Taking Notes: Me & Little Red Moley

I’ve blathered on and on about how this blog is the online version of my reading journal. And so, well, here’s my reading journal.

(Above picture is a portion of my notes on The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields [thoughts on that coming soon], as well as the next two photos. Hadn’t finished reading the book yet when these were taken. [Clickie ze photos for larger view.])

I take notes while I read. And, before-and-after thoughts too. As well as a lot of other book-related thoughts like wishlists and recommendations and new books that make their way into my shelves. The notes I write on books are pretty much the foundation and first drafts for my Marginalia posts. With some books though, I just type what I’ve written and let that serve as navel-gazing. (Haha, that makes me lazy?)

I don’t know why I take notes. The most probable theory: it’s a habit that bled over from several years of reading for school. Taking Literature and Creative Writing classes—not to mention being in writers workshops—had me exercising margin fury, one that has evolved into a well-honed (er, rather tedious?) ability to annotate reading material in a companion notebook. And, well, I just really like taking notes. Satisfies the dork in me.

Heh, I have fun. Cripes, I cannot articulate how much fun I have with this itty-bitty notebook. I have a lot of fun. The companion notebook, Little Red Moley (LRM), is a pocket red Moleskine [that’s about 3 1/2″ x 5 1/2″]. LRM has become constant whenever I read–almost instinctual how I turn to it whenever something strikes me while I’m reading. The notebook is tiny, but my handwriting is tinier [hah!], and I admit to intense Dork Pleasure whenever I write on it. I like it neat, okay? See:

I also admit that I am mildly OCD-stricken. And I feel smug whenever someone—usually my boyfriend—shrieks, “Why is your handwriting so goddamned tiny?” Two lines to a line-space [what do you call that?]. It looks neater this way–and it’s fun being neat, ahahaha. Plus I’ve got a system. One that, most probably, is understood only by me. Obsessed, Sasha is. [I know I have a problem, don’t worry.]

Here’s some pages from LRM:

Fig.04 – Notes on The Postmistress by Sarah Blake; And Falling, Fly by Skyler White; The Highlander’s Sword, by Amanda Forester. The number beside the book title corresponds to the number of books I’ve read in 2010. So, Blake’s book is #48 for 2010.

Fig. 05 – Notes on Follies by Ann Beattie; and Conversion and Other Fictions by Charlson Ong. So I know what’s what, the book title is highlighted when I’ve finished reading it.


Fig. 06 – A [small] part of my ongoing notes on my still currently reading The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers . The quotes, as you may have figured out by now, are in red ink.

Fig.07 – A portion of my notes on Follies—love this short story (“The Rabbit Hole as Likely Explanation“) love this quote.

I made the decision to separate my reading journal from my usual Sasha Rants journal—a large unlined Moleskine, that one. For organization’s sake. Although I did enjoy tacking in Post-its on previous journals to indicate pages dedicated to book thoughts, it was around the time a friend gave me this wee notebook that I thought, Hey, let’s just indulge the OCD, okay? [A note on the Moleskine: I’ve been using Moleskines for about four years now. It’s not that it’s an image thing, there’s nothing ooh-hipster about it. I just really like how pens feel against the page; I love the creamy color, the texture. It doesn’t give me magical powers, although sometimes, I wish it did, haha.]

I like records. I like having this small notebook, and knowing that the books I’ve read are in them, as well as my responses and skirmishes with the author. In many ways, I think this little ‘un’s more personal than my “normal” journal. Hm.

Anyway. That is all. Share. Haha.

* This post took a nudge from Ash’s Moleskine-Love post! I obviously don’t use a Moleskine Passions Journal–at the moment, I can’t afford it (and as things look right now, I don’t think I ever will), so heh. Still, though: YayNotes. :)

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43 comments

  1. stilettostorytime · · Reply

    Love it! Thanks for sharing…don’t feel bad I have tiny perfect writing as well…people always say it looks like I typed stuff whenever I write for people…like the dr. office or directions…

    1. Thank you! And yeah, people do comment about how “typed” it seems. And they tend to mean it as criticism, for some reason, haha.

  2. Wow, these are beautiful!

    1. Thank you, Meghan. :)

  3. Sasha I absolutely LOVE this post. It appeals both to my cataloguing love *and* similar OCD tendencies! (I’m gonna go totally real here. I’ve been known to re-write a grocery list because I didn’t like my handwriting! Shhh!)

    To inquire about your organization, can I assume that you only read one book at a time then? And, do you find yourself writing in it everytime you read?

    Once again, LOVE IT! This is my favorite post this week, for sure!

    1. Oh, thanks so much, Christina. :) For loving the post–and understanding OCD tendencies, haha. And ZOMG, I rewrite mundane things too! I remember my boyfriend’s resignedness last Christmas, when I had to rewrite several Christmas cards because they didn’t look right, haha. Eep.

