Learning Not to Highlight, and Other Orientation Highlights

By Katherine Duke '05

Hello, my name is Katherine, and I am a recovering habitual highlighter. Nine years ago, when I started my first year at Amherst, I got into the habit of studying with a hot pink or neon green or fluorescent orange marker in my hand, so that I could drag it across any lines of text that struck me as particularly important. It made me feel accomplished and scholarly—I could look back through the pages and see that I had really studied. It took me several semesters and many defaced books to realize that merely changing the color of what I’d read didn’t help me very much when I went back to re-read it later, and it was especially unhelpful when I found that I’d designated three quarters of every page as “particularly important.”

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What They Are Reading

Suzanne R. Coffey, director of athletics, writes about the books on the table between her favorite chair and the woodstove:

I am most often reading several books simultaneously. The more dog-eared and Post-it-note-marked, the better the read. On the table between my favorite chair and the woodstove, you’ll find Richard Russo’s That Old Cape Magic, Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures and The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance.

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What They Are Reading

Professor of Philosophy Alexander George writes about the books on his figurative bedside table:

Keeping potted portraits of others’ works or of my reactions to a minimum, here instead are selected quotations, from stuff recently read, that did something for me.

From W. H. Auden’s Selected Poems, but not selected by him and including some poems he loathed and was ashamed to have written, though not this from “Horae Canonicae”: “at this noon, on this hill / in the occasion of this dying.”

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What They Are Reading

We asked Associate Professor of Religion Maria Heim what she read over the summer. Here’s what she told us:

My summer reading list was shorter than I would have liked—isn’t it always?—and often I am grateful just to grab enough time to glance over the newspaper, but I did manage to get in a few fun things.