Sorry for how late this. I procrastinated really badly *shameful face*
This post is for just-tonie and theaccidentwill who both requested it. They should be more how to annotate posts on their way.
If you have any requests for posts or questions leave them in my ask!
This is absolutely incredible! My own annotations are so erratic—I wish I had had this post late in high school or early in college.
I major in english in undergrad and then did an MFA where we had to annotate 64 books in 2 years. For the MFA I had to write a paper about each and every single book. Basically - I’ve done this and this is my advice:
Don’t do this for every book you read for school!!!
A close reading of a text is really important if you’re going to analyze the text. If you need to write a paper or you’re preparing for a discussion then I get it. But this is too much. Follow half of these steps and you’ll be golden.
Here’s the most important piece of advice: read the damn book!!!
Why? Reading and annotating are two VERY VERY VERY different activities.
Reading is to slip into the story. It’s an experience. The author intended it to be that. All those craft choices and themes and characterization moments you analyze when you’re annotating - those are meant to be invisible to the reader. The better the writer the less distracting they are. A good story appears to have dropped onto the page fully formed and breathing exactly the way you find it when you open the covers. Backstage is a very carefully constructed framework holding the novel (or other type of writing) together. It’s like a play. The attention is meant to be focused on the story happening live on stage, and not on the lighting, sound, or set. The same goes for reading.
Reading is an experience and trying to deconstruct the story will kill the experience faster than you could even imagine. You’ll stop reading for the sake of reading. If you’re an english major reading as if you are annotating will make you seriously second guess your choice in major.
But I’ve got to write a paper? I’ve got to be able to discuss the book for class?
If you know you’re going to need to write a paper (specifically a longer 5+ page analysis paper) then you should read the book twice: once for the experience and a second time with your assignment in mind. The second read through won’t require a close reading. It’s skimming, marking, asking questions, etc. That’s when these tips are helpful. A good paper has a point of view. It’s descriptive (i.e. track the references to nature throughout the book) or it’s prescriptive (i.e. why second person was chosen for a short story). Annotation helps you look at the book through a very specific lens.
But if you’re reading for class discussion or maybe just a quick response paper (which teachers make you write to prove you’ve read the book) then just read the damn book. Enjoy it. Let it sink into your soul. Maybe stick a few sticky notes on passages you loved. Maybe underline a few quotes. If you have trouble remembering story details or have questions then write them on the inside front cover in a few words to jog your memory later. But don’t interrupt yourself too often.
Annotation is important. It’s always good to know how something works including a book. But reading is an experience for the heart. It’s not meant to be boiled down to a few notes on mechanics.
Don’t ruin reading for yourself.