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!


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