"Using a book, not reading it, makes us wise" is a motto from Geoffrey Whitney's Choice of Emblemes published in 1586. Reading it, I smile knowingly, thinking of my habit of nurturing a pragmatic relationship with books. There is something very pleasing about holding a book in your hands and diligently marking it up in a special way. Putting question marks on the margins or little check marks before sentences that will someday be added to our quotation database: these are examples of how I consciously try to make the most of the reading experience.
I believe that the marking of our own books is worth doing on a regular basis as a sign of my dialogue with authors who have spent years writing and awaiting our response. There's an essay on this by Dustin Illingworth essay at lareviewofbooks.org titled "An Incomplete Eloquence."
I like his idea of seeing reading as an explosive event whereby we take in "the sparks given off by text and mind and memory." We scribble words on the pages of books we read as proof positive of our intensive engagement with the text, the author, and the culture. For me, books are sacred resources for our spiritual journeys. Years of reading reaps many benefits -- not the least of which are the little bits of wisdom which find their way into our hearts, minds, and souls.