I Have a Confession to Make: I Write in my Books

(Last Updated On: April 29, 2020)

I know what you’re thinking, and I’d like to start this post by saying that what I decide to do with the books I own is my choice and doesn’t harm you in any way ๐Ÿ˜‰

Okay, now that that is out of the way: hello friends! Chances are that this isn’t the first time you’ve heard me say that I love to annotate my books. In fact, I wrote a whole post about how my annotation process helps facilitate my review process last year!

Angelica @ Paperback princess
Kal another amazing post. If you can do another which gets into the nitty gritty of what you actually annotate would be so helpful!


What Kinds of Things Do I Annotate?

The short answer: whatever comes to mind! Ultimately, my notes serve different functions and serve as breadcrumbs for my brain. Basically all of the random thoughts and reactions that I have while reading get written down for better or worse.

Responses to the Author

A large amount of my notes are my reactions to things in the text itself! A main way that I engage with and discuss the books I read is through my emotions and how the book makes me feel.

โ€œReading can be a two-way experience. Writing your thoughts in your book is like a conversation with the author. With yourself.โ€

I don’t know why the idea of conversing with the text speaks to me on a visceral level, but Mrs. Robinson said the above to my A.P. English class in 2002 and it changed my life. And as a re-reader, I love having a time capsule into how the book made me feel on previous reads.

Actual notes from Kingdom of Back (spoiler-free)

“This writing is magical.”
“OMG bless.”

“You’d know, my dude.”
“Remember the blood.”
“I hate him so much.”
“I adore this sibling relationship so much! It captures the deep bond, but also the
“Don’t trust the gaslighter!”
“Oh no.”
“Oh hell no.”
“This is truly heartbreaking.”
“I feel like I’m wrapped into a fairy tale.”

As you can see… a lot of my notes are reactions to The Patriarchy. The kinds of reactions I have are often impacted by the narrative style (first person = me taking things WAY personally!). Honestly, I could probably do a 101 Thoughts I Had While Reading X post for every book I read!

My habit of noting my emotions while reading is a big reason that my reviews often discuss how books make me feel. I read to escape, to explore, to learn – and I love talking about this aspect of the reading experience.

Questions and Clues

I’ve always been an analytical reader and enjoy piecing together the breadcrumbs authors leave behind in the text.ย I notice a lot, and because I make notes of things that I think will be important later I don’t forget about things either. Which is why I have the unfortunate skill of guessing the murderer in the first chapter when I read mysteries and thrillers (and why I don’t let predictability affect my rating usually).

For obvious reasons, I will not include specific examples of questions and clues. But here are some actual notes in this category without specifying which books they are from.

“No one is as they appear.”
“Are [redacted] tricksters in mythology?”
“Why are they having so many money problems?”
“How much time is passing?”
“That’s why she was scared of him.”
“Interesting, maybe [redacted] was lying all along.”
“Girl, what’s with your memory?”
“So wait, when did this happen? Did we jump time? HELP.”
“Wait this was mentioned before. CLUE!”

Basically if I think that a thing is important, I underline it and write a note in the margins. A lot of times I reference something from earlier… I just like trying to piece things together! And I am also confused… it helps me contextualize how easy a book is to understand when writing a review as well.

Themes or Analysis

I read very closely and tend to approach everything as if it is my next Honors Thesis topic, mostly because I enjoy digging into themes. I’ll also make notes about specific themes I notice that I will want to discuss in my review.

“Parallels loss of innocence.”
“Shows how systems of power are maintained for generations.”
“Morality and justifications of power.”
“Beautiful allegory for taking back your power from an abuser.”

Sometimes I even get super into it and create a color-coded key for my notes, as seen in the above timelapse for my copy of Oedipus.

Lines for my Reviews

I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but a decent amount of my review comes to me while reading. Lines will spark in my mind that I need to write down before the thoughts slip away! It can get annoying because I will be reading and all of a sudden a fully formed and often eloquent thought perfect for my review takes over my brain, and I need to write it down before it is lost forever.

I’ve been doing this for half of my life now… long before I began reviewing books and long after the need for writing essays. Annotating is a part of me and I love leaving pieces of myself on the pages through my thoughts. I love nothing more than a well-loved copy of a book!

