Annotating Books

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” I pulled this one from my own commonplace book. Albert Einstein said this, and he was right. People cannot go through life just knowing things. To understand you must try, and learn from what you are taught, not just school or work, but reading and even watching television.

Part of the reason I called this site pagevandal was because I analyze everything I read, I take notes, but for fun. I don’t just read and think to myself, I read then I underline, highlight and write on the pages. It keeps me intrigued and thinking.

Annotating while reading has truly helped me become a better reader and understand more about a book. Even genres such as fantasy or mystery is a great place to analyze. I recently read And Then There Were None, and I annotated the whole book, I wrote in the margins on who I thought committed the murders and my opinions on the characters. This process can be so useful in so many different ways; I would recommend it to anyone who calls themselves an avid reader.

Here is my process:

First I begin by finding a good book and just sitting down and enjoying it. I open the flap and on the first blank page write the date I am starting the book. I believe this to be extremely important to the whole of the annotating for coming back and rereading the book (if you ever choose to do so) to see when you first took the notes and how your view point changed between the readings.

After this, I begin to make a key at the beginning of the book to mark the type of pen I am using and the highlighter color I used. This may seem obvious, but it does help, you would want to know what you thought then for future years. This is just to keep me organized for when I read a book multiple times and change color. Now for pen I use a normal blue pen and yellow highlighter. I would not recommend any blue, green or other dark highlighters because they will bleed through the pages of a book and you will not be able to read the words underneath. When I am rereading a book I have already read and or annotated already I use a red pen and orange highlighter just to change things up and be able to differentiate between first and second readings.

Now how you highlight is mostly up to you, but here is what I do to get you on the right track. I underline anything of importance, pertaining to plot, foreshadowing, etc. I sometimes highlight things in a book that are extremely important to plot and that I want to analyze deeper. Other than this, I also highlight quotes for future reference and I write them into my commonplace book (read Commonplace Books ) after I finish reading the book with a citation to the page I found it on and the book. When I do highlight, I mark the page with either a flap at the bottom, or at the back of the book I write the page number to go back to. This is up to you to choose; however, I have done both ways and my own personnel opinion would be to use the page number in the back of the book method.

Once you finish a book you should write in one of the back pages how long it took you to finish or the date you finished. This can just be a goal to beat for when you read a book a second time, just for fun. After you have done this, if you are using the commonplace book method, then you should just leave the book be for about a week, then go back and look at the flaps or page numbers you left. The reason for waiting this long is to allow yourself to get out of the book and accustomed to analyzing. When you go back and read the highlights, read them carefully and make sure you will truly want them in your commonplace book, or if they sounded good from when you read them and now they are not what you are looking for.

This process can be used for a multitude of different platforms, such as poems, plays, scripts, anything with words, just follow the rules above.

Finally, this is just for you, so you can do whatever you feel fits you best.

Thank you for reading – please leave a comment on what type of post you want me to do next and how you annotate your books!


Commonplace Books

Reading is a portal to a new world, and quotes are the items we bring back for ourselves to use and live by in our own all too real reality. Sometimes you may read something in a book you think, “Hey that’s interesting, I should come back and write that down.” But you always forget and end up never finding the quote again. Though this does not always happen in books, this may happen in poems, songs, movies, television shows, cookbooks,  etc. This analyzing strategy can help you understand things more and learn from everything in life instead of walking through without anything behind you to help you along the way.


A commonplace book is a place for expressing ideas and writing down thoughts for the future. There are many other uses for a commonplace book too such as keeping a journal, or drawing. But to me a commonplace book is a place for your life to unfold, to write everything you feel and learn and that you never want to forget.

Now this is not a new thing, many people throughout history have kept books such as these. This type of book has helped humanity learn what happened in the past. For example James Madison had kept a extensive journal writing daily on what was taking place at the meeting of the 13 colonies creating the Constitution. If he had not written down everything happening, we would have no recollection of the event and history would not be known as vastly as it is today. Not only presidents or “famous” people took part in this, soldiers have kept journals and books such as these recording battles and wars. We would not know much of the Revolutionary War and its battles if not for the soldiers writing in these journals or to their families. These books have written our history for us…

All these people kept books such as these not only to keep track of history but also to learn and be delighted to do so. Knowledge is power, and the more knowledge you collect, the mightier you shall be.


There is no set way of keeping a commonplace book, many people use a multitude of different forms to write this personal masterpiece. Personally I use four journals to keep myself organized, one book for journaling, one for book reviews and vocabulary etc., one for famous quotes and quotes I come across during reading that I come to love, and one for drawing and sketching out paintings and artwork for expressing my imagination. These four suit my own needs and I use them as regularly as I can.

