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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Noted

When my children were in grade school, their English teachers often required them to annotate their reading: For each chapter, students had to produce a prescribed number of Post-It notes commenting on plot, character, or theme.

 

My children, good readers both, hated this process. And I couldn’t blame them. For those of us who love getting swept away by literature, nothing takes you out of a book faster than stopping to take notes. I miss a lot of things about school, but taking notes on my reading is definitely not one of those things.

 

So I was bemused to learn last year, via an article in the Washington Post, about a corps of online “book influencers”—now there’s a job description I wish had existed when I was in college!—who focus on annotation, showing off their marginalia and their bristling forests of book tabs.

 

One of these folks, Eboni Thompson, who posts online as @thelovelythings505, began her post-college annotation career with Sense and Sensibility, the WaPo reports. “As she started reading, she realized how much she wanted to remember about the book after she was finished,” the newspaper explains, and so she began marking unfamiliar words or important passages she wanted to come back to. And because our culture is a strange, strange place, Instagram and TikTok now pay her to put this stuff online.

 

 But hey—Thompson’s Instagram is a charming place, filled with photos of well-thumbed Penguin Classics illuminated by tealights or artfully stacked near mugs of milky tea. Her literary taste seems to be excellent, encompassing everyone from Victor Hugo to Dostoevsky to Toni Morrison.

 

And what’s Thompson’s latest read? None other than Northanger Abbey, from which she’s pulled five quotes she especially likes. (Although not my favorite: “A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing any thing, should conceal it as well as she can.” Ouch!)

 

I may not understand why you would voluntarily annotate your books—well, unless TikTok was paying you to do it—but I can’t fault anyone who has managed to get 24,000 Instagram browsers to pay attention to Northanger Abbey. More power to you, Eboni! May your Post-It notes never lose their sticking power!

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Kylowna Moton
Kylowna Moton
Jan 18

I've had an Instagram account for years that I do not use. I might start now. 🤔 This won't necessarily be to look at notes in books (I get enough of that at home), but I do think there is a great variety of content that fascinates me just due to the creative ways people share their interests and attract others to share them as well! Thanks again!

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Deborah Yaffe
Deborah Yaffe
Jan 19
Replying to

Yes, it's amazing, in both good and bad ways, to see what people are willing to share online. . .

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