๐Ÿ’ญย Related post: I have the memory of a goldfish so I annotate while reading (my process for reviewing)

I hope you found this deep dive into the kinds of notes I take while reading interesting and thanks so much for stopping by!

What are your thoughts on writing in books? Do you view them as sacred and needing to be kept in pristine condition?

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!


  1. Julie

    April 29, 2020 at 7:06 AM

    This is a great post. I also write in my books. I put notes in the margin, underline and circle things, and highlight or use post-its. Even when I read ebooks, I highlight and take notes. I even color code the highlights (pink for favorite/poignant lines, blue for important plot information, yellow for thematic/symbolic elements, etc). It definitely helps when writing reviews and when revisiting a series!

    1. Kal

      May 1, 2020 at 2:09 PM

      We have a similar annotation style, Julie! I also use color coding in my eBooks for different things that I like to touch on in my reviews, it makes things so much easier when it comes to write reviews. I need to buy new highlighters… and more page flags. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy

    April 29, 2020 at 7:34 AM

    Glad I’m not alone! I do write (in pencil!) in review books, so I can remember plot points and emotional reactions for my reviews. I agree, it’s a personal choice and you should absolutely do it if you want๐Ÿ˜

    1. Kal

      May 1, 2020 at 2:10 PM

      Woohoo! I think pencil is great because it’s less ‘high risk’ – I just don’t like how it fades because I really love the time capsule aspect when rereading.

  3. Mere

    April 29, 2020 at 7:43 AM

    So, I can’t stand writing in my books, and instead I started keeping a journal! This is why I like e-books because I CAN do that without guilt aha!

    1. Kal

      May 1, 2020 at 2:11 PM

      I’m so glad you found a system that works for you! I don’t like journalling because I prefer to have my thoughts IN the book forever and don’t enjoy copying down quotes, but I know so many people who love to do it this way. Whatever works!

  4. Kelsey

    April 29, 2020 at 7:56 AM

    This is the best bookish confession, honestly. How does someone resist the urge to underline a hard-hitting quote, write themes or predictions in the margins, or draw emotive scribbles when the author does something spectacular (or disappointing) with their writing?! It’s certainly one of life’s greatest mysteries. ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ˜

    1. Kal

      May 1, 2020 at 2:12 PM

      I honestly don’t know how people can resist underlining quotes or doodling in margins, it is such a fun and personal experience! I feel like I’m conversing with the author and it is so much fun. Thanks so much for stopping by, and huzzah to not being alone in my habits!

  5. theorangutanlibrarian

    April 29, 2020 at 2:27 PM

    Love this! I write in books too!

    1. Kal

      May 1, 2020 at 2:13 PM

      Huzzah to another annotater and thank you for stopping by!!!

  6. Destiny @ Howling Libraries

    April 29, 2020 at 9:59 PM

    Kal, I love this post so much. It’s so insightful and really reminded me of why I miss taking notes while reading! I used to ALWAYS take page upon page of notes for my reviews or for my own personal use, and I miss that. I’m going to have to try to get back into the habit of it! โ™ฅ Maybe someday I can even work my way up to annotating inside the books more often!

    1. Kal

      May 1, 2020 at 2:15 PM

      Aww thank you so much for your comment, Destiny! I had fallen out of the habit recently because I tend to pass on my arcs, but Marie gave me permission to write in Kingdom of Back (I am sending her my copy!) and it was just… it was like coming home? There’s something magical about writing with pen on paper that just is lost when I take notes on my phone, even though Bookly is amazing. I hope you can fall back into this, love!

  7. Brittany

    April 30, 2020 at 11:03 AM

    I think its awesome that you love annotating your books! And I totally agree they are your books you can do what you want with them!!!! (I don’t annotate in books because I get too distracted by the story and forget to write things, but I do dog ear my pages, and shove books in my bags where they can get a bit dinged up haha)

    1. Kal

      May 1, 2020 at 2:16 PM

      Oh goodness, I know what you mean about getting caught up in the story and forgetting! That happens so often and then I am like “uh oh, now what?” when I sit down to review. Dog earing is also good – I do that when I don’t have a pen nearby and am too comfy to move! Thanks for stopping by, Brittany!

