Chatterbox: Marking Your Books – Yes or No?

November 9, 2015 by Aila J. | Chatterbox


I don’t know about you, but when I accidentally bend or crease a page of a book, I RAGE. Doggy-ears make me want to throw something HARD at someone (not a book – never a book), and accidental spills and droplets of liquids just bring a beast out of me. You can tell that I’m anal about this stuff. If you know me, you know that I try to keep my books in pristine condition; unless it’s a well-loved book, then you can see its wear. But there’s something different from accidentally making a mark on your book, and marking it, well, on purpose.

I know for different homework assignments, I’ve had to buy a certain book in its physical copy and annotate it with my thoughts. This includes highlights, notes, and underlines that basically (in my opinion) ruin the pages. I mean, my handwriting’s not that pretty. And while I think that, I know many other people actually enjoy making those marks on their books. For example, some authors may annotate a copy or ARC of their book with the thoughts they had when writing the book and cute doodles. I’ve seen friends who favorite highlight passages in a book they’ve read numerous times.

Me though? I don’t bring a pen out when reading a book unless I have something to write on next to it. I’m sorry – my heart can’t take that kind of stuff.

Although I’m not a super big fan of marking on books in general, I can understand why people do it: sentimental values, wanting to remember favorite scenes or dialogue, etc. I mean, you paid for the book, you should do whatever you want with it. At the same time, my neat freak outlook cannot accept it. Thus, tabs and post-its always save the day. If I really want to put notes in the book, I stick it on a post-it and then on the page. Cute dialogue I want to get to quick? A clear tab works wonders. These days, the books I actually write on are workbooks for classes that I have to use to study.

So that’s my take on marking books; in answer to the header question, it’s a definite NO. I’d rather just read the author’s narrative without interrupting the flow with my jumpled notes or bright highlighter. But of course, many of you guys would think otherwise. And it’s a whatever-floats-your-boat kind of situation. Quite honestly, if I wrote my thoughts on a well-loved book, every time I would reread it I would be crushed with embarrassment at my past self’s thoughts. (Whoops)

Just – be careful on the accidental marks. Those are the ones I have mini-heart attacks over.


Is it a big “no-no” or a “sure, why not” kind of deal? Do you go with the flow and when emotions overtake you, have to write something on it? What do people even doodle in books? Doesn’t that take away from the flow of the story? Are you like a neat freak like me or someone who wants to show their love of a book through annotations?

Tell me your thoughts!

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Aila is a young adult reader who loves to transport herself to new dimensions through reading. She's currently an undergraduate student at university in the US. Let's talk about our obsessions on Twitter @aila_1woaa!

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68 responses to “Chatterbox: Marking Your Books – Yes or No?

  1. nereyda1003

    Ha, I totally mark my books! I fold pages and underline and highlight and make notes. Which I know makes some people cringe, but it means a well loved book for me 🙂

  2. mymidnightmusing

    The only time I marked books was when I was in school because it helped when it came to revise for my exams and such. Now though I wouldn't dare mark my books in any way. I freaked when I spilled a dot of tea on one of my books. I always keep a notebook on hand if there's a scene or a quote I like and I'll note the quote/page number down so I have a constant log of my favourite moments.
    My recent post Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

  3. Jae@BookishBluebird

    I love the look of a marked book but NOPE I could never bring myself to do it to my own xD I have a multitude of sticky notes or tabs that I'll use instead. And whenever I receive a book I lent out and see that their are some bent pages, I swear my heart breaks. Thank goodness this was a one time thing because if that person ever asked again I'm highly likely to say no. Weirdly though, I'm okay with people slightly staining or bending used books that I have?? I have a friend that annotated a book as a gift to someone else though and I think that's a super sweet and thoughtful gift idea! Great post, Aila 🙂

  4. Aww haha. When I was younger I'd also memorize the page number because I was too lazy to find a bookmark and too scared to dog ear the book. Maybe we should keep track of bookmarks more! 😀

  5. I love buying a used book and seeing where others have highlighted and written notes. It's like an insight into someone else's thoughts about the book and how they might be similar or different from mine. I don't mind accidental marks or creases or anything – in fact, it's probably the sign of a good book in my eyes 🙂

    • That's such an awesome view, Tanya, and I totally agree! Seeing different people's notes and thoughts is pretty cool. I'd only do it to a book I've read and thoroughly enjoyed though. 🙂

  6. If it's my own book and I purposely made the marks, I don't mind it too much. If I spill something on it, I do get a bit miffed (mostly at myself) but I tend to just chalk it up to the book being so engaging that I couldn't even put it down while eating or drinking. 😛

