How to Annotate All Kinds of Books

What is annotating? Basically, it means that you underline/highlight and add notes interacting with the text.

I do most often write in my books, but there are ways to annotate and not mark up your books. Here’s how I annotate my books, and if you want you can try it yourself.

Why you should annotate your books

Mostly Because it’s fun. That’s the main reason I annotate books. Many annotate books for classes/homework, which is where I learned to do it, but now I do it for fun. I’ve found there are just so many benefits to doing it, here are some of the reasons:

It helps you be a more active reader– I remember so vividly the day my 6th-grade teacher taught the class how to skim-read, but what I found over the years is that it makes for a lazy reader. Active reading is when you are engaging with the text rather than just passively reading the story.

It helps with your memory – You remember more details of the book.

You get a better understanding of the book – Annotating a book can help you absorb the born more fully. It helps with understanding the plot, the story, and even character development. Annotating especially helps with books that deal with heavy or complicated topics.

Supplies Needed for Annotating

Here are the basic supplies I use…

Buy Alison’s book

Annotation Key

I like to find tabs that match the book cover. Then I sit with the book and come up with areas that I want to keep notes on. If it’s nonfiction I like to find topics that are connected to the book subject/text and I tailor them to the topics the author is writing about. If it’s fiction, then I have some basic go-to colors and topics.

  • Red – Scenes that make me angry/things I dislike
  • Pink – Romance moments
  • Orange – Inspiration
  • Yellow – Worldbuilding
  • Blue – Sad moments
  • Dark Purple – Favourite quotes
  • Green – Character Building

Here is an example of a nonfiction book and how I create a key that’s targeted to the author and book topic.

Now that you have the colors assigned, you can also match the sticky notes to your pens and highlighters.

How to Annotate Books

There are two ways to annotate…using all the tabs with tons of colors and notes and using only one tab and pen.

Using all the tabs/colors

With this method I’m using all the colors, marking up the book, writing notes in the margins, and highlighting like crazy. This does take the longest but it’s so fun to look back at these books and see your thoughts during a particular time of your life.

Using only one tab

When I don’t have a ton of time and need to move quickly through a book I’ll keep a set of tabs no color in particular and a pen that I mark important details or information that I don’t want to forget. (Plus I can always go back later and annotate in more detail if I want to..wink, wink).

Taking Notes

I don’t always do this step, but when a book is just bursting with information that I want at hand I will transcribe important quotes, details, etc into a notebook or notecards.

Final Thoughts

There is no right way to annotate! Annotating is such a personal habit that each person will do it differently. If you haven’t annotated before or if you haven’t done it for a while, pick up a set of tabs and pens and let yourself enjoy that next book!!

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