  8. bookishgiuls

    April 30, 2020 at 1:44 PM

    I think writing in books makes it more personal and I’m totally in favor of it! And like you said, it’s your books and it’s not hurting anyone!

    1. Kal

      May 1, 2020 at 2:18 PM

      It is such a fun and personal experience for me, thanks for stopping by!

  9. Monthly Wrap-Up: April 2020 – Siobhan's Novelties

    May 1, 2020 at 9:02 PM

    […] from Reader Voracious discusses how she writes in her books. Now, I must confess that I don’t do it, but Kal gives […]

  10. Lisa @ waytoofantasy

    May 2, 2020 at 5:57 AM

    I don’t think I’ve ever thought about writing in my books. I….rarely even take notes when I’m reading haha. I think most of the time if I do note something while I’m reading I’m like ‘oh, I should mention that in my review’ and then keep reading hahaha. I love that you’re so organized, it’s why your reviews are so thorough!

    1. Kal

      May 17, 2020 at 12:42 PM

      Honestly, taking such thorough notes sometimes disrupts my reading and pulls me out of the story and that stinks, but my memory is so bad that I have no choice. I wish I could just turn my brain off to be fully immersed!

  11. Ngoc

    May 2, 2020 at 7:02 AM

    I love this! I don’t annotate my books because my handwriting can be pretty gross & I don’t want to ruin the book, but I’ve always admired other people’s annotations. I make notes in my phone instead, and a lot of what I write down is similar to you! I find it really useful for writing reviews & also if I ever re-read the book later down the track, it’s super fun seeing whether or not my opinions of it have changed ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Kal

      May 17, 2020 at 12:47 PM

      I’m not the only one who hates their handwriting?! I read in the worst positions for writing well and it drives me nuts how messy it can be, but not enough to change ahaha. Notes in your phone works too, I do that with physical arcs I intend on passing on to others.

  12. Lu Reviews Books

    May 2, 2020 at 4:33 PM

    Very interesting! I do the same thing, but I usually read e-books. For the paperbacks I use a notebook, but I end up taking less notes. Iโ€™m not able to highlight my physical books. Itโ€™s just too painful ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Kal

      May 17, 2020 at 12:50 PM

      I know what you mean — it was really scary for me to think about doing, but it was like the floodgates burst when I finally allowed myself to try. Notebook works too, though, I love hearing other people’s process!

  13. Sophia @ Bookwyrming Thoughts

    May 2, 2020 at 8:50 PM

    Okay, I’m so so so so so glad I am NOT the only who converses through books with reactions, because I agree! I love having that time capsule to remember my emotions (probably why I love Kindle books versus books from Hoopla).

    I personally prefer using post it notes in my books! (I try to put it right where the sentence is at but sometimes I’ll write, “quote!” and then draw an arrow. That way I can remove it if I want to give it away (although eventually they’ll probably all fall out).

    1. Kal

      May 17, 2020 at 12:55 PM

      OMG yay, another person who reacts to what they are reading! Post-it notes is a great idea – I used them for awhile (I love how it looks, too), but it got kind of expensive because of how heavily I annotate lol. I reserve flagging notes for arcs I plan on passing on to another reader.

  14. Riza @ Pages and Coffee Cups

    May 4, 2020 at 4:22 PM

    It’s so cool to have someone declare their love for annotating. I also do annotate my books, sometimes a bit too much. I love beautiful lines and I make it a point to mark it (underline, tab, dog-ear, etc.) so that I would not forget them or be reminded of them – even if it’s out of context. I feel like people nowadays are sometimes so obsessed with aesthetics (keeping spines of books wrinkle free, etc) that they forget that having books that have marks of use is just a testament of how these books are loved and cherished. Thanks for sharing this, Kal!

    1. Kal

      May 17, 2020 at 4:51 PM

      YESSS another annotater! *high fives* I also can go overboard with my notes sometimes… I remember once underlining an entire page because it wound up being so good. I don’t mind others choosing to keep their books pristine, but for me there is nothing better than a well-loved book, and it isn’t like my books are investments I intend to resell later. Thanks so much for stopping by, Riza!

