The Marginalia book club

Marginalia (or apostils) are marks made in the margins of a book or other document. They may be scribbles, comments, glosses (annotations), critiques, doodles, or illuminations.


Speaking of books, I have had this idea percolating in the back of my head for a while now.
An online book club of sorts. A place to share real books.
A book club where YOU value add to the book you are reading before paying it forwards.

I love a good book (preferably second hand, well-travelled, and with at least one coffee stain, one sample of unknown food particulate between its pages, and a little pencilled marginalia from the previous owner). 

Ian Miller

There would be a few technical issues that would need to be addressed but here is a back of the napkin sketch of how it might work.
Basically, the concept facilitates the pairing up of two people who like a particular book….only the person who actually pays for the book gets it after the other person…..well, personalises it.

1. Listing.

You would go to the marginalia book club web site and add some books that you would like to read in the hope someone might gift it to you.

OR you could also browse other peoples lists for books you would also like to read and consider buying a book for them. (This might be via a link to their Amazon or Booktopia wish lists for example).

2. Buying.

Once you find a book that someone else has listed that you would ALSO like to read you can purchase it for them via the Amazon/Booktopia link.
You would then also email them to let them know you have done so and to give them your postal address (this would need to be done securely via the website).

Now here’s the important part:

3. Reading and creating between the pages.

Here is the deal.
Once someone buys a book for you, you are committed to value-adding to that book and then mailing it to them when you have finished it.

You value add to the book in the following ways:

  • Underlining parts you find interesting.
  • Adding thoughts, comments or words of wisdom in the margins.
  • Drawing, doodling or even painting on the pages: just don’t obscure the text it must remain readable.
  • Adding post-it notes, if longer messages are required.
  • Adding other stuff from your life captured and deposited between the pages as you read it….for example, pictures, ticket stubs, pressed flowers, cutout snippets from magazines, and anything else to make the book a treasure of interesting discoveries.
  • All this can be relevant to the book and/or relevant to your life as you read the book.
  • You get the idea.

The book becomes not only something for you to read, but a sort of literary art project. An en-capsulation of your time reading it.

Once completed you send it back to the person who bought it for you.
And then you look forward to getting that personalised book you purchased for someone else.

As I said, this is just a concept that has been sitting back behind my brainstem for a while now. I think it could be set up to deal in both new books and second-hand books (which you would just buy yourself, before personalising and sending to your marginalia partner).

I could see the system (like any system) might be open to abuse (eg. someone sending you back a book full of unsavoury or NSFW additions).
Despite this, I just thought it a pretty cool idea…..
What do you think?
Would you be interested in creating/reading books like this?

Featured image by Qihao Wang

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2 responses to “The Marginalia book club”

  1. Just a suggestion; would Goodreads be a useful platform, for creating the lists?


  2. What a bloody brilliant idea but I am someone who also loves marginalia – love those second hand books where someone else has left a shadow of their thinking. I would happily join in. I do have issues with using Amazon, Booktopia is okay, but I would purchase from my local bookshop if possible.


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