To Highlight or Not to Highlight?


A well loved copy of Leo Tolstoy’s A Gospel in Brief, with some fabulous notes all over it.

Highlighting, underlining, notating: all extremely personal decisions for readers, something as controversial as the death penalty in the right company.

Some people become physically ill at the idea of marks being made in their texts; they want to keep them pristine for as long as possible, and rightfully so. People pay an enormous amount of money for their libraries, and certainly, if my text was an extremely expensive or rare edition, I wouldn’t want anyone to mark my copy either.

HOWEVER. (You knew this was coming). I have a tendency to fall into the opposing  camp- Camp Highlighter or something queer like that. I give props to E-Readers for this highlighting and notetaking are absolutely fantastic on the Kindle, and just like that, the marks can disappear. But I’ll save my thoughts on E-Readers for another time.

I don’t always mark up my texts, but I do when I particularly want to interact with one, especially if that text is challenging and multi-layered. Sometimes I don’t have the time to read something heavy, or I choose stories that allow me to be a passive reader. But I hate this. I’m already a passive enough reader in my daily life. If I’m reading something that I willingly have chosen, I don’t want to continue this passivity.


More notes from Tolstoy!

Highlighting or notating helps me fight this. I’m able to have a conversation with the text, not just zoom past it. I also am more likely to remember what I read or easily return to important passages that might expose foreshadowing, symbolism, or characterization. Making these notes allows for deeper reflection and a more critical eye, at least in my personal experience.

So which camp do you fall into? Are you a highlighterer? Or a clean copier? Those words sounded a lot smoother in my mind…



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