    2. Kal

      June 2, 2020 at 6:00 PM

      YES ANOTHER ANNOTATER! I love marking up my books so much, and even started doodling in the margins a bit. I don’t mind people who prefer to keep their books pristine so long as they leave me and my well-loved books alone, haha. Thanks for reading Riza~

  15. eLPy

    May 9, 2020 at 5:11 PM

    Great post! I am here thanks to Destiny @Howling Libraries and her April Wrap Up posting mentioning this post and those of other bloggers. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad I came.
    I do not write in my books. I used to in college. But I do dog-ear, which I have discovered some people find sinful. Lol. I’m glad to learn that this is more of a coffee or tea kind of thing than blasphemy. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    It totally makes sense to me that you would write in your books. I love the idea of taking notes while reading so I can remember later what I liked and didn’t like, both for a review and my own study of writing (and how I can learn to be a better writer by studying others). For the longest time I thought good reviewers were blessed with a great memory but I have since learned that a lot of people annotate while reading. It was like looking behind the curtain for me. WHAT! Lol. But I never do! I read, dog-ear, talk to myself aloud or in my head, get frustrated, dog-ear, finish the book and maybe get some thoughts out right away. As slow as I read I’m afraid if I really did annotate I’d never actually finish reading. Who knows, maybe I’ll get around to it one of these days.
    I’m digging your thought process though, it’s awesome. I too can’t help but put puzzle pieces together in my mind right from the get go. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Kal

      June 2, 2020 at 6:50 PM

      Thanks so much for visiting and sharing your thoughts! (I totally have been guilty of thinking reviewers have amazing memories lol.) Heck yea to dog earing, I do too but that probably doesn’t surprise anyone. I will never understand why people get so PRESSED about what other people do to their own books?!

  16. Clo @ Cuppa Clo

    May 10, 2020 at 4:07 AM

    Ah I adore this post so much Kal! I find seeing people’s annotation process interesting for myself, I can’t bring myself to annotate my books. As much as the idea does appeal to me more these days, I just…can’t physically bring myself to write in the book. (I feel like this is where eBooks would be super handy for me cause then I could highlight to my hearts content). I do love seeing annotated books and I love the whole time capsule idea, of being able to see how you reacted when you read it years ago vs now when you maybe flip through it.

    1. Kal

      June 2, 2020 at 6:54 PM

      Eee, I’m glad you found this post interesting Clo! I totally understand where you’re coming from – sometimes even I have issues getting over my mental block of writing in a book. I think eBooks reignited the passion for me because it is so easy to do, but I know you prefer physical. But you don’t NEED to write in books

  17. Vee

    May 12, 2020 at 6:23 AM

    Having you talk about your reading process makes me draw a lot of parallels to my own style. I’m also quite analytical and I also find myself coming up with sentences that I want in my review as I read the book. I’ve always wanted to annotate books, and I used to do it (and enjoy doing it) back when I had more physical copies of books. With most of my ARCs being online, I hesitate to annotate on the Kindle app because I just have a preference for pen and paper. However, you raise a lot of good points on the benefits of annotating and seeing some of your examples of how you do it shows me that it really isn’t that hard! Can’t wait to try it out for myself, thank you for this insightful post!

    1. Kal

      June 2, 2020 at 7:03 PM

      I am so glad I’m not the only person who like… drafts their reviews while reading??? I am so thankful for how easy it is to annotate on the Kindle app for eARCs, and I actually color code the kinds of highlights I use to make referring back easier while I am working on my review. I also have a STRONG preference for pen and paper, but after trying to keep a journal and realizing it was so much extra effort to rewrite things I could just highlight in the app…. I gave it a try. I hope it helps to facilitate your review process and I’m excited to hear how it works out for you!

  18. Meeghan

    May 31, 2020 at 6:58 AM

    I am definitely a post-it note girl. I bought these great little sticky tabs that have lines on them so I can write on the tab and not feel bad about writing in the book (I got yelled at by a librarian once when she saw me writing in a book โ€“ but it was MY book, and so I’ve never done it since)!!

    1. Kal

      June 3, 2020 at 6:23 PM

      Post-its are GREAT! I tried tabbing and post-its but I, uh, heavily annotate and it got a little costly for me haha. How DARE that librarian traumatize you though.

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