I am not joking when I say that I have the memory of a goldfish. I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday or whether or not I actually liked The Night Circus when I read it in 2015. This terrible memory makes book reviewing an interesting endeavor, one made easier by my 20-year long habit to annotate books.
As I’ve settled into my role of Book Reviewer, I fine tuned my annotation process quite a bit to help facilitate the review process. It now involves a color-coded system based on the things that heavily influence my reading experience. CW @ The Quiet Pond expressed an interest in my process a couple of months ago, and I thought this would make for an interesting discussion post – so here is my annotation process!
Writing in my books *gasp*
It began during my senior year of high school. My AP English teacher suggested that we write in our books and was greeted with audible gasps from me and my classmates. I’ll never forget what she said to us in response:
“Reading can be a two-way experience. Writing your thoughts in your book is like a conversation with the author. With yourself.”
Before this moment, I treated my books as sacred. The thought of defiling my books made my heat race, but what Mrs. Robinson resonated with me. “What’s the harm in writing in my books for class?” I figured it isn’t like I was collecting them.
As soon as I touched pen to page, I was changed. I liked it. A lot. I’ve always been a close, analytical reader. Taking my notes inside of my book saved me the time of having to write quotes and make notes directly in the margins.
One of the coolest things about writing my thoughts down in the book’s margins is it’s like a time capsule. It’s really fun to re-read and see what I was thinking and feeling in the past.
I suppose I should also mention that I don’t mind dog-earing my books, either.
How I Annotate Books Electronically
Despite my reading life changing that Fall day in high school, it took a long time for me to connect the book annotation habit with reviewing. Life kind of got in the way and I didn’t start reading for pleasure again until late 2014… and by 2016 I was reviewing the books I read to scratch the “I miss academia” itch. But by then my annotation habit had fallen into disuse.
It all started with reading eARCs on the Kindle app in 2017. Up until then, my reading skewed heavily to the physical format and as you’ve seen, I have no qualms writing directly in my books. (I love writing in my books.)
Color-Coded Notes on Kindle
Annotating on Kindle actually led to me being far more organized. (And being a lot less confused while reading books with multiple points of view.) I pretty quickly took advantage of the different colors available for highlighting to take notes on four key things: world-building, quotes for review, character development (/keeping them straight), and romance-y bits.
Reading books electronically was something I took to fairly quickly because of how I could annotate the book to hell and back. It also was a lot easier when it came to reviewing because I just had to scroll through my notes section to refresh my memory on my thoughts while reading.
How I Annotate Books
I’d gotten so used to heavily annotating my books – especially on Kindle – that I really came to rely on it for reviewing. Not to mention that I enjoy writing little notes to myself while I try to piece together the plot or suss out a murderer. My conversation with the author habit returned and I found myself reacting to plot developments in the book!
But as my book buying habits have changed since becoming a book blogger, my annotation habits have evolved along with them. I’m in the financial position to purchase books before reading them, and while I’ve gotten pretty good at choosing books I’m likely to read it isn’t a foolproof process. I save my writing-in-the-book habits for second reading in case I decide to unhaul the book down the road.
After developing my color coded system for the Kindle, I noticed other bloggers and bookstagrammers tabbing their physical ARCs. I thought this might be a good solution for me and grabbed some post-its from work (shhh, don’t tell!) to give it a try.
While not as satisfying as writing directly in my books, I’ve come to enjoy tabbing because it is a good visual representation of how a book connected with me. I use the same color-coded system that I use on Kindle and for the most part it works well to jog my memory while reviewing.
Nowadays, I don’t write in my new books in the off-chance that I want to unhaul them or I got a special edition I want to keep in good condition, so these other methods for annotating are a real life saver for me! I use Bookly in conjunction with tabbing to take notes while reading physical books, and it works well for me.
I hope you found this post interesting! Are you a reader who takes notes while reading? What is your process for keeping things straight for reviewing?