Discussion post

Do You Write in Your Books?

I want to talk about writing or underlining passages in your books, is this something you do? I feel as though this will be another divisive topic in the bookish community and I wanted to hear all of your opinions on the matter!

Personally, for  the most part I don’t underline, highlight or write in my books. I think the only time I have ever made notes in a book was in Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut. I think this book is the exception is because I bought it for the sole purpose of writing a book report on it in high school. So it was because of the fact that I was buying it for school, where I needed specific lines highlighted that I could justify underlining passages.

It just so happens that this is one of my favourite books which I recompensed to everyone I know. Now I normally wouldn’t mind sharing my book with someone, but I have lent this book to my boyfriend without realizing it was highlighted, and he had some fun showing me what my 17 year old self thought were profound quotes. Now it’s Vonnegut so the quotes arn’t bad at all, but it was an odd selection of passages.

While I don’t personally mark my pages, because of I suppose an appreciation of the clean look of a blank page, I don’t have a visceral reaction to this practice as I know many people do.  In fact, when I buy secondhand books I always like to see some part of the former owner in the pages.

In particular, I always think that cover inscriptions are a lovely practice. It just adds such a nice personal touch to the gift of a book, and gives the book such charm as a secondhand reader.

I also think that highlighting or writing notes in books would be quite fun if you had a group of friends with you shared your books with regularly. For example it would be a fun ritual to highlight bits that you think would another person would enjoy. I also can see a fair bit of utility in writing notes in bookclub books, that would help you in discussions!

 So that was a bit of a ramble, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on writing/ underlining in books? Do you do it? If so when? Does it make you cringe?

45 thoughts on “Do You Write in Your Books?”

  1. Back when I received review copies, I marked them up a lot. But then I always wished that I hadn’t, because I could no longer donate them to the library. I too like a clean look, but I’ve gone back and forth. It seems like marking up a book helps me get more out of it. I’m still undecided…

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  2. While I don’t write in my own books, I don’t mind getting books someone else has written in. Seeing their thoughts on certain passages is interesting, and at times, they have made me rethink the passage in question. I don’t think I even write in school books I buy so I can teach myself things – like the books on French I bought new so I could learn French grammar. Still, I don’t mind it one way or another.

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  3. It depends on the book. Books I’m reading purely for enjoyment, no, I don’t mark those up. Books I’m reading for a purpose, that I intend to keep and refer back to, yes, I highlight and underline and write in those.

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  4. I did write into my textbooks back when they were still quite mandatory (all hail e-learning) but when it comes to fiction, then I don’t.
    Since I moved to e-books two years ago, I can highlight all I want, which is definitely a good thing. And make notes as well, even later. Then use all of that for writing my review. Ah, the joys of digital world…

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  5. I personally prefer a clean book, but I’ve had a couple of exceptions where I couldn’t help but mark certain passages along the way. I remember I took one of them from my aunt’s library long ago. She had already marked certain passages, so I saw fit to mark some of my own. Somehow it felt like the right thing to do. After having finished it, I looked through all the underlined passages (both hers and mine) and was overwhelmed with all the wisdom captured in them. Another time I wanted to save certain passages was actually much more recent, but I could bring myself to mark the page anyhow so instead I took pictures of the pages and underlined whatever passages sparked my interest.

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  6. Only in books that I owned and for the purposes of referencing passages for school, including textbooks in college (but only the ones I knew I was going to keep). The ones I read for enjoyment? Never. However, sometimes I will jot down terms and references that I don’t quite understand in a notebook so that I can look them up for context. I started doing this when I first read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because that book (and its sequels) naturally contained a lot of references specific to Swedish culture, history, and politics. I would’ve never learned who Olof Palme was without doing that! (Palme, by the way, was a Prime Minister of Sweden who served two terms and was tragically assassinated in 1986 while he and his wife were walking home from the movies unescorted.)

