How to annotate books

Published on 9 March 2024 at 16:29

How to annotate books

When it comes to annotating books there is a huge spectrum of what different people want to do for their books. Some people hate the thought of having an imperfect copy others want to annotate as though they're studying the text and all the ones in-between I think that it is more well known that you can kind of split the different ways to annotate into three levels. Now you can mix and match as you chose from these levels but this is a good way to find what you prefer.

Level One: 

Now this level is the perfect level for people who don't want to cause any damage to their books. 

for this level you will go through either as you're reading or after you have read a book and place what is known as a tab. You can either buy plastic tabs that are more durable online for about £5 or you can take a post-it note and cut it into strips so you can stick them into the book. 

For this level you simply pick the tabs they can be colour coded to the books cover for an aesthetic look or just whatever tabs you have available and place one on the parts that you liked. Whether its a scene that you like or a quote or anything tab it. You can also write annotations on post-it notes and stick them  on the pages or even buy some clear post-it notes for about £1.99 on Amazon. 

Example photo: although this one has been annotated too you don't have to do that part.

Level Two:

This one is the next step up and does involve damaging your books.  This one includes tabbing from the first level and adds onto it. Now you go through your book and make little notes and annotations on things you like. Write down how it made you feel.  Write down your reactions to the text and make links to your own life within the book. Make comments on if you like certain characters or plot choices or scenes. 

Make sure though that you choose a good pen for this you don't want one that bleeds through your pages too much and you also don't want one that is too big and chunky to fit in the small margins. 

Example photo:

Level Three:

Level three is essentially a very academic way of annotating your books; it's a sort of thing you do when you study English literature. It's also important to note that when you're annotating in this way you're looking for language features and writers methods. As a part of this, you really need to either have already an understanding or knowledge of or research into what we mean when we say terms like narrative style when we look at things like characterization and we look at even something like metaphors and similes you need to understand what these things are and it's easier said than done especially if you're not being actively taught what these words are and what they mean but you rarely essentially just go through and you delve into how the story was constructed. 

This is not a typical way of annotating and personally I don't choose to do it for most of my books. It can sometimes ruin the story for you have overanalysed what the writer has suggested and can lead to burn out or a reading slump. And I wouldn't advise it for YA novels and instead reserve this for literary novels. 

I used my poetry anthology for the example as it is one of the texts I study:

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