Do you do reading notes or annotate your books?

I’ve never done it consistently in the past but have tried a few times to make notes. I have never been successful. I usually take too many notes and I hate writing in books. Recently I got curious and fell down the Google rabbit hole of book annotation. I love seeing other people annotate books but as I read and researched it, I realized 1. I still won’t write or highlight in books and 2. I read a lot of ebooks and audiobooks (many from the library). I thought a book notebook would be a great compromise!

Why should you annotate or make notes about what you’re reading?

For me, I partly wanted to start for book club, to feel more prepared. I also want to be more connected to the books and be present when I read. Lastly, I want to remember the things I read and specifically things I learn when reading non-fiction books, especially photography-related ones. 

As I googled and mulled it over, I thought the new Erin Condren Priorities and Notes layout would be perfect for taking notes. I also went through my stash of accessories and built a reading kit which I put in an Erin Condren planny pack to easily carry with my notebook! I also grabbed my new snap-in pocket dashboards. I can stick notes on and in them. They also section out my notebook and I can easily flip to whichever book I am reading at the moment!

Shop Erin Condren (affiliate link I will receive a commission but it will not affect your shopping!)

What do I have in my kit?

  • Transparent sticky notes
  • Reusable sticky notes
  • Small notepad
  • Highlight strips
  • Pens
  • Highlighter
  • Sharpie (for those transparent sticky notes)

I have been picking pens and highlighters that coordinate with the colors on the book cover. I will have a fun, colorful notebook when I’m done!

The Priorities and Notes layout has six boxes on the left-hand side and lined notes pages on the right. I had hoped to fit a book into one set of boxes/lined page but I realized that will never work for me. I ended up using three pages for my first book and decided that will be my limit for each book. 

My first book, The Great Alone, was a little trial and error. Of course, I will make adjustments as needed but I’ve got a good setup now for fiction and non-fiction books. The first page will be the same for all books. The six boxes will be:

  1. About the Book – Title, Author, Fiction/Non-Fiction, Genre, format, and where I got it
  2. Other Books by the Author
  3. What Others are Saying – I like to google after I read and see if there is anything interesting 
  4. My Summary
  5. Final Thoughts
  6. My Rating – How many coffees, if I’d recommend it

For fiction books, the next set of six boxes are:

  1. Characters (two boxes)
  2. Relationships – between characters
  3. Setting
  4. Main Theme
  5. Connections – what does it remind me of, does the book mention other media

The final six boxes are:

  1. Quotes (two boxes)
  2. Questions – either that come up as I read or after
  3. What stood out to me
  5. Dislikes

For non-fiction, the second set of six boxes will be (two each):

  1. Key Ideas
  2. References to review
  3. Questions

The last six will be (two each):

  1. What resonated with me
  2. What did I find Interesting
  3. My Ideas – what can I do with this new knowledge or how can I incorporate what I’ve learned

Each book will have three lined pages. Before starting I will review the chapters and/or sections and divide my three-lined pages evenly. I hope this will help keep me from writing down EVERYTHING. I will use transparent sticky notes to highlight or pop out key moments or ideas. I would like to be more succinct with what I write down. I’ve always taken too many notes, not knowing what is important (maybe because of ADHD?). I do want to have a set number of pages because I often have more than one book going at once and want to be able to set up each book in my notebook.

As this is my first time doing something like this I’m sure I will make more adjustments. 

Do you annotate books or take notes while you read? I’d love your tips and tricks! Leave your best advice in the comments. 

Want to see a video version of this? Head over to YouTube to watch!


Jenna Volden has a degree in business and has spent the last 10 plus years working for others. She believes it is time to start her own photography and writing business. She enjoys running, coffee and helping others achieve their goals. Gluten-free foods are a lifestyle, not a choice, for her due to celiac disease. She is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.