My very first bookmark was pink with a teddy bear and I think a quote about friendship on it. It had a long, feathery pink tassel. I used it religiously, and it made me feel like an authentic reader. (EDIT: a real reader...I don't think I knew the word "authentic" then).
From there followed a long string of bookmarks, some homemade, some picked up for free, some received as gifts. My favorite was made of a bendy plastic. It was clear but opaque and was one of those optical illusions where it looks like the picture is jumping off of the surface. In this case, the "picture" was just a bunch of bumps, so it looked like the bookmark had a soft and squishy texture when in fact it was hard and smooth. I think it was a prize from the summer reading program.
After I hit about age 12, I stopped using bookmarks. I don't know if it was because I always lost them (I did) or because my mom never used one (she didn't) or because I was perfectly able to remember my place (I was...sometimes). I developed the bad habit of "tenting"...leaving the book open but face down.
I took a reading hiatus in college; that is, I did plenty of academic reading but almost no reading for pleasure. Occasionally, that would cross over, as when I read a biography about Clara Schumann...it was research for a paper, but I quite enjoyed it. I don't recall anything about my bookmark habits in college. Probably because they were unremarkable.
Anyway, this is getting boring...there's only so much about bookmarks that's worth discussing. The whole point of this is that now, I really do prefer to use a bookmark. I don't like flipping through pages trying to find my spot when time is precious, and I only have a minute to read as it is.
My preferred bookmark of choice is...wait for it...any old scrap of paper. Not only is it thin and lightweight so it fits between the pages and doesn't damage the spine (okay, I'm being ridiculous), but it is perfect for marking sections that I want to return to. When I read something I want to remember, I rip off a small corner, and stick it between the pages. If I have a pen handy, I jot down a quick note to help jog my memory when I come back to it.
This works well, and if I misplace it, I just get another piece of scrap paper, and I'm back in business again. Easy as that.
I'd love to hear about your own bookmarking practices. Do you take notes while reading? Almost everything I read is borrowed from the library, so I'm not allowed to write in the margins. Please share all your tips and tricks on this vastly important subject. :-)