Posted by: Nathan | April 18, 2007

Write in your books!

If you want to get more from your reading—be it reading for entertainment, homework, or work—write in your books. It’s a small adjustment, but instead of passively scanning (or skipping) the words, you begin to interact with the text. It doesn’t matter whether its a novel, a library book, or the Bible: writing, underlining, bracketing, and starring the text will make you a better reader.

An additional benefit of writing in your books is that without exact memory, you’ll know what sections, lines or paragraphs you found especially valuable. This is my main tool in grad school for remembering what parts of my reading I like best, which are most important, what is outrageous, and what the gist of the work is. Occasionally, I’m rewarded when a prof jumps right to a section I’ve marked and reads from there.  Plus, years later when you pick up said volume again, your earlier thoughts and highlights will be awaiting your return.

Onto small matters. Some people like highlighting; I find it ugly, but if the book is yours, do whatever you want to it. If said book is from a library or a friend, don’t desist from marking in it; instead, use pencil and erase before you return the book. This works great for research papers. Also, don’t write so much in the book that it is entirely unusable for someone who isn’t you. Of course, there is no better book to write in than the Bible; I love stumbling across verses I’ve underlined years before. God speaks to us using the same words across the years.

If you’re already writing in your books, good for you! If you’re not, you should be. Hope this has been somewhat helpful.


  1. Nathan, we are nerds cut from the same cloth. I, too, write all over my books, probably more than I should. Are you a pen or a pencil kind of guy? I tend to like red ink, as it jumps off the page at you. But it depends on the book in which I’m writing. I don’t write in my Bible nearly enough (or, frankly, read it nearly enough). Good post.

  2. Maybe a cheap paper back (or something more personal like a Bible), but I’d feel careless writing in a book that I might want other people (friends, offspring, etc) to read someday. Would Post-It notes and flags count for someone like me, or am I now relegated to a lower status as a reader?

  3. No, I would never cast you aside, Jason; you might think about pencil, though, my friend. Your comment is right in line with your consummate consideration of others.

    PK, you’re mighty brazen to go for the red pen! I prefer black ink and use it almost exclusively for any writing purpose. That’s just my preference; I will be using red pens to correct my student papers down the road, however.

  4. You’ve convinced me. I’ll break out the pencil for not just study books but also other literature. I would love for it to enhance my reading experience!

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