To Annotate or Not to Annotate


The Question

I recently have had to ask myself whether or not I should annotate my books. I was going through an old book of mine and through the sections, I had marked with a posted note and found myself wondering: What exactly had I been thinking at this exact moment? What was so significant I felt the need to mark it? In the end, I had no idea because I had not written down what I had been thinking. It was incredibly frustrating. Up to this point, I had been pretty against annotating in books. I liked keeping them clean, thinking that a simple sticky-note would be enough to mark what I wanted to remember and would jog my memory as to what I was thinking. However, I have a confession to make. I do not have the memory I thought I did. I do not always remember what I was thinking three or four years after the fact. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that I will now annotate in my books.

The Trial and Error

Since I’ve decided to annotate my books that left me with the question of how to go about it. Should I write what I wanted to remember on a sticky-note and stick it to the corresponding page? No, I’ve found that the sticky-notes get in my way while I’m reading or rereading. The sticky notes always end up falling out of the book because I have to remove them and restick them to read the passage they are covering. (I learned this with Pride and Prejudice one of my favorite books of all time and a book I read over and over). Should I make my notes on a separate piece of paper I keep in the back of the book? I also rejected this because I found that the pages always fell out of the book which quickly became very tedious.

As you can probably tell I really wanted to find a way to keep my notes on the corresponding page without permanently marking the text. Because I do like to lend out books to people. I truly believe that lending out your books to your friends. It’s half the fun of owning your own library. Because then you can talk to your friends about the book the borrowed!

The Solution

Ultimately, that left me with one choice, which was to write the notes on the text itself. Well, that was the only choice left that I thought of. I decided to do mark the text in pencil so that it did not feel as permanent. I’ve actually come to enjoy this. I read the Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant this way and found that it made me pay more attention to the text. Instead of just having a brief thought, I had to think it through so that I could write it down in a way that would make sense to my future self. Therefore, my thoughts actually developed throughout the book. I noticed patterns and themes within the text much more readily and frequently. Instead of marking something then forgetting about it as I read the book, I ended up remembering more of my notes because writing it down had actually made me remember it better than if I had just marked the passage that had inspired the thought.

As for lending my books out to others, I have not come to the perfect outcome. I don’t really like reading books that other people have written in so I would feel uncomfortable lending out a book that I had written in. So obviously this is not a perfect solution but for right now it is working for me.

Anyway, that was my decision and the outcome of that decision. I will continue to mark in my own books. Do you mark in your books? How do you annotate?


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