise that the key to experiencing film, without losing relevance and meaning, is context. The environment, mood, personal history and circumstances in which a person sees a film changes that film in a necessary, unique, and exciting way. It creates a whole new story – a living, breathing film. The film of one’s life. That being said, I present to you my story. I hope you will in turn recount your own with similar reverence.

Actually, just reading that paragraph, which is in the introduction to the book, started me thinking about the role movies (as in going-to-the-theatre movies, not now-in-DVD movies) have played in my own life.

On my nightstand (2): An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard. I seem to have a thing for memoirs on my nightstand! Dillard’s beautiful memories of her childhood make for such a wonderful read. This copy came to me courtesy of Bookmooch, where I’ve recently had a nice run of luck in terms of getting titles placed on my wish list.

On the living room coffee table: Life-Changing Weight Loss, by Kent Sasse. Because, you see, it’s April, which means shorts season will be upon us shortly. Some of you might remember I tried, unsuccessfully, to do a fitness challenge last winter (do NOT look over to the sidebar because at this moment, I see I’ve forgotten to take down the little badge and very sad-looking update bar). The lovely Joanne McCall had sent me a review copy of this book a while back, and I’m very pleased to have the inspiration.

Next to the treadmill: And speaking of inspiration, I recently, rather ingenuously, if I do say so myself, set up one of my desktop art easels on my treadmill, so now I have the option to read as well as listen to an audiobook when I do my daily 30 minutes of walking. (It’s been raining here, or I’d be outside doing those 30 minutes). X-treme Parenting: A Baby Blues Treasury, by Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman is now lying open on the shelf next to the treadmill – I discovered I got through the 30 minutes much more easily while reading this (not to mention laughing out loud occasionally).

I’m not sure why it is that I prefer to keep my place in nonfiction books by leaving them face down and open, but there you have it. These books were lying all around the house. And then what happens? Ward cleans up, and he, being a bookmarker, closes them all, marking my place by sticking a scrap of paper between the pages.

How do you keep track of the page you’re on? Do you dog-ear, lay open or bookmark? And have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

Photo credit

29 thoughts on “The Books-Lying-Around-Open Syndrome

    1. Belle

      My secret is that I don’t always finish the nonfiction books I’m reading, Kathy. That’s probably not such a good thing!

  1. Memory

    I’ve only read AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD, but I really enjoyed it. Dillard has an interesting perspective on things, and I liked how she slowly cast her privileged situation in a different light as the book progressed.

    I use bookmarks, myself. I’ve got two primary bookmarks that live inside my current reads, plus a few others that I use for extremely secondary books.

  2. Kathleen

    I love how you have books all over your house! I haven’t read any of those you mention here but they do sound interesting. As for how I mark my place? Well I am one of those who has to turn the corner down!
    .-= Kathleen´s last blog ..I’m a Cheerleader! =-.

  3. Care

    My first thought was that this would drive my husband bonkers (so I’m off to go do – ha, not really) but now I want these books! I must know what Save the Cat means (as well as screenwriting being my dream fantasy job and thus why What Should I Do With My Life might be a good idea…)
    Very interesting – the no bookmark in nonfic concept. But truly, I love this: “a whole lot of happiness is really the way to go”. I agree.
    .-= Care´s last blog ..Chow Hounds =-.

    1. Belle

      I hope you get your hands on Save the Cat, Care! It’s a really, really good book, and Blake Snyder also offers “The Beat Sheet” which is really helpful in terms of structuring screenplays (and novels!). Not to mention, it’s just such a fun read, and he illustrates every point with corresponding scenes from movies, so you know exactly what he means.

  4. Janel

    That’s quite a collection! I hope you like Thinking Write. :) About the only time I put a book face down is when I get up in a hurry and get locate my bookmark. I have a huge collection of bookmarks on my shelf, which is right next to where I usually read.
    .-= Janel´s last blog ..Jumblicious 4/9/10 =-.

    1. Belle

      I think I might remember to use bookmarks if I read in the same place, but I have this wandering tendency when I’m reading. Certain books seem to call for different reading locations/positions. Kind of strange, now that I think of it!

      Yes, I’m liking Thinking Write! I’m hoping to get time to listen to the CD tonight.

  5. Joanne

    I bookmark. I received a set of bookmarks for a gift, they’re long, silver hooks with interchangeable bookmark charms on the end, like a butterfly, watering can. Kind of like jewelry for my books :)
    .-= Joanne´s last blog ..Keeping An Eye On You =-.

