Magazine April 6, 2020, Issue

At the Margins

An image of playwright William Shakespeare from a first edition of “The Herball,” a sixteenth-century book on plants, in London, England, May 19, 2015 (Toby Melville/Reuters)
On writing in, and appreciating, books

If a new book is a monologue, a used book is a conversation. Underline a passage or write a note in the margin and you have left a message for future readers, or for future versions of yourself. As many book-owners can attest, such dispatches from the past can be both heartwarming and bizarre. I cannot open my copy of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood without seeing a birthday greeting from my friend Hugh, who gave me the book as a present nearly 20 years ago. My paperback In Our Time, on the other hand, contains not only Hemingway’s early stories

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A reader responds to Madeleine Kearns’s article, ‘Pornography Is a Public-Health Problem.’

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