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  7. It appears that I am like the majority. If I bought the book for a purpose, such as to use it for a writing lesson, I do tend to highlight and make notes. If I am reading for pleasure or the book is donatable, I do not mark in it. I use post it notes to make notes for my reviews and blog. They work well and the book stays in excellent shape.


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  8. I don’t write in my books, I like to keep them in pristine condition, creasing the spine is also a big no no for me haha! I don’t really use sticky notes or tabs either, I do have an ongoing note on my phone which I update with any quotes that I like from books I read. I’m not opposed to other people writing in their books though, each to their own!

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  9. I sometimes write in my books. Sometimes a passage is so eloquent that I have to underline it and write a comment in the margins. Other times a book may be confusing so I write myself notes in the margins lol. I only use a pencil (that way of I decide to donate it I can just go back an erase everything). I don’t write in them very often though. And like you, I enjoy seeing a second hand book that’s been marked by someone else. It’s a bit of that book’s history.

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  10. Your title alone made me CRINGE! XD I can’t do it. It hurts my soul! It’s as bad an infraction as the doggie ears! I learned to let it go in textbooks and even have been known to scribble a math solution in a math book or two, but I always went back and erased before returning the book at the end of the year. And not once, not once, have I ever marked in a fiction book. I don’t think I’ve ever marked anything in any of my own personal books, except my name in a few–and even that hurt! I guess I like the pristine look far better than anything else. I don’t mind seeing a book well-loved, but I can’t abide abuse and writing in books feels so…wrong! XD For discussion purposes, I always have a pen and notepad handy to copy any quotes, pages, etc.

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  11. I dog ear my pages and crease the spines… But drawing or writing in books… No, never. When I was studying a book at university, or school, I definitely did. But I find I can’t read them now they’re all covered in highlighter and notes – it’s distracting.


  12. The only books I’ve ever written in or marked are ones that I read for my studies. It’s always interesting revisiting those actually many years on. I don’t think I could buy a book to read for fun and actively write in it but I would probably buy another copy to write in if I felt I wanted to! I would love to do a thing where I write in a book and then gift it someone, whether it’s that persons favourite book and I write all my thoughts or whether its a book we both hated just so I could rant-write all over it.


  13. I used to be in the school of NEVER WRITE IN YOUR BOOKS, EVER. But then I went to university, and I started to write 257983475 book reviews for classes. And it was just so handy to be able to write in the sides? Right next to the passage? Since I’ve finished school I haven’t started writing in my own books, but I don’t think I’d be adverse to it. My only condition is that I only write in pencil, so if I ever change my mind, it’s easily reversible. Another funny thing though is that I was once a huge proponent of dog-earing (back when I refused to write in books), but now I would never think of it – even though I’m okay with writing in them now???

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  14. I don’t write in my books. I was taught not to do it. Plus, it’s disrespectful to the book.

    “Hi, book! I’m going to write my notes inside your pages that took a bunch of trees to make.”

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  15. I don’t generally write in books I am reading solely for pleasure but I am a serial annotator if there’s any kind of dual purpose to my reading. It comes from studying at school and university but more so from my involvement in theatre and the need to write down actions and interpretations in scripts.
    I’m less prone to highlighting -folded corners are not unusual though (never in a borrowed book). I do use the highlight function on my kindle (I know, not the same) so that I can re-find passages.

    Controversially, I have cut books up for decoupage -shock horror!! But on both occasions I purchased very tatty second hand copies of the books (Harry Potter and Shakespeare) and my originals remain in pride of position on display. I like to think the dog-eared copies would have been left unwanted in the £1 charity box so I gave them a new life where they are very much enjoyed and admired! (Apologies to anyone offended by this.)


  16. It depends. If I’m reading a book that’s designed to help me in some way, I will likely highlight passages that I want to come back and re-read. If I’m just reading for fun, or even to review, I don’t usually write in my books. If need be for reviews, I’ll use tape flags to mark pages to refer back to.


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