10 Reasons to Write in Your Books

Do you write in the books you own? Some people feel that marking up a book or horrors—dog-earing it— is heresy, but here are 10 reasons why I can’t imagine reading a physical book without a pen or highlighter in hand.

For most of us with average memories underlining passages that inspire or facts we want to retain increases the odds of remembering more of what we read.

Combining the tactile act of writing with the cerebral act of reading helps engage more deeply with the material.

Tangibly connecting with the ideas and mind of the author sharpens our thinking.

A beautiful sentence or paragraph deserves to be honored with yellow highlighter, pencil marks, and ballpoint under typeface.

Writing in the margin makes reading become a conversation we have with the author.

We leave a remnant of our interaction with the book. For us to return to later, for those who come after us to have a glimpse of how we thought.

It’ part of the map of our becoming. Coming back to sections or lines we’ve highlighted or notes we’ve made in margins reminds us of the point in our journey that we were at when we read that book.

It makes a book ours alone; every mark says “this is what mattered to me.”



We have a visual, thumb-through-it record of what was important to us that can be pulled off a shelf now or in 30 years, regardless of tech developments.

Our interaction with a book is more valuable than a pristine page.


So highlight, underline, bracket, circle, star.

Use exclamation marks, draw happy faces and sad faces and open mouth circle faces on parts that jazz you, make you smile or frown or shock you.

Sass back to the author in pencil when you disagree. Even better, love on the author with your pen when you think they’re brilliant.

Leave a record of what moves you.

Ink the questions that the ideas raise.

Writing in my books is a pleasure, the gift of thinking given back to the author, a little love letter in the margins.