Here are some examples and explanations behind ways to keep your own commonplace book:

-Have at least one journal to write in. Here in this journal you will be writing quotes, journal entries, reviews, drawing and other things. Make sure you have it with you at all times to write down any form of inspiration you may encounter. Now if you keep these journals separate such as myself, I highly recommend having one journal for each category so you can organize yourself and not get lost in your own work. For quotes I have nine different categories to arrange them, they are as follows: Discovery, Fear, Truth, Life, Light, Knowledge, Love, and Bliss, they may seem random, but the system I keep works for me. These are just my own, I would suggest finding whatever fits you best and using it as your own, whatever pertains to your own book and life, what gives you inspiration to help in life. At the beginning of each section I keep a section description on why i chose that as a section and what meaning it has for me as a writer and human-being. (I also keep an index at the end of the book to cite the pages these sections are on and what books the quotes are from)

-There is also the ability to keep index cards as your commonplace book. This was a choice I had to make between my commonplace book options, I was at a deadlock between index cards and books. I ended up choosing books because I thought I could personalize them easier and put real creativity into them. Now the reason I had index cards  at a deadlock with books was because they were easy to organize and add to. They could be kept in a box with tabs in between to be added to whenever necessary, while books could not. Index cards could be colored or written on much easier, and there was more space, there was no limit to what I could write.

-Another way to keep a commonplace book is to write it online. I would not recommend this to many people only because I think the internet is not as easily saved and cherished as other ways of using this method. There are some positives to this choice, you have infinite space to write, endless ways to organize, and the ability to save, share and copy. Some negative effects can be no personalization, and no ability to draw or sketch out ideas. These can be small to some, and huge to others, but I recommend you do what you prefer.


Other than just having a place to write you need things to write.

-Write daily in your journal about what happened that day, interesting stories and just everyday thoughts.

-Pour out your feelings into this book and let your true self write instead of the person you let out into the world we call reality, don’t let anything stop you from writing everything down, no one will see this if you don’t want them to.

-Write poetry, short stories, songs, even novels, everything that comes to mind write until you can write no more. There is no limit to human creativity except for those we put on ourselves, so let everything out.

-Write reviews for movies and television shows and books. Write summaries and categorize them. Write if you would every watch the movie or read the book again, if you would recommend it to a friend. Give it a rating out of 5 to remind yourself how you felt as you read it.

-Write inspiring quotes, quotes you think you can use for school, in essays or stories, remember to always cite where you found these quotes so you can go back and reread them to use again.

-Draw, paint, anything to let out your inner artist. Who cares if you suck at art, everyone starts as a beginner, there is no such thing as being born with a talent, just passions that you need to strive toward and practice.

In the end I can not tell you what to write, but only inspire you to continue writing. Thank you for reading this post, comment how you keep your commonplace book and if this has helped you.

I was inspired by Ryan Holiday and his post on “How and Why to Keep a ‘Commonplace Book'” to start my own book. Here is a link to his post.




Quote of the Week – Week of January 17th 2016

“Because forgiveness is like this: a room can be dank because you have closed the windows, you’ve closed the curtains. But the sun is shining outside, and the air is fresh outside. In order to get that fresh air, you have to get up and open the window and draw the curtains apart.”

-Desmond Tutu

Introduction to Me

To introduce myself, my name is Zachary. I am fourteen years old, yet I believe myself to have an old soul(probably not but just go with it). One of my favorite past times is reading, I do it night and day, laying awake at night hating myself for just reading… and reading… and reading. Never sleeping, yet loving the feeling it gives. The sense of accomplishment when you finish a book, especially a series and then wanting to ball you eyes out with tears of grief wondering, “What will I do with my life now?” And the answer to that… let’s keep pondering.

Any who, as you must have realized, I am a enormous nerd. I love watching television as well as playing video games and reading (of course). To name a few things I love with the fullness of my heart: Doctor Who, Supernatural, Sherlock, Lord of The Rings (the books, I never finished the movies), A Song of Ice and Fire, Star Wars, Pokemon and much more. I wanted to let you know this so you can see who I truly am and maybe to even get you to like me and read my articles and posts. But I am not only here for that, I am here to learn from you, I am here to talk to you, I am here to release my deepest thoughts onto this useless computer screen for you… and for me.

Now you must be asking yourself, “Why should I read a blog written by a fourteen year old?” And honestly, I am still surprised you made it past that first paragraph without leaving. You have absolutely no reason to stay here except for pure fascination and intrigue, and if that is the case I have succeeded.

I am a novice writer, only now embracing the fact of how much I love writing and I started a blog because I could not keep all of my ideas cramped in my head and journal without sending my buzzing thoughts to you. I aspire to be a world renowned best seller (who doesn’t?) and I will not get there without taking my first steps. One of my favorite quotes says, “To begin, begin.” -William Wordsworth so I plan on doing just that. I consider myself to be a horrible writer, that is another reason for me starting this blog, to get better. As a wise Jedi Master (Yoda) once said, “Do or do not, there is not try.” So I am doing instead of trying, I am not sitting down writing in a journal I will never look at again, I am getting up and doing what I want to. Which not everyone can say for themselves…

For posts I plan on blogging once a week mostly about reading topics, such as book reviews. I also plan on uploading pictures of artwork I work on and paint myself, and I plan on creating my own original content to keep readers coming back for more each day. Inspiration is also a huge deal in my eyes so I want to have a weekly quote, and as you can see, I love quotes and use them often. I want this blog to grow and sprout to become a nourished, strong oak tree, to surpass all other blogs and become a part of my own history.

I may be just some online guy you may or may not know, but I believe I will come to know you all and you me, and the thought of that excites a spark of magic in my head that festers into a giant firework spanning miles upon miles, endless, just as imagination…