Marking Your Books

I remember being told to always read with a pencil during my high school and college years. Or pen. Or highlighter. And that doing so would enable me to locate and better remember important details of the story. Ask me how many times I actually did this. Go ahead.

“How many times did you read with a pen or pencil, John?”

Not once. Why? Because I’d either retain the information or I wouldn’t. If I had to go back and revisit the text, then I likely was ill-prepared for any kind of test or exam and that falls on me.

And now I know people STILL do this even once they’re long passed the years of analyzing literature. But I don’t get it. What is being accomplished by underlining that quote? Or writing in the margins? Is it really so hard to read at a pace at which you can retain what you’e reading. I read about a page a minute in most books, right? Could I read faster? Sure. But I don’t see the point of just trying to read as fast as possible. At the other end of the spectrum, I also don’t see the point of trying to analyze every single word of a given text. If you think the author has hidden some underlying theme deep within the words of the book, fine. But that doesn’t mean that you should read the rest of the book searching and searching for evidence that your suspicion is correct. Just read the damn book.

If you’re not trying to analyze the text, then what are you doing underlining and highlighting and noting? Serious question. Cause I’ll randomly come across sentences that have been underlined in the Kindle versions of books and have no earthly idea why someone would want to save them for later.

Do you mark in your books?


On this day in 2014 I published Why is it Still Acceptable to Strip Books?.

 

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77 thoughts on “Marking Your Books

  1. I got my degree in Computer Science. My textbooks were obsolete before I cracked the binding. Half the time, I didn’t bother even reading them, let alone making notes in them.

    I think it’s a “how you learn” thing… I retain information best when I write it out. In college, I was the queen of note taking. I know people who highlighted phrases because that’s what made it stand out in their mind… it’s a visual learning thing. For me, once I wrote it out, I’d remember it sufficiently for the tests. But again, Computer Science is a discipline in which the specifics can really be brain-flushed 5 minutes after the test, because seriously, it’s already irrelevant.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What about fiction? That’s what I was talking about, but I think my example threw everyone off. I was specifically talking about OUTSIDE of academics. But I obviously failed in getting that across based on the comments.

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      • LOL no, I don’t highlight or underline my fiction books. I’m not reading them for the purpose of academic retention. Occasionally (and I mean like once every five years) a specific quote will grab me, and I might write it down in a journal or something. But otherwise, fiction is purely for pleasure.

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      • That’s more what I was expecting.

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  2. Thanks for your post. It’s interesting to see this from another perspective.

    I underline and write in my non-fiction books. Making notes on what I think is interesting. Comments or ideas that I have while reading. And underling things that I might want to quote verbatim at a later date. I have an awful memory, so there probably isn’t a pace slow enough for me to remember everything that I’d like to remember.

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  3. I would agree with Shanan, it is a “how you learn” thing. For a lot of people, the act of underlining helps them slow down the retention process. It is also pretty common for many people, that writing things down further aids in retention. It makes that information stand out from the rest. Same reason most people take notes during lectures rather than concentrating really hard on remembering in their minds. Some people CAN just do this, or can read something once and remember it. So it just depends on the person.

    I used to hate marking up books. I still hate picking up a used book that has someone else’s markings. But I mark up some of my own now for better retention. Though never fiction. Lately, I’ve been trying to write reviews after the fact. So that I can read for enjoyment first, but then go back and analyze why something worked or didn’t work in the writing. But that is the writer part of me that reads everything in order to learn in one sense or another.

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    • Okay. But you said that you don’t do it in fiction. And I think my example of being told to do it in school basically threw everyone off. Cause I was talking about once you’re done with high school or college or whatever, but everyone is talking about learning. It’s not like everyone is reading that mystery or YA novel to learn. Oh well. My bad.

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  4. I could never bring myself to mark in books, for school or otherwise. It was esthetic (I didn’t want to blemish clean white pages or desecrate old yellow ones), but I also knew I would never go back to look at it again. I do remember trying highlighter once. I turned an entire page neon-green but for a couple sentences, and of course it stained the next page. Never since then. I was a very average student.

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  5. With a pencil and a very light touch, I will write the meaning of a word in the margins if i’ve read it several times and can’t seem to remember what it means. I have a couple fiction books where I reread them every couple of years and I’m too lazy to get the dictionary each time, so I have lightly penciled in the brief meaning. Since it’s a book I’m keeping and not going to get rid of, I find it useful.

    I will also write in the margins of my recipe books, and essential oil books since I don’t always want to cross-reference, but again, since I am keeping them and use them on a regular basis, I see nothing wrong with this.

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  6. I’m generally a note taker – but not IN the books, I write the synopsis of what I’m reading down on paper. At least, that’s what I did through college. I don’t write down anything when reading literature or for pleasure – it seems silly to me, and I agree with you: I’ll retain what I retain.

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  7. I never highlighted or underlined academic books, but I do have a habit of highlighting passages while I am reading, for personal reasons, if they resonate with me. My friends and I sometimes trade books and has proven to be a great way to stimulate conversations about what we read. I often feel like I have a better understanding of the book after I pass it along, usually because we discuss what I (or somebody else) made note of.

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  8. Never marked anything on any books.

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  9. I used to mark my books in college, but now that I think about it…I never really went back and read those notes. Sure, I guess they were great for quotes in essays, but you’re right in the long run, it didn’t really matter so much for me. Even if I was using pencil, the English major in me was never comfortable damaging my books like that. πŸ˜›

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  10. In college, I highlighted textbooks, but it didn’t do me any good, so I stopped. I definitely do not mark literary books–I feel I will make them look messy and regret that I did that later on.

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  11. I’m one of those people that have to take notes on what I’m listening to in order to help me focus. When I read, non-fiction especially, underlining has the same effect of helping me focus on something I really, really want to retain… or least make it easier for me to find again later since my memory is so spotty. πŸ˜›

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  12. Absolutely. It doesn’t matter if I’m reading for fun or to learn; books contain many life lessons. I like collecting quotes that I can read later to help me through a certain situation in my life. Also, when you read a sentence that resonates deep within you, wouldn’t you want to revisit later?

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    • No sentences in books resonate deep within me. I read to be entertained. Nothing else.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I guess it’s just different reading habits then. But I think it’s quite interesting how different people can be. Oh well, happy reading!

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      • Actually, I lied. There is one phrase.

        “I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!”

        A little context. Hopefully you’re aware that Katniss spoke those words early on in “The Hunger Games”. I bought and read that book because my brother kept nagging me to read it because he loved it and he never read anything. So I went in without knowing anything about the series or story. Then she does that and she’s got me hooked. It’s no wonder that that is still my favorite series and she’s easily my favorite character ever.

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      • Beautiful choice. That’s one of my favorite parts of HG trilogy too πŸ™‚ see, you can’t help it…it just gets to you.
        though don’t worry, I won’t go all fangirl on you XD
        oh, and you should listen to your brother more.

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      • Oh I bet I love that errors more than you do. I’m getting a Mockingjay pin tattoo. And I’m obsessed with Katniss and Jennifer Lawrence. I don’t listen to anyone but the little voice in my head telling me when I should nap. πŸ˜‚

        Liked by 1 person

      • oh wow! I didn’t expect that passion from someone who reads “just to be entertained”. I love meeting people who get excited over books πŸ˜€ let me know if you find some new read-worthy series.

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      • I read to be entertained. But that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes love what I read. I’ll still never reread.

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      • I meant to say series!

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  13. I don’t like the idea of marking books with a pencil or highlighter. However, I love to put sticky notes in the pages where I find certain quotes or scenes that stand out to me. I think they are a good thing to go back to and see what stood out to you the first time you read the book!

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  14. I always start reading with those little arrow shaped post-its, but if I find golden nuggets on several pages and I know I’ll probaby keep the book for my personal reference later, I’ll go ahead then and mark it on the page. If I read 300 pages and only find one or two relevant Recently though, I’ve started using a reading journal so I can easily find and track those important quotes or thoughts I’ve had. This has also allowed me to give those books to someone else who might find them of value. Having that reading journal has truly changed the way I (don’t) hoard books anymore! Doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction or non-fiction…

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  15. I never used to mark in ANY book EVER until I got to grad school. Since I knew I’d be keeping those books for the rest of my career (and they cost thousands of dollars each year to buy), I was okay with underlining and highlighting. For me, it has to do with key sentences in paragraphs. You know, the sentence that basically explains the entire paragraph without having to read the rest of the paragraph.
    Also, I can’t STAND look at white pages with tons of black script for too long. Especially if it’s a book that I’ll read many times for the sake of knowledge and review and such. It’s an aesthetic thing. I can’t concentrate with just black and white. I need some color to break it up.
    When I was studying for my boards, my enormous review books were so hard to read because of this, so I devised a highlighting plan. Each color high liter meant something different. One was for graphs/pictures, one color was for the info I needed to review many times due to its difficulty or bizarreness, one was for safety issues (in PT, if you don’t get the safety stuff right, you automatically fail the rest of the exam), etc, etc.
    I’m sure it’s just a weird quirk of mine. (I know–who would’ve thought that I’d EVER have a weird quirk, right?)

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  16. I never write in my books or dog ear pages. I also don’t really analyze what I read. But if I find a quote I like, I write it in my little reading log. If I want to discuss something in a review, I’ll put a sticky flag on the page for later.

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  17. I don’t mark my books, I think you should not write in your books. Ofcourse, I take notes. So I can review the book I read better when I finished it. But I write my notes down in my Iphone app Notes. My book will be clean Γ‘nd I have my notes. πŸ™‚

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