How My Note Taking Has De-Evolved

  Once upon a time I would pick up a book and read.  It did not require much effort or time; but my reading experience would be short-lived.  However after reading The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, I knew I did not want to read a book that old way ever again.

      Immediately, I bought a three ring binder, inserted lined paper, and created a commonplace book for my note taking.

Highlighters are not helpful to write words with.
      Like a typical rule follower, I began by reading each chapter of the novel, underlining or highlighting important ideas, adding question marks to sections I did not understand, circling names, drawing stars, happy faces, and brackets to areas of agreement or amusement, and occasionally inserting my own opinions in the margin.  After completing a chapter, I paused to write at least one or two sentences into my commonplace book summarizing the most important event from that particular chapter.

A large space for a few thoughts is a gold mine.

        Then, like a typical rule breaker, I twisted the procedure a bit.  After several good books, I found that I could quickly jot a sentence or two in the blank area between chapters without ever using separate paper.  Having my bulky binder with me at all times was not conducive, especially given that I started reading everywhere: while I was homeschooling, cooking diner, waiting for hours at the doctor’s office, or riding as a passenger in the car.

Sometimes one word is enough.
      Soon, using a fat highlighter and making short sentences in between chapters would wane, too. Hence, this is what I do now: while I still underline, add question marks, make circles, draw stars, smileys, and brackets, and insert occasional comments or remarks in the margins, my short sentences have simply become my own style short hand of incomplete sentences or single-word indications.

Direct remarks to author are occasional.
      After I have read about ten chapters, I use my Word program to type out my summaries.  Returning to each chapter, I attempt to interpret my scribble and short hand, reread underlined areas, and finally come up with full and complete sentences in English summarizing each chapter, which I eventually form into paragraphs.  When I have finished reading the entire book and have typed up all of my summaries, I print them out and stick them into my binder.
     Yes, it was inevitable that my note-taking while reading would de-evolve because it fit my lifestyle for the time being.  And who knows.  That could all change again, too.

     For a different perspective on note taking while reading, please visit these fellow WEMers at:

Jeannette, Christine, and Christina Joy of Classic Case of Madness

I almost did not make it past chapter 40 of Portrait of a Lady.

Post Script:

          Some would say it is dreadful to write in a book, and I am genuinely in full agreement.  I loathe to write in my books; but I do it all the time.  I have lent books to friends who laugh to find my colorful thoughts written within the margins.

          But, sticky notes lose their stick, and lose leaf paper gets lost.  What else can I do when I must add my thoughts as they instantly come to me?  Hence, I have been reduced to purchasing a second copy of a book that I plan never to deface; and I have done it once already.  That book was Jane Eyre.


  1. This is quite impressive, Ruth. I probably wouldn't be writing summaries at all if not for your positive peer pressure! I REALLY resisted it in the beginning. The habit has finally stuck.

    I love how you print out your summaries at the end. What a wonderful resource for you to revisit.

    Thank you so much for taking part today. This has been fun! :D

    1. Printing out my summaries and inquires really comes in handy when I have my son read a classic that I had already read, and I have to give him essay questions similar to our inquiry questions. Then I just check my sources w/o having to re-read or research what the answer may be. And I know as my other four grow older, they will be reading them, too; by then I may have forgotten what I had read.

  2. LOL for your thought for the Portrait of A Lady! :))
    I agree, it's much easier to write in the book, but I felt guilty after that. And when we'd like to re-read it in the future, we might write about something else for the same passages; then writing it separately is the best choice.

    I admire you for thinking about printing and keeping your summaries neatly. I also type it in Words, then post it in blog. I think I'd prefer keep everything online.

  3. I hadn't thought of typing out my summaries. That is a great idea. I too want to keep my reading summaries because I'm homeschooling and want to remember my thoughts when I discuss those books with my daughter.

  4. Wow. Typing our your summaries after the fact! Now that is a dedicated
    reader/WEM-er. I too take advantages of reading anytime/anywhere. One of these days I'm going to do a faceplant on the sidewalk as I try to read on the walk home from work.

    1. : D I think I would consider audio books if I ever risked injury while reading.

    2. Today would have been a great day for audio books. The sidewalks are slippery! Plus I'm terrible at writing in my book while walking. I wonder if I'll even be able to read what I wrote. It must be too much like walking and chewing bubble gum.