How-To

7 Ways to Mark a Book

7 Ways to Mark a Book

We’ve mentioned before that to get the most out of any reading, you must interact with what you read.

Mortimer Adler, probably best known in homeschool circles as the author of How to Read a Book, makes the case for marking in a book and the role writing plays in activating the mind.  He then shares the seven devices he uses “for marking a book intelligently and fruitfully.”

In summary, they are:

  1. Underlining major points.
  2. Marginal lines to emphasize points underlined.
  3. Asterisks in the margin to denote the 10-20 most important statements in the book.
  4. Marginal numbers to denote sequences.
  5. Reference page numbers in the margin to tie ideas together throughout the book.
  6. Circling key words/phrases.
  7. Writing questions/answers or rephrases of the author’s statements on the page.

He also adds an eighth device covering his use of the front and end papers.

You can read his complete case for marking a book, along with the full description of his marking devices in an article that appeared in the July 6, 1941, edition of The Saturday Review of Literature titled “How to Mark a Book.”

There are three kinds of book owners. The first has all the standard sets and best-sellers—unread, untouched. (This deluded individual owns wood-pulp and ink, not books.)

The second has a great many books—a few of them read through, most of them dipped into, but all of them as clean and shiny as the day they were bought. (This person would probably like to make books his own, but is restrained by a false respect for their physical appearance.)

The third has a few books or many—every one of them dog-eared and dilapidated, shaken and loosened by continual use, marked and scribbled in from front to back. (This man owns books.)