Getting Comfortable with Annotation | I wrote in a book and it didn’t burst into flames

Discussion Time

Hello, my lovely lemons! 🍋 Today I’m treating you to a big ol’ rambling post that I typed out in one go without any reading back or editing. It’s had a bit of editing before I publish it, obviously, but this post is basically a stream of consciousness. It’s me at my most organic, writing about something I did recently without any filtering of myself. I hope you enjoy!

I’ve always been a book protector. A preserver of beautiful tomes. Even as child I took great care of my books, and was scandalised by other kids who freely dog-eared their pages. Even my baby books were pristine – I wouldn’t wrinkle them or touch them with a pen. As I grew, I kept this pride for books. Most of what I read at that age was library books, so I treated them with the respect of a borrowed possession. Most of the books my mum read (which I duly borrowed) were used, bought on eBay or from charity shops, exchanged with friends or passed around 3 other family members before making their way to me. I was familiar with the creased spines, softened edges, yellow paper and peeling corners that showed a book well-read. But eventually I began to get my own books. Brand new and shiny, never read by anyone but me. They were a treat, and I loved them all the more. Old book smell gave way to a new novelty – new book smell.

The Chronicles of Ixia by Maria V Snyder

And I took pride in how well I could care for these books. It was a badge of honour that I could read a paperback cover to cover without so much as a crease on the spine. I loved that any outsider who looked at my shelf would think all my books were brand new. But, as things do, this turned from pride into perfectionism. I would trawl through shelves in the bookstore looking for the most pristine copy of a book I wanted to buy. How could I possibly get the one with 2mm of peeling on the back corner?! I would have trouble reading my books because I didn’t want to crack the spines by opening them wide enough to see the centre of the pages.

Of course, as I’ve grown once again, I’ve rediscovered the beauty of a used book. Soft corners and creased spines are a sign of love, not disrespect. I don’t think any author wants their work to be kept like a museum piece.

Not long after joining the online book community, I was introduced to page tabs. I fell in love with the idea. I was constantly paging through my favourite stories, trying to remember where that particular quote I loved was. And this was a fun, easy, non-damaging way to easily mark them!

For a while (a couple years, actually) I was very content with this. Then I watched a video. It’s a very persuasive video, by the lovely, bubbly ray of sunshine that is Naya Reads and Smiles. I loved the idea of annotation. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So, as a compromise (an idea I found suggested in the video comments) I started to put Post-It notes in my current read. Just my thoughts and little comments about the characters and the books. (It was The City of Brass – I still remember this.) And that was really nice! I’d left sticky notes in books before, but only as messages to other people I was lending the books to. It was nice to leave them as a conversation between me and the book.

Fast forward to now. Well, a week or two ago if we’re being precise. I saw a random video on YouTube that was a compilation of TikToks (we’re going meta) of annotated books. They were so pretty. They were majestic and special and I was filled with jealousy and longing. I wanted to be brave enough to do that. To love a book enough to leave a mark on it. So I stewed on it for a few days, and the idea just kept returning to my head. Whenever I had a quiet moment, or when I laid in bed at night, I thought about it.

So I went and watched Naya’s video again. I thought if anyone has the passion to convince me to do this big, scary thing, it’s her. So I watched the video. And I sat painfully deliberating once again. This lasted – honestly – probably a good hour. It was still just too scary. Then I looked to the side of my desk, at my pen pot, and realised I could use pencil. It seems so simple but it had never occurred to me before. I could try it, just once, and if I hated it I could erase it and it would be like it never happened. I chose a really light mechanical pencil, and with extreme trepidation I went and pulled my duplicate copy of Glass Houses (I’m still never going to mark the original). If I was going to annotate anything, let it be my favourite book.

Glass Houses opening line

I sat in my reading nook, and I opened it to the first page. My favourite opening line of all time. It took my a good minute or so to work up the courage to touch the pencil to the page. But I did it. I did it and the world didn’t end, and I didn’t feel horribly guilty. I wasn’t overcome with the urge to erase it and pretend it never happened. I pulled a Post-It (margins don’t have enough room for me to write) and wrote a note to go with my underline. Then I carried on reading. And carried on underlining. And leaving notes, drawing hearts next to quotes I love, absorbing the book in a whole new way.

And wishing I’d done it sooner. Imagine if every time I read this book I’d left notes for myself? I’d have 5 or 6 rounds of thoughts, comments, insights into the way I experienced the story each time.

I wrote in my book with a pencil and it didn’t feel like the end of the world. It was pretty liberating, actually. Letting go of self-imposed rules always is. Have you ever annotated a book? Do you leave Post-It notes or page tabs? Let me know in the comments!

Love and lemons, Abi

5 thoughts on “Getting Comfortable with Annotation | I wrote in a book and it didn’t burst into flames

  1. Lol yeah I used to take so much pride in how well I could take care of my books. I still used tabs and post it, but I also write in my books once I know it’s really my favorites and it will stay on my shelves for a long time!


  2. Wait it didn’t combust into flames?!?! 😂😂 I have never annotated in a book but I think if a reread books more, I would be tempted because I know I will keep these books for a long time and I have positive things to say. Maybe in the future, I do love seeing other people’s annotations for sure!
    I’m glad you enjoyed it so much, and it makes me more intrigued to try it.
    I love Naya too! 🥰


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