Novel Notes

My books are one of a kind. No one else in the world has the exact copies that I have. And not just because of the embossed stamp on the title pages that says “Library of McKenna Odom” on them. My copies are special and personal.

Almost all of my books have underlines and writing in the margins.

At least one of you may be shuddering in your chair, disgusted by the thought and thinking to yourself What a monster! and Poor books… but hear me out! It’s not so bad. The books aren’t crying out in pain. And they’re still absolutely lovely. You couldn’t tell from looking at the cover that there are scribbles on the pages beneath. Even if you could tell, who cares?

They are my books, special to me, and I plan to keep for, well, pretty much ever.

What I do is I read a book, all the while writing my thoughts and underlining passages that move me. Then when I finish a book, I pass it on to my sister. She does the same thing, writing and underlining, and then she passes it on to our other sister. This continues until all my special people have read and written in the book (each in their own colored pen, of course, because organization). By the time the book gets back to me, I’ll sometimes have as many as five other people that have written in my book. So the next time I read it or even just thumb through it, I can see what touched my sisters or what my friends didn’t like about a passage. It’s actually a really great way to get to know the people that are important to you as well as share a small piece of yourself with all of them.

But that’s just one reason I like to write in my books. There are, of course, other reasons. To keep track of meaningful quotes or passages, for class, for memory, to remember what you read… The list could go on for days.

Here are 5 ways to keep novel notes:


  1. Highlighting

This is the simplest and most universal way of keeping track of the passages that stand out to you. You can color code if you want or just stick with one color. Although, if you’re wanting to keep notes for a novel you’re reading for class, you may want to seriously consider color coding. Just make sure you get some nice ones that won’t bleed through the pages.


  1. Underlining

Another simple way to keep track of your favorite passages, but a little less invasive, is underlining. Underlining is subtle and a little bit neater. Much like highlighting, you can choose to color code your lines. The choice is entirely yours. Or your teachers. I don’t know your reasons! 


  1. Margin Scribbling  

Scribblers take underlining a step further. In addition to underlining they are also known to doodle, cross out, and, of course, write notes in the margins. This is my personal favorite method and the one that I believe everyone should try at least once. This method really allows you to dig a little deeper and really get to know yourself and other people. 


  1. Notebook Notes

This method is perfect for those that want to take notes, but really like their books to be pristine. You can use a notebook to keep detailed notes on the passages or use it as a commonplace book to record all your favorite quotations. Or you could do both, I suppose. The possibilities are endless!


  1. Post-It Notes

This is very similar to the notebook method but without the notebook. Your book will still remain unblemished. It’s just also going to have a whole lot of post-its on the pages. Sometimes I use post-its to write long-winded thoughts if the margins prove too small or to summarize a chapter. You can also use page flags to mark important passages or quotes.


The method(s) you choose to take novel notes will depend largely on your why. For example, if you’re someone who mostly wants to keep track of quotable passages but you don’t want your book full of highlights, you may want to try method 4. (See also commonplace notebooks.) I use a combination of methods 2, 3, and 5 because I like for the people that borrow my books to see my thoughts and opinions. I also like seeing theirs, if they choose to write in the book as well.

Remember, it’s okay to treat your books the way you want to treat them. They are your books. I promise they won’t cry out in pain or yell at you to “get off my lawn!”

Do you write in your books? What system do you use?


4 thoughts on “Novel Notes

  1. I keep a notebook for notes…or sometimes loose pages that I throw away. Most of my books are borrowed from librarys and others I pass on.
    I simply love your way.


  2. Pingback: The Perks of Being a Rereader | Kenna's Bookshelf

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