For years the thought of annotating my books sent shivers up my spine. Every English lesson caused a small part of my heart to break off when I had to take my new, pretty, shiny book, and begin writing all over the pages. I saw annotating my books as a disrespectful thing to do, almost as though I was offending the author by scribbling all over their work. However, these past few months I have begun annotating my books, and now, I don’t see myself ever going back to not annotating them! It is something that I would highly recommend to any book lover and is a fantastic way of getting the most out of your reading experience, especially if you like to take a critical and reflective stance to your reading.
Before I get into telling you all how I annotate my books, and how you can too, both with and without having to write on the actual pages, let me quickly explain where this change of heart came from. I watch an awful lot of BookTube. Just like those of us who watch commentary videos, or videos in the beauty community, we book nerds have a little corner of our own to discuss books, share our reading hauls, and vlog our reading experiences. We even have world-wide “readathon” challenges across the whole year that thousands of us participate in! Many of the BookTubers I religiously watch annotate their books, and at first, I couldn’t bear to watch. However, I soon came to realise just how much they were getting out of their reading experience. I wanted to as well, but I needed that final motivation to get me over the genuine fear of “ruining” my books. That’s when I read a short essay titled “How To Mark a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler in which he says “There are three kinds of book owners. The first has all the standard sets and best-sellers…the second has a great many books…all of them clean and shiny. The third…every one of them dog-eared and dilapidated…marked and scribbled in… (This man owns books.)” This really spoke to me. I have no future intentions of ever selling my books, so why am I keeping them so pristine? If I want to mark them, and have no reason to keep them tidy, then I should just go for it! And so, I did.
There are several books I will never mark, which include mangas and graphic novels, beautiful collector’s editions, and first-prints of classics (e.g. my first-pressing, first-edition of “Lord of the Rings” omnibus will go unmarked forever and always!) However, these books aside, I’m happy to annotate. If I want to mark a book but not my special copy, then I’ll simply buy a secondhand one to mark. Animal Farm is one of my favourite classics of all time, and the thought of marking my beautiful collector’s edition is just too much for me; so, I got a secondhand copy for £1.50 on eBay; problem solved!
If you don’t want to write on the actual pages, then I highly recommend buying some sticky highlighter tabs on Amazon (you can get around 1400 of them for £6) and devising a key for each colour. That way, you can tab certain moments, scenes and quotes without ever marking the book; they’re designed to be peeled off without leaving a residue. For example, I use a pink tab for scenes/moments I love, yellow for a quote I love, green for a plot twist, and so on. If you really want to make some notes, but still aren’t feeling brave enough to write on the paper, then try using sticky notes. I often stick these at the top of the pages, so they can all poke out of the top, and are easy to find.
I did this for a while, and then felt even more keen to write on my books. But I still needed a final push. So, I took a small starter step, grabbed a yellow highlighter, and just highlighted my most favourite quotes. Three or four a book, that was all. Soon, I felt confident enough to write my thoughts and feelings on the pages! I started in pencil so I knew I could rub it out, and slowly transitioned into pen. I still use my sticky tab method, but now my pages are covered in cute little scrawly notes that encapsulate all my thoughts and feelings throughout the story! I thoroughly recommend starting if you’ve considered it; don’t let anything hold you back from making your beautiful books your own!