How To Annotate A Book For Fun—Different Tools That You Can Use

‘Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body’

English essayist Joseph Addison

Reading a book once is an enjoyable experience, but re-reading is an educational experience.

The first read-through of a book is one in which a reader first explores the plot, the characters, the setting, and the author’s style. That’s a lot to explore at once, which is why it helps to break up a book into sections and parts.

When annotating books, you leave comments and remarks that help you remember, identify, and find the information you found important, useful, or interesting. 

This article will explore how to annotate a book for fun. 

First, let’s take a look at why one may want to annotate a book in the first place.

What is an annotation?

When you add an underline, a comment, a sketch, or another method of emphasis to a page in a book, that’s known as an annotation. 

Book annotation is a great way to digest the information a book has to offer.

Instead of reading through a book once and hoping to remember the vast amount of information between the covers, you can annotate. 

You highlight and emphasize lines, sections, quotes, and points with which you agree or disagree so that you can actually use the learned information in real-world circumstances, be that at work, studying something you love, or talking with friends.

Why annotate a book?

Why would someone want to annotate a book? You might think that book annotation is for literature students and researchers, but that’s not entirely true. 

Sure, some people need to annotate non fiction material for work, but many enjoy annotation for its own sake. Moreover, even if you do need to annotate for work and not as a pastime, the process can still be gratifying.

Some of the main reasons you may want to annotate a book are to:

  • Make it easy to find important information quickly
  • Highlight your favorite parts
  • Highlight sections you want to re-read
  • Offer your own thoughts on a section
  • Share insights and thoughts with others easily
  • Leave your mark
  • Broaden the reading experience
  • Track character development
  • Collect facts and statistics for debate
  • Prepare points for book reviews

How to annotate a book for fun

Annotating books is fun especially when you have a stash of all the tools you can use. There are many materials available for you to use when taking notes, especially if you wish to go back to a specific passage or pages in the book.

1. Get equipped

First things first, equip yourself with the tools you need. You may already have a preference about which type of annotation you’ll use, but if you’re open to trying different methods and seeing what else may work for you, you need to prepare a few writing utensils and other materials.

  1. A black pen
  2. A pencil and eraser
  3. Colored pens and pencils
  4. A ruler
  5. Highlighters
  6. Sticky tabs
  7. Sticky notes
  8. Notecards
  9. A notebook

How to annotate a book for fun, annotate books

2. Create your own color code system

If taking notes is not your thing, a color code system helps you highlight several sections of your text without getting overwhelmed by all your annotation. 

Colors help you organize your thoughts and opinions based on your chosen system. You can associate colors with emotions, such as the emotions you feel when you read a given section.

For example, a red sticky tab may highlight a section that makes you angry. Alternatively, it may highlight a particularly romantic and steamy section of a book or a scene with bloodshed.

Purple is typically associated with spirituality and magic, so you may use a purple sticky tab to highlight magical scenes, such as when a character learns about their powers.

Orange and yellow are typically cheerful, happy colors, green is natural and grounding, and blue is calm and wise. 

Perhaps one color highlights what you deem as good writing while another highlights the opposite.

Of course, unlike those above, you may associate specific colors with feelings and emotions. That’s perfectly fine. Your color code system does not have to be universal; it just needs to work for you.

You may also use colors for different purposes. Perhaps red highlights a section you want to re-read, yellow for a section you have questions about, and green for a section you feel that you’ve understood well.

The most important thing to remember when creating a color code system is to create a key. A key is a page in a notebook or a note card explaining each color’s meaning. 

Your key can also explain the difference between a sticky note, a sticky tab, an underline, or a dog-eared page.

Annotation on the page

There are various ways to annotate a page. Here are some examples:

1. Underlining

Underlining is one of the simplest ways to annotate. Children often learn to annotate by underlining important information in textbooks.

Given that the purpose of the annotation is to emphasize a given section so that it’s easy to find later, you don’t want to go overboard. 

Too much underline reduces a given line’s visual impact, ultimately making it harder to find the section you’re looking for later. Underline freely, but don’t cluster a single page with too many underlined sentences. 

If you do need to underline several sections on the same page, consider using different colors. 

As mentioned earlier, colors carry emotional association, so consider the colors you use and how a section makes you feel or think. 

Other than emotions, colors can simply highlight which sections serve a different purpose to others.

2. Write in the margins

If you’re ok with interfering with the original book, use a pencil to write directly on the page’s margins. Putting your notes and comments on a page’s margins is a common annotation method .

ou may have a question about an author’s meaning or point out something or their writing style.

Writing in the margins helps you remember those comments and questions on a re-read.

Perhaps you want to leave a question for the next reader, or you’re keen to get your opinion on the page. Either way, writing in the margins is a fun way to annotate. 

Your own pencil handwriting contrasts the print, which adds another dimension to the re-reading or new reader’s experience.

3. Dog-ear pages

A dog-eared page is one with a top corner by the page number that has been folded over. We dog-ear a page to make it easy to find when we open the book. 

This simple, minimal effort annotation method is one of the most common.

A dog-eared page brings you not only to the page in general but to a page with important notes and comments that will otherwise require a lot of leafing-through pages.