    1. Belle

      I’m very tempted to say, if only I had a set of bookmarks like yours (LOVE the idea of jewelry for my books!) I’d use them … but I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t!

  6. Ann-Kat (Today, I Read...)

    Now I don’t feel so bad about the six or seven books I’ve yet to finish and have lying around. ROFL

    Seriously though–YOU DOG EAR!!! 0_o Why, oh, why, Belle? Can’t you hear your novels screeching out in agony? Books are people too ya know. OK, OK I will dispense with the dramatics. :)

    I admit I’m a bookmarker and it pains me a little to see a page dog-eared. Lately I’ve come up with my own little system of bookmarking while reading, which I eventually need to write about when I stop being busy (or lazy…whichever comes first).

    Now I must go and check out “Save The Cat!” because that title is just far too interesting to pass up.
    .-= Ann-Kat (Today, I Read…)´s last blog ..24 Hr Read-a-Thon (Spring 2010) Book Pool =-.

    1. Belle

      LOL I always think it gives my books that really well-loved look :) I like the idea of a bookmarking system, though. (The word “system” always intrigues me)

      Save the Cat! is a great book – I think you’ll like it. Almost all the information in it can apply to novels.

  7. Audrey/brizmus

    I was going to ask the same thing as Kathy, but looks like you’ve already replied to that. I still can’t believe, though, how many books you are reading at once.
    It’s kind of a funny phenomenon, that you don’t dog ear non-fiction. I use bookmarks, but with those hard back books that are covered in plastic, I find that I leave them like you leave your non-fiction books.
    .-= Audrey/brizmus´s last blog ..Review: the Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman =-.

    1. Belle

      I’ve been thinking a bit more since I wrote this post, and now I’m thinking that part of it must be because the paper they use for nonfiction is a little bit different. I always think of fiction as being on soft, fuzzy, comfortable paper that takes so well to dog earring, while nonfiction seems to always be on more rigid, less pliable paper …

      Or, I’m imagining things! That could be it too :)

  8. Jemi Fraser

    Wow – that’s a lot of books!!! The best thing about nonfiction is what we teachers like to call “multiple entry points”. You can start anywhere, stop anywhere, enjoy anywhere.

    I’m a bookmarker. I have one bookmark I’ve had for years, I’ve lost about 20 others. Some of the time I use coupons and left over post-its! Anything works :)
    .-= Jemi Fraser´s last blog ..Setbacks =-.

    1. Belle

      What are you doing up so late? sez big sis to little sis.

      I didn’t know that about Mom! I was too busy dog-earring my books to notice, I think. If I used money as bookmarks, I’d end up with a ton of money inside my books, because I am so good at reading partway, putting it down and forgetting about it.

  9. Barbara

    I have a bunch of bookmarks which I use – I dogear magazines when I’m interrupted in the middle of something. One of my favorite bookmarks came from a good friend; it has a very funny picture of a chimpanzee. Dave always asks me if Sheri is holding my place for me. :)
    .-= Barbara´s last blog ..HARDBALL by Sara Paretsky =-.

  10. Dorte H

    What a funny book hunt you have been on!

    Even though I buy most of my books second-hand, I prefer bookmarks. If I leave a book face-down, I feel I am ruining it – a trace of my humble, bookless childhood, I think.
    .-= Dorte H´s last blog ..Denise Mina, Exile (2000) =-.

  11. Nymeth

    *gasp* those poor books 😛 I have a large collection of bookmarks and always use them, but I do admit I dog-eared when I was younger. That’s so funny that you didn’t even realise you had that habit!
    .-= Nymeth´s last blog ..Doreen by Barbara Noble =-.

  12. Steve

    Unbelievable. I can barely keep up with one book at a time and if I’ve been away from it for more than a day, I need to re-read the last chapter I was on.

    As for dog-earing… Never have, never will. Imagine Dylan folding down your ears so he could remember what he was talking to you about last! Cruel punishment to unsuspecting books (and mom’s). Nope, I am a bookmark kind of guy. 1.43758″ wide by 4 times in length. Works for me.
    .-= Steve´s last blog ..Everything Is Burning!!!!! aka Another Post About Pyrography =-.

  13. MarthaAndMe

    I’m a bookmark person. From a very young age, I remember having it drilled into me that turning the corner of the page actually damaged the book! So I guess I learned from the beginning never to do that. I have a very large bookmark collection, which is displayed on the walls in my office. I generally use only one bookmark functionally- one my son made in school.

  14. Chrissie

    I have several books laying all over the house too. But I can’t read on the treadmill! And my treadmill has a special place to rest a book. Very disappointing lol


Leave a Reply to Belle Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>