Should I Highlight My Reading Books?

Reading is an activity that we all carry out differently and it pays to have a system with which you effectively carry it out.

For example, I like to take notes every now and then when decoding complex material from books and other times I just like to read without taking any notes.

There are a variety of reading techniques that people use and one of these techniques is called highlighting.

Highlighting is basically the act of highlighting something that a person finds use in a book, it is done by underlining a sentences, paragraph, quote etc with a pen or highlighting the important text with a color marker.

This then brings about a question of whether it’s actually good to highlight a book.

This post will therefore discuss this.

With that said, Should I highlight my reading books?

You should only highlight books that you own, if at all you find something useful. Taking notes can be more effective because it can allow you to ponder, digress and process information in the book into your own understanding. However, highlighting is also good and effective way of tagging important details.

Advantages of highlighting books

Let’s get into some of the pros to highlighting books

Easy to find things

Sometimes you read a book and can’t exactly find the page where you read something that you may have enjoyed.

This can be frustrating and can have you flipping through multiple pages to locate one page. It can be difficult if the book has so many pages.

Most people give up and continue reading the book in the hopes that they’ll come across something that can connect back to the idea that they can’t find.

In such situations highlighting things that you find interesting can be a great way to keep track of everything. Whether a passage, paragraph or sentence that may have stuck out to you.

Great way to take note of important sections

Books are all written in a certain way, but one thing we can agree on is that every book has important sections or pages and less important sections or pages.

It is your job as the reader to find the important pages. When you do find them however, highlighting them can help you come back to them easily.

This is important because the core ideas in a book may be scattered throughout the book and keeping track of each of them is no easy task at all.

Highlighting can be a way that you keep everything marked and ready to be revisited.

Can save you the time when re-reading

Almost every avid reader has a tendency to go back and read what they’ve already read before.

Even I do this.

This practice is common for complex books whose ideas cannot be easily understood on the first read.

in such situations, the second or third read of a book can help you understand things that you might have missed or forgot entirely.

Keeping key points highlighted through out a book is an effective way of making re-reading easy.

Because, you can easily hone in on the things that you highlighted and found useful rather than re-reading the book word for word Because it can simply be time consuming.

You can share and help a friend easily

Sometimes you may enjoy a book so much that you may want to share it with a friend, or they may just like a book in your collection and may want to borrow it.

If this is the case the highlighted points can be great for a person that is reading the book for the first time.

It can be a guide as well as a good indication towards ideas that you may have found interesting.

They can pick up on this and try to use and understand it in their own way.

You can skip note taking

Notetaking is an effective way of reading and something I personally recommend for all readers.

However there are those times when taking notes isn’t something you really want to do. There are several reasons for this.

Sometimes you just want to enjoy a book without taking breaks to write down what you read and this is fine.

Which is why highlighting can be a great way to tag everything you find interesting and keep reading without disturbing the flow or pace.

Highlighting is much faster and more effortless as compared to taking notes.

Disadvantages of highlighting reading books

Of course there are several disadvantages to highlighting books. I’ll discuss some of these below.

Can be distracting

Highlighting may be a great way to obviously highlight important things but it can also be distracting.

Reading demands attention and you have to concentrate. This way you can hone in on what you’re reading as well as keep your mind engaged on the activity itself.

Taking breaks to highlight something can mess up your whole flow of reading which can make reading tiring.

Most people can even give up on the reading itself once they’re distracted. Especially those with a low attention span.

Can mess up a good book

There’s always that feeling we get when we read a book that has been well taken care of.

You can most of the times take note of a book that is well cared for and one which is not.

Reading a well maintained book is great because it is much enjoyable to read.

Highlighting can mess up a good book if it is done in excess. People may fail to enjoy the book and read it properly because their eyes will most likely jump to the highlighted material before reading other parts of the book.

This greatly diminishes the reading experience.

Note taking can be more effective

There are situations where note taking can be more effective.

When reading a complex book, sometimes it’s not enough to highlight key points. Sometimes you need to take notes and take more notes of your own understanding of the book.

Note taking can be a great way to think about what is being read.

It is much easier to think with a pen because writing is a form of thinking…. and can be precisely looked at as externalized thinking.

Can prolong reading

Highlighting just like note taking can make reading a longer activity.

Both these practices require you to stop and take a look at what exactly you read and then figure out just how much of it is important to be either highlighted or taken down as notes.

Reading requires mental energy and a well developed habit of reading.

The average person doesn’t read as much.

Highlighting can make them read even lesser because it can distract them and make them lose their focus and concentration.

Some people can of course manage to read and highlight but not everyone can.

Therefore, sometimes it’s better to just read a book first without hanging on to everything that sticks out to you.

Only works if you own the book

The other downsdie to highlighting a book is that it only works if you own the book.

If you highlight a book you borrowed from the library, you may be charged a fine or even sued If the book is of high importance.

Makes reselling difficult

Lastly, highlighting a book will make it harder to resell if need arise.

There are a few people that would buy a book with markings all over the place.

Most people prefer to buy books that are in mint condition.

Articles You Might Find Interesting

Should You Take Notes When Reading?

Is It Better To Read In Your Head?

Helpful Resources

Highlighting – UNC Learning Center

How can I highlight my textbooks efficiently? – Cliffs Notes

Effective Highlighting and Ways to Mark Books

How to Be a Good Reader: Highlighting – Classical Conversations

Using Different Colored Highlights to Increase Reading – Ave Maria