Of course, dog-eating a page interferes with the original book’s integrity, so it’s best to save this method for your library, not books borrowed from a library or a friend.

Annotation off the page

There may be times you need to annotate without directly subjecting the book to notes or folds. Here are different ways how to do it:

1. Sticky tabs

Sticky tabs are a great way to highlight your favorite sections of the book. These are small, rectangular-shaped sticky pieces of paper with a pointed end. 

The pointed end sits right on the sentence you want to highlight, making it incredibly easy to find that sentence, line, or paragraph when you need it for reference.

2. Sticky notes

Like the sticky tab, a sticky note fits easily on the page. It doesn’t have to stand out when the book is closed but is easy to find when needed. 

One of the main advantages of using sticky notes over the former two annotation methods is that you can add comments to the section you’ve highlighted without interfering with the original book.

You may want to add a question, opinion, or reminder to a section. Perhaps you didn’t fully understand the author’s meaning. 

Maybe you did understand, but you disagree, or perhaps you’d like to discuss that section later with a friend.

3. Notecards

Notecards are a simple and effective way to annotate without touching the original page. A note card is a one- or double-sided piece of card on which you can add notes, comments, questions, and other vital points to a section of the book.

Note cards are typically large and maybe the size of the entire book page, so they’re best used for general notes. 

A sticky tab may be better for highlighting a particular sentence, but when you write notes using notecards, you can sum up your thoughts and opinions on the last ten, twenty, or even fifty pages of a book.

4. Use a separate notebook

A fun way to annotate is to use a another notebook dedicated solely to your book’s annotation. An annotation notebook can serve as a journal when taking notes such as page numbers, sentences, and quotes you like and would like to expand upon. 

Notebooks are useful when your annotation contains so much detail they don’t fit on the margins or a sticky note.

Using a notebook for annotation is one of the most creative approaches because the blank page is there for you to write and sketch as you wish. 

Often, especially when reading non-fiction books, your thoughts, opinions, and questions may be too long or complex to confine to a sticky note or a note card. 

A notebook offers plenty of space for you to digress and unify several points or concepts on a page and subsequent pages.

Annotations examples

So, what do you look for in a book when you want to annotate it? Below we’ve listed common types of annotation to help you get started.

1. Favorite quotes

Many readers love to collect quotes from their favorite books, whether fiction stories or non-fiction statements. 

Quote annotation lends itself well to notebook annotation because you can write the quote on the page and elaborate on its significance below.

Quotes are also incredibly useful to researchers and students. A strong, relevant quote backs up an argument.

2. Opinions

Do you agree with everything the author writes? Do you think they’re speaking from a place of privilege? Have they done adequate research? 

Without annotating books, you may have interesting opinions on some aspect of the book but possibly forget them later. 

A comment, note, or emphasis point can help you remember your opinion and accurately convey your thoughts in discussion later.

How to annotate a book for fun, annotate books

3. Chapter note cards

At the end of each chapter, you may want to insert a note card with your thoughts or opinions on the chapter. 

This is a great way to annotate because it aligns with the natural breaks and changes in the book itself.

4. Track character development

Strong characters are the best hook for fiction readers. We are naturally empathic, so a well-written character can easily draw us in and make us care about them. 

Even well-written characters we don’t like have a magnetic appeal.

A fun way to annotate is to collect information about a character. You can track their development throughout the story so you have a deeper understanding of that character at the end. 

You can also use a color-coded system to track several characters’ development at once or on a re-read.

5. Research

If you read non-fiction, you can highlight researched and referenced sections of the book to help you explore those sources of information later. 

Highlighting references and studies help you explore beyond the topic of the book and can lead to a broader understanding of the entire field.

6. Book reviews

Annotations lend themselves well to book reviews. With annotation, you can quickly skim through the book and collect essential pieces of information you’ve highlighted. 

It’s easy to compile those sections and make a reasonable and well-thought-out review or argument about the book.

Annotating books for fun

Annotating books for fun is not only an exciting hobby. 

The creative aspect of annotation – the color choices, style, and even your choice of pen or pencil – help you engage with the book you’re reading. 

As a result, you’re more likely to understand the book’s message. You expand your understanding and perspective of the book with questions, opinions, comments, and interesting quotes.

Moreover, when you annotate books, you can pass them on to a friend for a later discussion. If you have used a specific color code or system, your friend may like to try a different method; that way, you can annotate without interfering with the other’s process. 

When both of you have read, annotated, and then re-read with each other’s annotation, there is ample room for discussion, which leads to an even deeper understanding of the book.


Hopefully, you found this post helpful. 

One can have fun writing. The same goes for annotating.

Even though annotating can seem like a lot of work, it’s an incredibly engaging and fun experience. 

The book is as it is when you find it, but not the same when you’re done annotating because it improves your reading experience.

You can also develop an understanding of an author’s work through annotation that you may not have gained if you read the book once through with no annotations.

Whether you use sticky notes, write notes or short phrases in the margins, one colour for highlighting, different colours of sticky tabs in the pages, or other favorite methods, annotating books for fun is an activity anyone who loves to read can do.

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