Why I Love Active Reading

little talks

A few days ago, I read Corey Ann Haydu’s Life By Committee (which was a great book, btw- definitely watch out for it!) and was pleasantly surprised that the main character, Tabitha, was a reader. In the book, she mentions active reading and defines it as: writing notes in the margins, asking questions and underlining, asterisking, and highlighting anything that hits the reader emotionally or intellectually.

I was fascinated by this because I ‘read actively’ too. I didn’t used to do it until four years ago, when I got really addicted to YA. I started writing down my favourite quotes and commenting on them, to take note of those that I loved, related to or those that made me swoon or made me ponder about things. At that time, I was against writing on margins or marking my books because I wanted them to stay pristine.

And then I discovered ebooks, where I could easily highlight and make notes. I was delighted by this feature and it’s one of the reasons why I continue to read ebooks no matter how much I’d rather own physical copies. There was point that I was reading only ebooks mostly so when I went back to reading physicals, I itched to highlight or underline important things. So, I did. I still do now. I use a pencil to mark my books because I do not trust myself with a pen.

“It’s like having a conversation with the book. It tells me things and I respond with semi-illegible scrawlings and exclamation points, and wild circles around phrases that hit me really hard.”  – Life By Committee, Corey Ann Haydu

Active reading is pretty awesome. I love it because it’s like leaving footprints as I was reading. I love it because it helps me retain memory of what I’ve read and also because it helps me write book reviews. Sometimes, I do find myself reading passively but doing so makes me feel sad after because I feel like I didn’t interact with the book. I love active reading because I’m not simply a bystander- I also get to be a participant.

Are you an active reader? Do you like making notes, underlining, highlighting, etc.? Why or why not? Let’s talk!

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39 Responses

  1. I think I’m just like you I love physical copies but I can only really read books on my kindle because I’m able to add notes and highlight certain areas and all without having to put any marks or sticky substances sticky (like post-it notes) on the pages

    I also think it helps when I write my reviews, because of how much I read sometimes I need to be reminded of why I loved this book without getting it mixed up with another one.

    1. Yep, ebooks are totally convenient! Glad you agree that active reading is helpful- especially when it comes to writing reviews. It’s so much easier to express how you felt about the book then!

  2. Before I started blogging I used to mark my books too, my friends call me crazy because they think it’s wasteful because it would mess my books daw. But i think it’s not, it feels like you’re talking/discussing with book. It’s fun especially if the book is really good. It makes you remember the emotions you felt while reading that book. I like physical books too but active reading made me appreciate ereaders more. Very nice article Hazel :)

  3. I’ve never actually done that. I like the idea, but first of all I like to keep my books intact and second of all when I read sth that I really like I just want to keep reading. So I don’t know if I’d have the patience to stop and take notes.

  4. I actually wrote a post about this super recently. I’m not an active reader, but I think I COULD be if I tried. Generally I don’t have that much to say that’s worth writing down and if I DO want to say something I usually update Goodreads. I sometimes use page tags in books, so that’s similar. I think I would have a really hard time getting myself to write in my books, but I at least want to decriminalize the act in my mind. You know?

    1. I must’ve missed it! I don’t always write down sensible things, sometimes just small comments, especially when what I’m reading is mostly a light-hearted novel. But when I come across a novel that really makes me think, I love writing on the margin- questions, thoughts, or something that that part reminded me of. But yeah, I understand what you mean, Lisa! :)

  5. I’ve always been an active reader with all my school books, but never with my personal books. However, I am starting to break out of my “must keep my books perfect” comfort zone and started to use tabs and lightly mark the beginning and end of quotes with pencil. I wish I could go further, but I am still in that mind frame of needing to keep my books in that like new condition. But I think one day I’ll get there with the margin notes and highlighting :)

    1. I’m used to doing it with my school books too! Haha, I do really get what you mean with about having a desire to keep books in a mint condition. But I think once you let go of that, it’s fun to scribble down notes and “have a conversation” with the book you’re reading! :)

  6. Ooooo, good topic Hazel! I don’t mark my books much, if at all, unless the book tells me too, but I do makes notes elsewhere for the book. I will marker my favourite page quotes with paper inbetween the pages, and I’ll make notes and notes on my laptop during and after reading a book, but physically marking, I’m not that brave!

    1. Thanks, Amanda! I don’t know- personally, I kinda think that making notes outside the book feels different from underlining/marking lines or words that hit me and commenting on them on the actual book. I do that sometimes too and I feel like I’m already formulating my review then than just actively interacting with the book I’m reading.

  7. I haven’t used the highlighting feature on my kindle before! I don’t think I will ever want to write in my actual book and I usually don’t have my own physical books, just library or ereader. And, usually if I am active with the book, I post updates to Goodreads. That’s my best tactic for marking quotes or thoughts for the review! Great topic!

  8. Hi, I’m really enjoying your blog at the moment so I nominated you for a liebster awards.
    You can check out my post, and your 11 questions over at missnoodlebug.blogspot.com – I look forward to reading your post! x

  9. I’ll never highlight, scribble or basically anything that will leave a mark on my physical books. I see people use sticky notes to mark their favorite passages though. I usually remember my favorite quote and my favorite part but if there’s a lot, I’ll just jot down notes. For ebooks, my Kobo has this option to virtually dog-ear the page which is really convenient. :D

  10. Love this so much! This is one of the reasons I connected so much with Tab and it’s great to point out. I always WANT to be more conscientious about marking books and writing down favorite quotes and marking passages but I think reading eBooks have made me not as great as I used to be. Which is sad.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  11. I’ve just started being an active reader! Usually I just fangirl majorly in my head, but recently I’ve been taking some of my favorite quotes, which I usually mark with a sticky note, and than write them down in a composition journal so I can always have them. Scribbling in books make me cringe, it’s literally torture when I have to annotate for school!

