Annotating Books

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I know, this is a very controversial topic. Most people either love annotating their books or are cringing right now at the mere thought of it. To be completely honest, I’ve switched between those perspectives several times. Recently, I’ve started entertaining the idea again and I’m slowly easing myself in, but there’s a lot to consider and that’s what I’d like to talk about today. I’ve been thinking about the process of annotating a lot lately, and while having a conversation with Samantha at Modern Witch’s Bookshelf about it, she encouraged me to write a post about it. She recently wrote a post of her own on the topic and I highly recommend you check it out! Not only is Samantha incredibly sweet, but her posts are wonderfully well-written.

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To annotate or not to annotate?

Like I said, some people are strongly for annotating books, and others are strongly against it. Over the past few years, my feelings on this topic have bounced back and forth a lot. As a child, I wanted to keep my books as pristine as possible. Then about five years ago, I had seen an annotated book and I thought the idea of being able to look back at your thoughts was really cool. I was planning on rereading The Fault in Our Stars, so I bought a second copy and wrote down my thoughts in the margins as I went. I enjoyed getting my thoughts down on paper, but looking at how marked up the book was honestly made me a bit anxious, so I decided not to do it again for a while. Recently, I saw a few BookTubers talking about their process for annotating books and I started to think about developing my own process. When I annotated The Fault in Our Stars, I just wrote down my thoughts in the margins and highlighted my favorite quotes; I didn’t tab any pages or have a color system. While there’s nothing wrong with this at all, I decided that moving forward I wanted to annotate in a more organized way because I feel that personally it’ll be more helpful when I’m writing reviews. So, I began tabbing my books again, and I’m going to try writing in them soon. For now I think I might start with writing in stand-alones so if I want to adjust my system again, I don’t have to do it mid-series. Right now I’m just easing myself in by using a color-coded tabbing system.

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Benefits of Annotating

So what ultimately made me decide that I want to give annotating another chance? Here are some of the benefits I’ve considered:

Helps you get more engaged in the novel – If you write down your thoughts as you go, it pushes you to think more deeply about what you’re reading. You’re more likely to analyze, react to, or form thoughts about the content.

Allows reflection in the future – If you reread the book in the future, you can look back at what you were thinking the last time you read it. You can see whether and by how much your thoughts and feelings have changed over time.

Makes it easier to write reviews – When it’s time to write your review, you can flip through to the parts you tabbed/highlighted to remind you of important parts you wanted to discuss. If you write your thoughts in the book, you can even include some of them in your review!

Helps you to review the plot before reading the sequel – Something that drives me crazy is that by the time a sequel is released, I’ve usually forgotten most of what happened in the previous book(s). If you annotate your books, or even just tab them, you can look back at what you tabbed/highlighted to remind you of the important things that happened in the novel. You can refresh your memory without having to reread the whole book.

Allows you to be creative – There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to annotate, so it may be fun to think of your own system. Plus, you might think the tabs look really pretty!

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Color-Coding Systems

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These are the tabs I’ve put in my copy of The Hating Game so far, but I still have about 100 pages left. Here are close-up pictures of the tabs I use, which I found on Amazon:

This is what each color represents:

Pink – Relationships (not only romantic, but anything that describes relationships with friends or family too)

Orange – Dislike (whether it’s something about the writing I don’t like or something that happens in the story that frustrates me)

Yellow – Characters (any important facts/background about any of the characters)

Green – Funny (anything that I think is clever or that makes me laugh)

Blue – Questions (anything I’m wondering about or that I think might be foreshadowing)

Dark Purple – Important (any important information that I don’t think fits into any of the other categories)

Bright Purple – Favorite (any quotes I really like as well as my favorite scenes)

I’m pretty happy with the way this system worked out for The Hating Game, but I might modify it slightly in the future. When I read fantasy, I’m planning on green representing anything relating to do with world-building, so I may change dark purple to anything funny. 

If you’re trying to develop your own system, here are some ideas for other things the colors could represent: shocking moments, diverse representation, connections, sad scenes, cute scenes, things you want to look up, or miscellaneous.

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Let’s chat!

How do you feel about annotating? If you do annotate your books, how do you go about it? Do you have a system?


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11 thoughts on “Annotating Books

  1. AWESOME post! Thank you for the shout out :]
    I also get super anxious when thinking about writing in my books, so tabs seemed a lot more friendly and manageable- also, I read a lot of library books, and at least with tabs, you can take them out at the end and return the book!
    I am however, having trouble assigning meanings to the various color tabs! I liked yours for the “disliked” tab! That was one I hadn’t thought of! I am still modifying my “meanings” for the different colors but I am pretty sure we have the same tabs and this is what I have so far:
    Green- quotes
    Pink- Questions / page with additional sticky note
    Yellow- Things I had to look up, or want to look up after reading
    Blue- talking points for reviews
    Light purple- character intros/things I will need to remember for the rest of the story

    Maybe I will make the orange one for disliked as well and then I just have dark purple to figure out. I am so glad you put a post like this together :]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you so much for the inspiration and the comment!! 🙂

      I totally agree, tabs feel more manageable because if you don’t like the way they look you can always take them out. That’s a great point about library books too! I’m starting to get comfortable with tabbing. I think I’m going to try writing in a paperback soon, so (I hate to say it) if I really can’t stand the way it looks I’ll be able to afford another copy.

      Thank you! I do really like having a tab for dislikes. Thankfully I haven’t been using them too much, but they definitely make it easier to write reviews. I really like your color system! I think having one color specifically for talking points for reviews is sooo smart!

      Thanks again, love! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m totally cool with using tabs to highlight things you love! I panic thinking about highlighting my books haha. I think it’s fine to do so though as long as it’s your own book! It’s a great way to remember so much about the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree! For a while I was writing down every quote I liked in a journal. While I liked having them all the quotes in one place, I have a really hard time being selective (which you can probably tell by how many tabs I have in my book in the picture, haha) and I felt like I was writing everything down. It started to become so time-consuming. I feel like tabs are a perfect middle-ground because they’re quicker but not as permanent as highlighting. Thank you so much for the comment!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really good idea! I’ve tried that and my only problem with it is that I tend to write practically everything down and it becomes so time consuming and takes away from my reading experience, but that’s a personal problem and I can totally see why that system works for you! It’s awesome that everyone has something specific that works for them 🙂


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