Hands up everyone who does this

Put a bookmark here…!

It’s been brought to my attention that I might be somewhat strange.

Surely I’m not the only one who rotates their bookmarks?

It’s not as though I collect bookmarks.

I’m not a member of the International Friends of Bookmarks, either (yes, that’s a real thing).

I don’t care what I mark my books with when I travel: an old envelope, the stub of a boarding pass, abandoned receipts.

I’m unapologetic about dog-earing pages, too. But I only do that to mark pages that have passages I want to write down in a notebook.

I don’t think I’ve ever bought a bookmark on purpose. I buy a lot of books from used bookshops online, and they often come with a shop bookmark slipped between the pages.

I can’t just throw them out, so they pile up.

I stack them on my bookcase and use them one by one.

When I’m starting a new book, I grab the next bookmark off the top of the pile.

And when I’m finished that book, I write down the title and author on the list I’ve been keeping since 8th grade, and I put that bookmark on the bottom of the pile, knowing we’ll meet again soon — maybe a dozen books later.

Okay, yes, I have taken some of these bookmarks out of circulation. Guilty as charged. Jesus, give a guy a break. I had too many, so I put some of the extras in a plastic tub with my old journals and papers. But I don’t have a special system for them or anything.

Perhaps I’m possessed by some sort of ingrained sense of fairness?

Maybe it’s a quality issue? It’s easier to appreciate a really good bottle of wine if you’ve picked a few bottles of less amazing wine in between.

Maybe I’m just reluctant to wear out my favourite bookmarks? Of course, I like some more than others.

Or maybe I feel irrational sympathy for inanimate objects? The neglected bookmark, the unread book, the misshapen fork at the back of the cutlery drawer, the one no one ever chooses.

Can you relate to that at all? Or am I borderline bizarre, as my wife seems to think?

Here’s the case against me (partial exhibit)

Most of my bookmarks piled up all on their own. And I’m not just making excuses when I say that. I accumulated a lot from the Book Depository. They always seem to have what I’m looking for on Abe Books:

I’ve also got a lot of these self-promoting bookmarks, mainly because I ordered too many from the printer back in 2012:

I’m trying to get rid of them gradually, the way those guys in The Great Escape got rid of dirt by dribbling it out of their pockets when they went in the yard.

I’m not (currently) incarcerated, so I slip these in on the sly whenever I take used books for trade to a local shop.

These are my favourite bookmarks:

One civilized reader is worth a thousand boneheads.” Truer words have rarely been written.

Other bookmarks have been around for ages. My mother gave me these bookmarks years ago,  I think in elementary school:

The Garfield one sits inside a Complete Shakespeare I bought in high school. And I found the others in books I’ve had since that time, too.

I have no idea where I got this one:

It isn’t connected with my favourite mug, but it has a similar wildlife motif. Perhaps it stuck to me in a similar way.

The goose mug was one of those throwaway Christmas gifts you get from relatives when you’re a teenager and they can’t think of anything else to give you. Incidentally, I mentioned that mug years later to the cousin who gave it to me, and he has no recollection of it. But it came into my possession near the end of high school, and it’s been with me ever since, through 3 countries and at least 14 rental flats / houses. Others are strictly forbidden from using it. And it must only be used for Irish tea.

Here’s another bookmark from the distant past, too. I found it in a volume of poetry by Wallace Stevens:

That was a great used bookshop. I went there when we lived in Guelph, Ontario, the last place we lived in Canada before moving to Europe.

Now that I think of it, some of those bookmarks have a lot of memories attached to them. I never set out to save them or anything. They just sort of came along with me all by themselves.

Do you have any bookmarks like that? What do you use to mark your place in your latest read?

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About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.


  • It’s a fun one 😉 I am like that too – “Or maybe I feel irrational sympathy for inanimate objects? The neglected bookmark, the unread book, the misshapen fork at the back of the cutlery drawer, the one no one ever chooses.” – Maybe a Disney heritage of our generation and fiction creating mind!

    • I was never a Disney fan, apart from seeing those early ones as a kid, 1001 Dalmatians, Pinocchio in Space, that era. So there must be something in that irrational sympathy for inanimate objects.

  • You’re not weird, Ryan. I inadvertently collect bookmarks unconsciously as well. Lol. I have leather historical ones from England, some from places that I’ve visited and ought a book, such as Yellowknife, and lost ones from the library that I never try to find the owners too. Those are usually the most unique ones and I figure possession is 9/10th’s of the law. 🙂

    But the ones that actually get the most use, believe it or not, are my 10 Vagabond Dreams bookmarks that I stole from the batch you gave us on one of your visits home. Haha! I just like the colours and the picture on them and hey, they hold up really well. So they’re stuck in about 5 books that I’ve got on the go atm. They seem to always be on the top of the pile.

    • Well that’s nice to hear re: my shameless self-promotion bookmarks. I still have a couple stacks here. I’m going to strategically secret them in the next stack of books I take to the second hand shop.

      Some of the most interesting bookmarks, notes and other things that came my way were lost between the pages of used books. I think there’s actually a book about that — items people found in books.


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