  12. Wow this post actually inspired me to be more active while reading! I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to write on their books because idk…I feel like I’m harming the book LOL. Silly me. I only write on books when they’re for school, but after reading your post, I think it’s better for me to write on the book like highlight my favorite parts etc. so that when I go back and reread that book, I’d know which lines has struck me during the first time that I read that book. Great post!

  13. The only way I read ‘actively’ is by marking down quotes, but I only do that with ebooks just because it’s so much easier to keep track of them! Also, I feel like when I’m reading a ebook, I’m much more attuned to the actual content so it’s easier for me to pick up on what I like and what makes me think and stuff like that. Weird, I know. Honestly, I’m not against marking stuff down in my books but I don’t really want to either. I like reading because it’s a way for me to escape into another world and I feel like if I had the idea of reading actively on my mind, I would have a harder time getting invested. Some might argue that by marking things down and encouraging yourself to think, you’re actually MORE invested but I don’t know… having to stop to jot something down ruins the whole experience for me. Also the idea of marking up a nice book scares me. I feel comfortable writing in a book only when it’s a little banged up and I hate doing that on purpose! I like when it happens naturally, like when I accidentally drop my book into a puddle even though that sounds ridiculous, I know. But once it gets a bit ruined and looks a bit more read, that’s when I feel comfortable marking it up.

  14. I’m not an active reader simply because I can’t bring myself to writing in my books. Whenever we have to do it in class for English, I inwardly cringe. It’s like I’m physically hurting them. (Don’t look at me like I’m crazy haha!)

    1. Gathering from everyone’s comments on this discussion, it seems that I’m the crazy one for marking my books haha! I totally get what you mean because I was like that before. But now, I kinda view my marked-up books as a sign of my love for the story/writing instead. ;)

  15. I love physical books but I can’t for the life of me live without e-books. They are so convenient and like you, I love highlighting quotable quotes but I just can’t do it in a real book. I just don’t trust myself with pens and highlighters, I can’t even keep a straight line. :D lol.

  16. There’s something about writing in a book that makes me cringe. I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to my books… Now that I own an ereader I highlight stuff because it doesn’t ruin the pages of my book but other than that, I never mark anything. If I really liked a part I might stick a post-it on the page but I don’t think I’ve ever actually done it. I like quotes on Goodreads and keep track of them over there.

  17. This post makes me cringe because I’m one of those who could never, ever, ever mark my books! I don’t know why, and I definitely understand why you and other readers enjoy active reading, but I have an actual physical reaction to anything coming near my books. I have to hold them really carefully because I’m paranoid I’ll crack the spine; I never dog-ear pages; I’m careful not to damage the corners and dust jackets of my hardcovers. I don’t know why, but I just love to see books in that perfect state. Plus, I hate my handwriting so I’d have a fit if I ruined my beautiful book full of beautiful words with my horrible scrawl!

    My e-reader has a highlighting function too, and I have tried using it so I’m more actively reading, but I find it too fiddly as it’s a touchscreen. Most of the time it picks up the wrong word and won’t highlight all of what I want it to. Then I end up being pulled out of the book, and I decided it was just better for me to keep on reading.

  18. I am definitely not an active reader! I’ve sometimes had the urge to highlight certain passages because I loved them, but I am too much of a perfectionist. I could never mark my books in any way because then they’d be tainted! In some ways, I wish I could be an active reader, because then upon re-reading, I could remember my thoughts on things, and see which passages I really loved. But alas, I am not an active reader, and this will never happen, haha.

  19. I have tried to be an active reader and take notes and all that, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t do it. I was raised in an environment where books were sacred and under no circumstances should you write in them. Like, it literally makes me cringe to think about people writing notes in books and highlighting. For a while I used to write down my favorite quotes in a quote journal, but that interrupted my reading so I stopped. I think it’s awesome that you can connect to books in that way though! It’s awesome how we all have different reading styles.

  20. I leave bookmarks and highlights in my e-books all the the time. I’ve bought few physical books since I bought my first Nook a few years ago. I always buy physical books for school, though. For years, I refused to write in my books. Writing notes in a separate notebook and tabbing the the book is a terrible way to make notes for English class. Trying to match up my notes with an exact quote from the book made class discussions really stressful for me. Don’t even get me started on essays.

  21. For the most part, I’m pretty appalled by the idea of writing in a book, but occasionally I read a description like yours in which it’s clear that writing in a book can be another level of engaging with the book and making yourself think. Something about that really appeals to me. I currently take notes for reviews in a word doc as I read or right on my kindle when reading an ebook, but I’d like to do more saving my favorite quotes and writing down what I’m thinking as I read. Great discussion!

  22. Oh no, I can’t do that. My books has to be clean and almost new looking, haha. I do like the high light feature on my e-reader and I like to put sticky notes in my book and writing down quotes in a notebook – but I could never scribble inside a book. I do like how it looks and the idea of really ‘living’ inside a book :) But it’s against my nature, haha.

    1. I’d actually never imagine coming to the point where I’m really comfortable (and happy and proud) to be scribbling in books! I was against it too before but I’ve overcome that now. When I see my markings, I feel like my books are really mine. :)

  23. As you read more books the depth and breadth of your knowledge expands and your ability to form new associations increases. In reading a book to discover the solution to one problem, you find the solution to others you may not have considered.

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