If you’re reading books, particularly non-fiction books, you should highlight them.
Stick that highlighter on your desk and anytime you come across an interesting, exciting, insightful, controversial, or dubious passage bust it out and get to work. Highlighting is a more active form of reading and will help with retention. That alone makes the juice worth the squeeze.
But Wait, There’s More!
Highlighting also saves future you time and energy. There are very, very few books I go back and reread in their entirety (and the ones I do tend to get reread more than once). But it’s very common that I go back through and reread my highlights. If I’m stuck on a particular problem eventually my mind will wander over to the library. If there’s a book on the subject (or a closely related one) then it’s time to walk over and start digging through those yellow bits of gold. The best part is, they’ve been curated by someone who knows you best, you!
In a world of tweets, youtube videos, and online articles books reign supreme in quality and completeness of thought.
Twitter is lightning fast. YouTube adds audio and visual elements. And they both have the potential to go viral in a way books can’t. But the time, effort, and cost that goes into polishing a book and getting it published tends to yield a more complete product than your average tweet. The fact of the matter is every Twitter account isn’t run by a Naval or a James Clear. The world would be a better place if they were.
Books are a kind of anti-Google. They’ll cost money and the volume isn’t in the same universe. But, most satisfyingly, books aren’t written for an all-powerful and omnipresent search engine, they’re written to be read by people.
Any highlighter can work. Those highlighters you have stuffed in various drawers, sitting in a coffee mug on your desk, or laying at the bottom of a backpack will get the job done.
Some books have cheaper pages that cause bleed through. If you turn a page and it isn’t prohibitively distracting then push on with whatever highlighter you have on hand.
But, for the more discerning connoisseur of highlights, there can be only one. The Zebra Zebrite highlighter is of the utmost quality, pinky-out optional.
After using dozens of highlighters from who knows how many different brands I’ve objectively (OBJECTIVELY!) settled the debate and the Zebrite reigns supreme. Yes, they’re more expensive. But that’s because they were designed for those uber-thin bible pages. I can’t attest to whether or not they bleed through the good book, but they certainly get the job done for books of varying quality that I’ve used them on.
So, should you highlight your books?
100%. Positively. Absolutely. Hard yes.
Whatever it costs you in time and additional expense it is peanuts compared to the luxury of having a full war chest of important or interesting highlights at your fingertips. Spend the money, take the extra two seconds to highlight, and do future you a solid. It’s one of the most worthwhile investments you can make.
Until next time,
P.S. If you’re strictly reading for enjoyment that’s fine. I usually don’t highlight fiction books unless there is something particularly insightful/funny/interesting. Pleasure reading has its place and if highlighting takes away from the experience then don’t worry about it.
How to Build Productive Habits: A Starter Kit
13 Great Quotes from Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon