103. 📚 how i annotate books 📚
thinking about efficient practices for reading
Hello, and happy Monday.
It’s cooling down a bit here on the East Coast, which I am deeply grateful for. I went kayaking for the very first time over the weekend, courtesy of my friend and old college roommate Hannah M. I saw a fish jump up from the lake! It was (literally) wild!
I hope that the end of your summer is going well! To those of you who are beginning a new year on the academic calendar: best of luck with the new term! 💓
✏️ Still processing.
I’m happy to say that I’ve finally cultivated a system of annotation that I have stuck with for over three years. Since college, I’ve been trying to find a system that works for me, and I feel like I’ve tried it all…pencil, pen, highlighter, colored pens…underlining, circles, boxes, stars, stars with circles…it really has been an evolution.
Given that it’s the start of the semester for some folks, I thought that I’d give you a short and sweet guide to how I like to annotate books. My system—just like my skincare routine—has really pared down over the years to be quite simple. What I’ve found in keeping it simple is that I retain the information that I need to much better and find passages much more quickly when I go back to a text. A note that this is for academic and nonfiction texts, as those are the kinds of books I read and annotate regularly.
First thing’s first: Before you begin reading a text, ask yourself why you are reading it and what you want to get out of it. Are you reading for craft (a study of the way a person writes)? Are you reading to get the gist of the argument? Are you reading to see how an author integrates examples? Are you reading to extract an author’s thoughts about a particular theme or idea? By knowing what precisely you are looking for in a text, you will stand to gain a lot more out of it.
Once I know why I’m reading a text, I then begin to read with a pen in hand. I use a system of checkmarks (either one, two, or three checkmarks next to a passage) as my annotation system. My book ends up looking like this:
Here is what each type of checkmark means:
✔️ : I am one of those people who would highlight everything if they could—I think that everything is important on the first go! This one checkmark allows me to satisfy my need of annotating something that I think is cool and interesting, but not necessarily crucial to my read of a text.
✔️✔️ : Two checkmarks mean that I think this passage is pretty important! I may or may not write it down in my notes after I finish reading the entire text, but I want to make sure that I note it as something worth taking a second look at.
✔️✔️✔️ : This is super important and something I need to write down in my notes on Zotero! I only dole out three checkmarks for a passage a few times per chapter or article—it’s usually meant to signify the main argument and takeaway, or anything else that is really integral to my understanding of the text or furthers my own thinking in relation to my research.
There are times when I underline or circle a word or phrase within these passages.
I underline a phrase if I really love the way an author puts an idea, or if it’s something I’d want to quote and cite further down the line when I’m writing. I also underline phrases that orient me quickly to what a certain passage is about. I circle a word or phrase if it’s a new word to me or a keyword that is helpful to the text.
And that’s basically it! Let me know if you have any tried and true ways of annotating your own texts in the comments below! 😊 📝
🌀 Still consuming.
A perfect corollary to the above tweet.
I hope the answer to this is yes.
📖 Book club corner.
August’s book club pick (our meeting is TOMORROW!!) is At the Center of All Beauty by Fenton Johnson! I’m so excited, and a big thank you to Devin for choosing this month’s books and facilitating our meeting at the end of the month! You can purchase the book here and find meeting details below.
Here’s the event info:
Date & Time: Tuesday, August 30 @ 5PM PST/8PM EST
Suggested Donation (for those able to donate): $3-10 through Paypal or Venmo (@idyalz) (A note that 100% of donations will go to Devin!)
If you are interested in facilitating a book club and have been to more than two book club meetings, feel free to reach out to me!
You can learn more about the tiny driver book club here!
🐶 A pup-date.
Higgins got an update to his glamour shot the other day:
As always, thanks so much for reading through, and I'll see you in the next one!