random posts

How & Why I Annotate My Books!


Hi, my name is Arin and I annotate my books. Not all of them, I don’t have the time or the patience for that. I annotate those I reread, those I think I am going to love, or those that I just feel need to be annotated. I know that annotating can be kind of controversial, but I don’t see anything wrong with it. I mean, they’re my books, you know?

Anyways, I wanted to start this with a why section because I know that some people think annotating is just wild. So here are a few reasons why I annotate:

  • It makes my reading experience more fun and engaging. I will be honest, sometimes I zone out and skim a little, but when I am annotating I have to pay more attention. It also means I am interacting with the text. I am not just reading it, I am actively commenting on it and realizing my feelings on it a lot earlier.
  • It makes reviewing easier. Since I have the important moments quite literally flagged so I notice them, I can just go and refer back to them. I can also find quotes easily (since we all know I love me a good quote) and then just like, type them up. It makes my reviewing life easier.
  • I can go back later and look at my thoughts. If I am ever rereading an annotated book, I know exactly what I was thinking my last reread and that is super cool to me. Also, if I am ever just having emo hours (which is Often), I can just find things that make me want to cry easier. It’s a win win scenario.

Now that we have done the why, welcome to the how.

Well, let’s start with the supplies. I gathered all of the annotating supplies I have laying around my house for this photo and well, I think it is time for an intervention. Someone come help me. My wallet is screaming.


Now, what is all of this stuff? (Other than a good bit of money).

  • Sharpie highlighters (link here)
  • Pen Gear fine point markers (link here)
  • Random black pen (pls don’t ask me where it is from, I probably stole it from my mom)
  • Post-it page flags in primary colors and bright colors (link here)
  • Pen Gear sticky flags (link here)
  • Post-it notes in orange (link here)

You may be look at this and going Arin, that is a lot. No one is going to believe you carry it with you when you annotate. You would be right, I don’t. I pack my annotation pencil case with whatever supplies I need given what “style” of annotation I am doing on my current read. So, here are some examples of what I typically carry around with me when I am annotating a book.

Option One:


Option Two:


Option Three (aka when the pencil case is just a little full):

0711192224a (1).jpg

So, what I am actually carrying when I am annotating something ends up looking like this other than me lugging around everything I showed in the first picture.


So, what exactly are my different “styles” of annotating and why does it change what supplies I use? I would love to answer that with a nice, long explanation, but it is basically pretty random. I normally reserve one style for shadowhunter books, but other than that it is kind of just ?. It depends on what supplies I had the most of when I was starting the book or just what I am feeling. I tend to do contemporaries with the more pastel colors and more fantasy books with the more neon colors because that is what makes sense with my brain.

But, now that supplies have been gathered, the next step is to figure out if you are going to color code. If you are, it is probably a good idea to assign what each color will mean from the get go. That way, you don’t end up accidently doing two colors for one thing or two things for one color. I write down what colors I have assigned to what on a sticky note so I can refer back to when I inevitably forget.

Here are some examples in case you’re lost as to what colors should be (I know I was at first, and now I have a more clear system but also I just change it up based on my mood and the book):


So this one is from The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. In case you’re wondering, the tags I were using were the Pen Gear ones. Here is what I decided for my colors in that one:

  • Blue: Percy (duh)
  • Green: Other characters
  • Yellow: Quotes
  • Pink: Relationships
  • Orange: Funny moments


For this, I used the Post-it tabs in bright colors. This one is from none other than The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth:

  • Orange: Relatable
  • Blue: Quotes
  • Pink: Cam (ie Cameron, the main character)
  • Purple: Moments I love
  • Green: Heart is breaking


For this, I used the Post-it tabs in primary colors. This one is my one shadowhunter example (I have many other but they are a Big Mess so I am choosing to go with this one) and it is from The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu:

  • Red: Alec or Magnus
  • Yellow: Aline or Helen
  • Green: Other characters or made me laugh
  • Blue: Quotes
  • Purple: Relationships or world building

And finally, one last example.


I am sharing this one because this is my current read and it is what will be used for further examples. I am once again using the Post-it bright colors flags. The book is none other than the iconic Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, here is what the colors mean:

  • Orange: Funny moments
  • Purple: Moments I love
  • Green: Moments that hurt me
  • Blue: Quotes
  • Pink: Relationships, characters

As you can probably see, my colors differ from book to book. I don’t have set meanings, but I do have repetitive things I mark such as quotes, things I like, and thinks I dislike (or that just make me sad). Picking out what colors means is really hard for me, so if you’re just starting out, I would recommend watching or reading some other people’s posts about it or just going with your gut. It isn’t anything you can’t change later if it turns out you don’t like it.

Okay, so, now you have your supplies and have make a system for what means what. So what’s next? Reading! And marking what sticks out to you. As I said earlier, these examples come from Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston.


The first annotation I made was this highlight. This is a quote about Alex and I chose to highlight it just because it tells readers about his character. I decided to tab it because I thought that if I ever did a revised review or wanted to have emo hours over him, this would be a good quote to go back to.


This is just something I wanted to underline and comment on because it shows how different these characters are from regular people and how confident they are that they can do things like that. However, I didn’t feel the need to tab it or do a full on highlight because I know it is not that important and I wouldn’t need it for a review or anything. 

Those are just examples, but this is how I will keep annotating. Something will get a tab and others won’t, it just depends on what I think I will need to easily go back to later.


Alright, I think that’s it! This turned out way more “how to” guidey than I was thinking it would, but I guess that works. What about you guys, do you annotate? If so, what is your process? Also, if you just happen to have any other random annotating questions below feel free to just ask them! I’ll do my best to answer them.

12 thoughts on “How & Why I Annotate My Books!

  1. Such a lovely post! I don’t usually annotate books, but like you said: they’re your books, you should do with them what you want. I do like to use sticky tabs so I can remember my favourite quotes! And I have annotated a few books for a travelling book project 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Arin, this was such a great post and I loved reading it! I don’t get to annotate much because I primarily read ebooks, but I actually have gotten an influx of physical book and annotating is definitely something I should consider, especially because so many people do it and love it! I’m just such a cheapskate when it comes to supplies ahhh. If I ever do decide to annotate, this’ll be such a great reference post! And my copy of red white and royal blue *finally* arrived just today so the fact that you used it as an example is perfect 💚💚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Caitlin! I am simultaneously a cheapskate and an impulse buyer when it comes to supplies, which is an interesting situation. I hope that if you do annotate you find it enjoyable, I always have a really great time doing it. I am so happy you finally got your hands on RWRB!! I hope you love it.


  3. I love that you annotate books! I should do it more, because it really does make you stop and think about the book more. I tend to do it as gifts for my sister. I’ll read a book, annotate it as I go, and then gift it to her so she gets my thoughts/feelings as she reads the book. She loves it and it’s fun!! I don’t use tabs for anything, but I use colored pens to write notes and underline things. I need to get some more highlighters!!!

    I actually host auctions on my blog where I auction off author annotated books (they annotate one of their own books) for charity. A new one should be up this Friday if you’re interested! They are called Leave a Mark Auctions.


    Liked by 1 person

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