Annotating in Books Deemed as Destructive


Courtesy of Hyacinth Tagupa at

These are notes in a used copy of Franny and Zoey by J.D. Salinger.

Lily Ives, Features Editor


You’ve just borrowed a book from a close friend. It’s one of their favorites, and, knowing how much they love it, you’ve decided that you should give it a shot. You sit down with a hot cup of tea and open up to the first chapter. To your shock and horror, the book is covered in notes and annotations.

Comments about the plot and questions about characters fill the margins. You feel like you’ve just witnessed a desecration of a sort and you close the book, appalled.
This is the way some people react to the concept of writing in books. It’s treated as a form of criminal activity that must be treated with harsh punishment. If this seems extreme to you, then you’re like me, either you write in books or you’re ambivalent to those who do.
Of course, there are some valid reasons as to why you might not want to write in your book. Maybe it’s because you’d rather just read a story or maybe school has killed any sort of love that could have been there. However, many are against it simply because they consider it to be a way to ruin a novel. Many people react to ink in a book that isn’t the print as an direct insult and crime to the piece of literature.
Personally, I can not get enough of annotating books. From comments about how much I adore a character to the major motifs within a novel, annotations and notes make me feel closer to both the story and the writer. I feel like that text contains an even stronger connection to me, the reader, knowing that my thoughts and feelings are laid out beside the text.
Notes in a book are a wonderful way to create interaction with a story and to create a more in depth experience. I’m not the only one who thinks this. In fact, our adviser here at the haystack, Kay Landon, has an experience with annotating books that is very near and dear to her heart. When she started college, her grandfather gave her some of the novels that helped him, years back, graduate in the same subject, and, hidden within the pages, were notes from her grandfather from when he was in his twenties.
She loved that she could see “what her grandpa was thinking about the same piece of literature” at the same time in her life. Specifically, she loved his copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
In my experience, when I write in a copy of a book, I tend to remember more of the story better than if I wouldn’t have written anything. Although, considering all of this, I also understand that to some people note making feels too clinical and too academic, and therefore not associated with a good time.
Basically, do what you please. Of course, I’m not saying that you are absolutely required to write in your books. However, when you do see some notes in someone’s copy of a book, maybe give it some consideration on why they wrote what they wrote.