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Annotating my favourite book

For years and years I hated the idea of anyone writing in a book, it felt sacred to me and I guess it was because I had only ever owned one copy of a book, and then I went to uni and hated reading books someone else had annotated (unless it was helpful to me in which case… thank you mystery annotator). So I just didn’t like the idea, but since joining the online book community and seeing the breathtaking annotations and sketches people put in their books, and being financially able to own multiple copies of my favourite books, has made me really reevaluate this stance.

So in 2021 I discovered my favourite book, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. And a couple of months ago I felt overcome with a desire to annotate it and make my paperback copy a beautiful and well loved treasure that encompasses all of my thoughts on it. However, I was terrified of touching it in case it doesn’t look how I want it to and I was very intimidated by the amount of time it would take to do it, for those of you wondering- it was two months because I got distracted by other books I wanted to read in the meantime.

The Night Circus, as I’m sure many of you will know, is about a magical atmospheric circus which features as the stage for a magical competition between our two protagonists, Celia and Marco. We follow them through Morgenstern’s beautiful prose and enchanting imagery as they master their crafts and fall for one another. All the while learning more about the circus and those who put it together and the difference in their techniques.

My first dilemma was whether to annotate in pen or pencil and although it’s risky because if it goes wrong it can’t be taken out, I went for a pen! I like the look more and I want it to be able to last, whereas pencil can fade really easily. Although I tried my hardest, there were points that I hate my handwriting, I have no idea how people on insta make it look so gorgeous on theirs, I’m convinced that in itself is magic. And I stayed fairly on theme with the black and white, I bought a grey highlighter to highlight things and some dark red tabs to tab different things throughout the book!

One day I would love to draw in it too because it just looks so beautiful when people draw in their books based on what is happening but I don't think I’m anywhere near talented enough to do that just yet, my failed art GCSE is not gonna help me confidence wise here! I did however start writing in songs that reminded me of what was happening- you cannot tell me that Enchanted by Taylor Swift is not about Celia and Marco, because it is!! So I've also started making a spotify playlist about it which is fab.

As I was rereading, I found myself falling in love with the circus all over again, and knowing what is going to come was really interesting because I could then see so many times things had been foreshadowed throughout the book that I missed on my first read. I also felt like I could pay more attention to the detail and atmosphere than I could the first time because I wasn’t chasing the plot. It felt so welcoming, coming back into the circus and I loved it.

I think the thing I struggled with, as always, was consistency. I think because I did the first 60 odd pages two months ago, by the time I finished I was underlining and annotating more. I don’t know whether that is just because the writing gets better and deeper as you go along, but I think I started off being quite conservative in my approach and by the end I was being very liberal. Given that this is a book I will reread multiple times throughout my life it is okay because I can add to it, but it is something I want to keep consistent in the future.

I also love how meta it becomes towards the end through the conversation between Widget and Alexander, I loved what Morgenstern was writing about the telling of stories there, it felt as if she were talking to the reader which I loved. I noticed it when I first read it, but like it is said in the book- memories never quite live up to the circus in the way that being there does and I think the same can be said for the reading experience.

Ultimately, I loved revisiting this world and finding more depth to these characters, to the atmosphere and uncovering the profound messages at the heart of this book. Annotating iut was something I did love doing though probably something I need to get more practise at to feel I’m doing it well! I’m really hoping that it is something I will do again in the future with other books that I adore, so that I have beautiful copies that I can look back on and enjoy and add to over time. Do you annotate books? Let me know!


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