Let’s Talk: Annotating

Something I’ve recently started doing is annotating my books. I know what some of you are thinking, how could I possibly mark up a book with pens and highlighters of all things, but I promise it’s a lot of fun! There’s something, I dunno, therapeutic about forever marking favourite quotes, passages and simple moments on a page. Through trial and error, I think I have finally found my own annotating system that I thought I would talk you through today! Admittedly, I have only annotated three books so far (and one of them now belongs to Cossette!), but I feel like I have a good grasp on what does and doesn’t work for me. The supplies I typically favour for this process are either brush pens, pastel highlighters and page tabs. Without further adieu, let’s get into it! 

  1. Highlighting. 

My favourite thing to do to annotate is highlight. What is highlighted varies from person to person, but usually my go-to system is to have two different colours meaning different things. For example, in my annotated copy of The Night Circus, I have the colour code of grey and red. Grey represents moments I enjoy, and the red represents my all time favourite quotes/moments. It’s hard to believe that this book isn’t just coloured in red, but I use the red highlighter sparingly to make it really feel meaningful. I love to choose colours that kinda match the book, too! My current annotating project is The Starless Sea, so my annotating colour is a golden yellow. I love how it looks in comparison to the front cover, and it reminds me of the actual Starless Sea, so it’s a fun callback to the plot! For this one, I don’t use an alternating colour, so I have decided to tab alongside it. 

  1. Tabbing.

This is a system I have only just started implementing, and I’m really enjoying it so far! In my copy of The Starless Sea I use light grey page flags to mark my favourite moments. I find, for me, this works really well alongside highlighting because it really emphasises my favourite moments! I’m really interested in making my tabbing system a bit more interesting, though, and alternating colours to represent different themes and plot points. I know for some people, the alternating colours just make it fun to look at, and I can’t help but agree! I love that you get a visual representation of everything that happens in the book, before you even turn a page. I think one of the things I need to learn is how to tab my pages sparingly. It seems like every other page has a mass amount of grey page flags, which is great because it looks lovely, I’m just running out and I can’t find the same colour anywhere! 

  1. Drawing.

I don’t do it often, but drawing in books is very fun! I started doing it with Cossette’s copy of Red, White & Royal Blue, and it was so fun! I drew a horrific looking turkey (photo evidence here), but it was so fun to capture feelings/thoughts in drawing form. I’m not a good drawer, in fact I am on the opposite end of the scale really, but I found a lot of joy from scribbling bad cartoons throughout margins to represent what was going on. It’s not something I have done in The Starless Sea yet, but I’m sure I will as I get to more of my favourite parts. It’s especially fun to do if the book is so image-heavy, so translating the author’s lush imagery into small pictures is both a challenge and a reward. I recommend trying it if you feel like you’re confident enough! 

  1. Start with a book you know.

I think one of the intimidating things about annotating is trying to enjoy the book at the same time, without trying to remember the key and themes you’re supposed to be highlighting. My first annotating project was, as mentioned above, The Night Circus. For those who may not know, this book is my all time favourite, and I know it extremely well. Using this book as my first annotating project made sense, because it brought an added level of excitement to reading the book. I had a new perspective while reading, and I got to really think about the moments I love when reading. Admittedly putting pen to paper for the first highlight is nerve wracking, but once you get into it, it really is a lot of fun! If you’re still intimidated, start small! Start with a childhood favourite, or even a novella. Annotating should be a fun task, not a chore. 

  1. Don’t be afraid to take breaks.

As much as I love annotating, it’s a lot of effort. I think, for me, taking breaks throughout the process is what really keeps me engaged in doing it. I love being able to put a book down and pick it up again, looking at it with fresh eyes. Whenever I’m in the mood to be creative, but not creative enough to journal, annotating is what I gravitate to. It’s just a lot of fun colour coding and drawing and making the book feel more personalised. Like I said before, there’s something therapeutic about it. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure, put the book down! You can come back to the process whenever you want, there really is no rush, especially if you’re doing it for your own enjoyment. Enjoy the process, don’t force it.

And there we have it! Five things I recommend/learned from annotating books! It’s definitely something I’m going to continue doing, and I’ve realised they make wonderful gifts too! My most special edition of The Night Circus in my collection is the one annotated for me by Cossette, because it’s my best friend’s thoughts on my favourite book in physical form! There’s something special about gifting it to someone, and I highly recommend doing it with someone you love’s favourite book. It’ll be a wonderful thing to share, I promise.

Don’t hesitate to let me know below your thoughts on annotating, and any tips you may have for me!

15 thoughts on “Let’s Talk: Annotating

  1. i’ve never annotated a physical book before, but whenever i read on my kindle i make lots of notes and highlights!! i’ve been doing this for years, and it’s always really fun for me. i think i’m going to try at least using tabs for a book at some point, and i also have clear sticky notes which might make writing in the book a little less scary!! this is a wonderful post!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the idea of annotating but I read mostly library books so I end up tabbing and jotting down random notes. I have plans to re-read and annotate some favorites that I ended up purchasing though!

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