A Question on Marking Up Books

Question: What is your system for marking up books as you read?

This is easier to show than to explain, but the essence of my system is as follows. With this method, I am immediately reminded of the key elements in a book, years after I have read it.

I have four main types of markings based on the level of the content’s importance:

  • Level 1 (lowest importance): A vertical line in the margin
  • Level 2 (somewhat important): A small dash connected to the vertical line
  • Level 3 (higher importance): A small dash to the right of the vertical line
  • Level 4 (most important): A thin rectangle to the right of the vertical line

Additionally:

  • I reserve underlining for key phrases and structural components (e.g., first, second, etc.).
  • Denote objections to the content with a small circle () in the margin.
  • Note illustrations with an i on the page and at the beginning of the book (e.g., i, 22, 76). I bracket the illustrations in the text and copy the pages to create 3″ x 5″ card illustrations (or, if lengthy, 8.5″ x 11″ illustrations).
  • Note books with a b on the page and at the beginning of the book (e.g., b, 230).
  • Note words to look up with a d on the page and at the beginning of the book (e.g., d, 30, 77).

 

An example of my markup in two pages of Timothy Keller’s The Prodigal God.