Why I Annotate My Books: A Perspective

Mae Koger

Contributing Writer




As someone who has approximately way too many books, I spend most of my free time reading. An ideal reading experience is that in which the book at hand has vibrant descriptions and an intriguing storyline. As I read, I like to highlight instances of descriptions that I like. I tend to highlight imagery and metaphors most often. In addition to highlighting, I almost always write in the margins as I have thoughts about the development of the story. Sometimes, my writing in the margins is anecdotal such as a memory that had resurfaced as I read or something that had just happened in real life as I read, while other times they are reactions such as a smiley face or “laugh,” or “sadness.”  

The first book I annotated for fun was “Girl in Pieces” by Kathleen Glascow. On the first page, I read the quote that made me place highlighter to the page for the first time: “I remember the stars that night. They were like salt against the sky, like someone spilled the shaker against very dark cloth.” As I read this, I remembered stargazing last summer, in a snow globe of stars that exists only when you are far from the light pollution caused by cities. 

It was two books later that I decided to write about my thoughts on the pages. That book was “The Winemaker’s Wife” by Kristin Harmel. I purchased this book whilst on vacation over winter break because I had forgotten to pack an extra skein of yarn for crocheting purposes. Most of my writing in this book is reactions and predictions, as I did not start writing about memories or events in my life until a few weeks after finishing this book. 

Of the books that I have annotated, my favorites are “The Hobbit” and “Cannery Row,” primarily because of how much I have written on the pages of the books. Something these books have in common is that I was required to read them for English classes in the past, although I am sure that I read summaries on SparkNotes instead of reading them myself. Looking back at my annotations in these novels, it seems as if I wrote about every thought I had while reading. I find that, when I overshare in the margins of my books, I tend to look back over my annotations frequently, which may make rereading more entertaining. 

After having annotated several books, I would say that it is something everyone should try at least once in their life. Writing and highlighting all over my novels has allowed me to stay more focused on reading and be deeply invested in the stories, and this is something that I try to incorporate into my academics when given readings as assignments.