    BUT if it's my own book and someone ELSE marks it? Nope! If it's someone else's book and I'm borrowing it? No way I'm even THINKING of marking it! 🙂
    My recent post #ICallMyselfAFeminist: Women in STEM fields

  7. SAMEEE! Tabs are such a win for me (thanks to my last Secret Sister for introducing them to me- what did I even do before them!?), and I have a notebook in case I need to write longer thoughts down. I cannot EVER mark a book. I think I would cry, basically. I mean, I don't care if other people mark theirs, but that is because I never have to see it 😉
    My recent post Review: Rules For 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern

    • So true Shannon! Yay for your Secret Sister – more people need to get in with it! Yup if it's someone else, they can mark the book all they want. Me? Can't touch my precioussss.

  8. Cee

    When I accidentally bend the book, I don’t rage, I wail in distress. How could that have happened? I was so careful! If somebody else does it, it doesn’t bother me because they can do what they want with their book. It’s theirs. I do admire when they’re okay with highlighting or making marginalia because I would like to do that too to remember passages I like, but I get so distressed at defacing my books.

    I would totally suffer embarrassment too at having to see my past thoughts in the margin. It’s like what are you doing past-self, but it could be nostalgic.
    My recent post 2015 YA Book Cover Choice Awards! · Nominations time!

  9. danielleisbusyreading

    I don't mark my physical books at all! No writing, no earmarking. I even take off the jacket if it's hardcover so as not to bend it. Now, I'll buy used copies, but only if they're in very good condition to begin with.
    This is why I sometimes prefer to read Kindle books, because you can highlight favorite passages without feeling like you've ruined the book lol.

  10. Kara Terzis

    NONONONONO JUST NO. I could never, ever do that to one of my books… and if I do it accidentally, it breaks my little bookish heart. Ironically, though, I do love buying second-hand books that are already creased and marked. 🙂

  11. Hey Aila!

    ACTUALLY, COINCIDENCE, at book club today, we were discussing this exact topic. Apparently some of my friends actually write little notes and stories and anything that inspires them while reading in the margins. One even said that she would write in her friend's books and then after she was done, she would exchange the books with her friend, who did the same thing! So it's a really neat idea! But I agree that I could never do that! I'm also not very good at writing notes while reading in the first place, because it disrupts my reading 😛

    • Whoa Val, great minds think alike. 😉 That's definitely a creative idea that's great for brainstorming! I know a lot of writers aren't hesitant to write in books.
      But I agree with you – I like the keep the flow of the story without worrying about notations!

  12. Jeann, you and I are two peas in a pod. Seriously. I don't dog ear my books AT ALL and my recent copy of ROOM by Emily Donoghue got a bit damamged in my purse the other day and when i realized it i NEARLY went to the bookstore to buy another copy. I was close. I just hate it when my books aren't perfect. They're my babies.

  13. Lekeisha

    I'm a post-it type of reader. I have all colors and sizes, so I won't have to search for a favorite quote or passage. I'm quite OCD when it comes to neatness. So no, I don't mark my books.

    • I feel you so hard Lekeisha. I think the worst is when I'm trying to lign up my post-its to have the same length sticking out of the book. xD oops!

    • I totally do the same with textbooks! I usually just tab specific sections or quotes for review purposes or going back to reread when I'm in the mood.

  14. Emma A

    Nope! I would never take a pen to my book unless it was for school. I think that may have been why I didn't like reading books for school, was because it did break up my "flow" of reading.

  15. Bec

    I CAN'T BRING MYSELF TO DO IT. At least, not to my own books. The only time I have done it was when my friends decided that it would be hilarious to buy a cheap, supermarket erotic novel and pass it around so we could annotate a chapter each, changing the words to make a hilarious story. It was highly entertaining.

    The only other time I could see myself marking the pages is for something like The Travelling Book Project, where, again, multiple people are marking their favourite passages and commenting on things then passing the book on.

    For books I own and read, I'd rather write my thoughts and comments down in a separate notebook or mark the page with a small sticky note (though even that is risky because sometimes when you take it off the ink comes off too )
    My recent post Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

    • That's true! I need to develop a good habit of marking comments/pages in a notebook because I see people doing that and it's a really great idea! (I'm just not that organized haha).

      DUDE I need to do that with my friends! I usually just read aloud erotica passages at the bookstore to my friends and we laugh about it, but omg annotating it would be a blast.

  16. I am the same I try to keep my books in pristine condition if possible. Those mass market paperbacks can be hard to keep looking nice. I have some books that look like I haven't even read them and I like that. I even once bought the e-copies of a series I own in paperback, so I could re-read them without worrying about damaging my copies. I can't stand the sight of someone dog earing their book or breaking the spine.

