Annotating My Books

**ATTN: Some of the pictures I included could contain pages with spoilers. If you want to read my annotations, I highly suggest just reading my notes and not the actual pages of the book! Proceed with caution, readers!**

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I'm finally sharing why and how I annotate my books, and you guys, it has enriched my reading so much. I've been full-on annotating books for about two or three months now, and I can't imagine doing it any other way. I'll admit, I used to be one of those people who would practically hyperventilate when even thinking about writing in books, but that "stage" of my reading life only lasted about two years.

Why I Annotate

As a child, teenager, and young adult, my reading life has largely consisted of writing in my books, taking notes, dog-earing pages, et cetera. When I started buying more new releases (largely thanks to the BookTube community), the books were so pretty that I felt badly about "harming" them in their pristine condition.

But I just couldn't shake the desire to write in books. Any time I stumble upon a used book with notes in it or a letter in the opening pages, I feel as though I've tapped into someone's intimate thoughts or secret letters . . . 

My beloved copy is more beautiful because of the letter to its first owner.

My beloved copy is more beautiful because of the letter to its first owner.

It's such a wonderful gift to be able to read a book that's been annotated by someone else; it's one of the reason's why I'm such a fan of how Quarterly used to do their literary subscription boxes. The author would curate the box and include a variety of sticky notes with his or her thoughts inserted: what the author was doing while writing that scene, what inspired that scene, what seemingly random memory helped create the character on the page.

My reading experience of The Mothers was enriched because of Brit Bennett's notes inside.

My reading experience of The Mothers was enriched because of Brit Bennett's notes inside.

But annotating books isn't just about leaving a legacy of your reading experience on the page for other readers; it's about preserving that feeling you had for yourself when you finally read that crazy plot twist, or remembering which parts of the story stuck out to you and why. When you're reading 4+ books a month, it's easy to forget why you loved the books you loved. Taking notes in my books helps me organize my thoughts for book clubs or podcast author interviews. It helps me convey just how important a book was to me at a particular time in my life. It's like a little time capsule of who I am as a reader.

How I annotate

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I keep it simple. I don't have a different highlighter for different reasons (pink for funny quotes, blue for character development, orange for plot). I admire people who are that organized with their writing, but for me, I  like to have a pen and a highlighter.

If I have sticky notes on hand and I have a lot to say and not a lot of space to write it, I will write it on a sticky note. Sometimes I'll write the topic at hand on a sticky note as a page marker, so I can easily return to it.

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If I don't have pens, I'll dog-ear pages. I dog-ear the bottom of the page for quotes I loved, and I'll dog-ear the top as a bookmark (though I do tend to have bookmarks on hand.

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It's really quite simple, but I've found what works for me, and I love it.

Writing Your Heart

Scribbling notes in a book is like keeping a journal, writing my heart on the page. Instead of consuming the words and starting another book, I'm responding to what's in front of me. It feels more active. I've also found it helps me stay up late if I'm trying to read at night (which, many of you know, is hard to do for this grandma).

I can return to favorite quotes. I can have conversations with the characters. It's not like my notes are full of profound insight; sometimes it's five exclamation marks because the girl you didn't think was going to be the killer was the killer, and wtf?!

Sometimes I edit my books. Sometimes I type my characters on the Enneagram (I'm not kidding). Sometimes I scribble out my words. Being less delicate with my books has made me a more invested reader. I care more. I'm more immersed in the world building.

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And you know what? Dog-earing pages or highlighting or writing words in the margins—those changes don't ruin a beautiful piece of art. They make a beautiful piece of art more beautiful. I get to leave my mark, even though my handwriting chicken scratch. Even though pages sometimes get torn.