    While in uni I always used a pencil to udnerline the important passages as that felt less bad than usign a bright yellow marker.
    My recent post Review: Star Trek Voyager

  17. "Thus, tabs and post-its always save the day. " This. I have a few to save some quotes and scenes I like to go back and read, which is a lot less…permanent than highlighting it. I'm not sure if I would buy a book with highlighted sections, although I had to do that with school books and at first I was like nooooo but then I got used to it haha. On my own books I can't even dog ear the pages though.
    My recent post Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

    • So glad you can relate! Like, do people realize that highlights and pen markings are PERMANENT?? Ahh can't understand why they'd do that! School textbooks I can understand, but man for my own books, I like them in mint condition.

  18. humm never thought about it, nor did I care until my husband. He HATES it when I do that and for me, it was always just convenient. I always lose BOOKMARKS always, so I would just, bent a little in the corner, just enough to notice it. It didn't always work, sometimes it would flip open and I'd be like OMG where was I!?
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  19. Nope. I can't mark books. It drives me insane when I see markings on books at the used bookstore.
    I read mostly ebooks so that's one of the benefits of reading those – you can highlight without damaging the book.
    For me my physical books are all about looking pretty! LOL! 😀
    My recent post Review: Hello? by Liza Wiemer

    • Sooo trueee Nick. I mainly like ebooks because of the highlighting/note-taking you can do too! Plus, if you don't want it, you can always delete it. On the other hand, physical books need to be pri~stineee!

  20. Josephine

    I'm a huge fan of using tabs and plastic post it tab/sticky notes because I absolutely hate the idea of marking my fictional books! Just the thought makes me cringe!

  21. Grace @ RebelMommyBB

    I almost only read ebooks these days for pure convenience and honestly the price factor. For the physical books I do have I don't go out of my way to mark them but I really don't care either. I am very go with the flow. I do understand why people don't like to get their books marked up and what not though. Great post!
    My recent post Review ~ The Lies About Truth

    • Thanks Grace! Ebooks are really the easiest kind of books to maintain haha. You can highlight, make notes, and whatever you want, but also delete them if you're not feeling it.

  22. I dunno about others, but I for one abhorre the idea of marking my books!! I freak if I crease a page or heaven forbids, a tiny rip or tear happens… and I don't have a tendency to make notes or mark passages either… I didn't do it with textbooks unless asked, I always preferred to mark or highlight things in my own notes, not the textbooks… They only written extras that I like on my books are the signings done by authors!! 😉
    My recent post Mark This Book Monday: ARC Review of Soundless by Richelle Mead!!

    • I totally agree with you Pili! I only make notes for review purposes (and to shove quotes in my friends' faces to convince them to read the book), but author signatures are the only marks I can stand on my books haha.

  23. aentee @ read at midnight

    I can't physically bring myself to mark my book – not because of sentimental value or moral obligations, mind – but because I sometimes want to resell or trade away these books so they need to be in mint condition. I don't really do post its or tabs either, but I have a wicked collection of bookmarks to get me by 😉

    • Oh yes, bookmarks work wonders! I just don't have that many (a shame, really), so I stick with tabs. I agree! I was trying to trade away my old books and when I told people they had my name on it (dumb, middle-school Aila mistake) they were like "lol bye."

  24. Nope, I can't mark my books as well! I normally use sticky tabs or record the page number on a notes app on my phone, but otherwise if I am REALLY stuck I will dog ear my page (which I immediately unfold when I get home and I've noted it properly). At the bookstore I'm always looking for the book that is in totally perfect condition too! Great discussion post Aila!

    • Stick tabs and recording the pages work wonders for me. Haha confession: when I was in elementary school I would dog ear books all the time. (Whoops. :P)

  25. I very rarely read physical books anymore, but when I do, they're ARCs so I don't care. I'll mark, bend, throw, or whatever else. It used to depend on the book when I read physical ones. Some I'd mark and bend the spin all the way back, fold the pages and all that. But most I would totally baby. I'd take the covers off my hard copies while I read them so the jackets wouldn't get messed up. lol.
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  26. pagesandpineapples

    I'm not a big fan of post-its and tabs… they get all bent when sitting on the bookshelf, and end up looking messy to me! But it's always interesting to see how other people keep their books 🙂

    As for me: if there's a scene / quote / paragraph I like, I'll mark it gently in the margin with pencil – nothing too obtrusive, just enough that it sticks out to me later. I can always erase it later. (But heaven help anyone other than me who marks up one of my books, haha…)
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    • That's true, tabs and post-its can also get tricky to work with! I just think they look all studious and nice haha.

      Ooh that's interesting – pencils definitely work wonders!

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