      I read several books at a time. But there’s always that one book that stands out and I have to turn to my notebook immediately. In the case of The Believer Book, as I noted above, I had to save about a page for it. Come to think of it, keeping a notebook coerces me to focus on a book and finish it. :)

      Thank you, thank you! :)

  4. LAVET. <3

    1. WE DORKEH LIKE DAT YO. <3

  5. Kevin Neilson · · Reply

    Fantastic, even if you do have an impulse control problem! Actually, the pictures are quite beautiful. The pages look like two colonies of ants in mortal combat. What passes through your mind right before you wield a red pen?

    1. Haha, thank you, Kevin. And the ants-in-mortal-combat image shall forever be attached to my note-taking now.

      I suppose you’re asking when I take notes? That is, what drives me to take one particular note? Language, mostly. When something makes my breath catch, I sit in a daze for a minute or two, mulling that over, and then turning to my notebook. And characters. And then all the other extras like, haha, like plot.

      I’d want to say that the notebook tends to focus on what I found good about the book–but [classroom] critiquing has permeated me already, a skirmish now and then is sure to pop up.

  6. Your notes are… beautiful. I love that you use two different colors. I could become quite obsessive with your little system here.

    Also, since I’ve started using the Passions Journal I’ve noticed that I feel a desire to getting another Moleskine just for notetaking just because I have so many thoughts. I think of the Passions Journal as more of a way to keep track of what I thought about a book later rather than what I’m thinking while I’m reading, although I do make notations of page numbers in my Passions Journal.

    1. Oh my goodness, thank you, Ash. I use a red pen with the quotes, since I need them easy-to-spot; I am, obviously, a quotewhore that way, haha. I love the language a book uses, and it’s only normal, I suppose, to feature them in my notebook.

      Like we babble about in Twitter, you know you want another one. :) I personally love how all-over-the-place my thoughts can be in my ‘usual’ Moleskine. This one’s got more focus. I don’t even know what a page in the Passions looks like, though–can’t you customize a bit?

      Oh, and I forgot to say up there that another good thing about having a small notebook is, well, it can be a bookmark, haha.

  7. Wow! I am super impressed! Those books are amazing! I went through a similar phase with my diary writing back in college. I wrote super small and used different colors and made it all pretty. Unfortunately I moved to an online diary and even though typing is a million times faster, I don’t write nearly as much! That’s so cool that you have these moleskin notebooks to treasure. Keep the thoughts and notes pouring out for years to come!

    1. Thank you so much, Julie. :) I used to have all sorts of ink colors for different imagined categories on a single page, haha. Thank goodness I’ve calmed down, even just a little bit. Writing will always be first go-to for me. Just the physicality of being bent over the page, the scratch of the pen. All that jazz.

  8. Wow, I love the little journal and give you the big props for the tiny handwriting. Many people have commented on my own small lettering and type-writer-like “font”. I have been keeping a log of the books that I have read for about 7 years now, but nothing as detailed as this.

    I am impressed!

    1. Thanks, Stephen. I haven’t been keeping a reading log as long as you have–although the prototype of my reading notebooks were Word documents: simple list, simple reactions. I do love how it’s evolved, haha. And thanks for understanding this so-called freakishly tiny handwriting of mine. :) Many thanks for visiting!

  9. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by sashasilverfysh: New post at Sasha&TheSilverfish >> TAKING NOTES: ME & LITTLE RED MOLEY: http://wp.me/pEpEj-ts — What my reading journal looks like. :)…

  10. Do Filipinos have OCD tiny neat writing or what? Lol. Your handwriting is lovely. Mine’s as small and I do get the looks-like-typed comment a lot. Although, funnily enough, as I got older my handwriting also got less small. Although still small by Canada and U.S. standards, ha ha.

    I use any kind of cheap notebook that I can get my hands on, provided they have the type of paper I like that, as you say, are creamy and feel good under a pen. And mostly I am a sucker for pretty covers. In fact, I just purchased three new notebooks yesterday (all cheap but all pretty) and was thinking of taking a photo and sharing.

    Question, how do you manage not to make mistakes? I usually draw a heart over my mistakes. Lol. I don’t take notes as conscientiously as you, but I do write down fave passages. My other notebooks are just for making lists, and doodling, etc. I’m such a notebook junkie, even if I have no need to use them.

    1. Thanks, Claire. One of the comments on my writing was, “Did you know tiny handwriting is a sign of a major inferiority complex?” Hahaha, that made me go Wah? :] “But I like it neat!” doesn’t seem to be a good enough case, for some reason. Boo.

      I am a notebook addict. I have too many notebooks. But I keep hoarding them. I have several sketchbooks and watercolor pads too. And that journal. And a reading journal. And another journal whose use I’m still trying to rationalize, but it’s so pretty, and I want to use it NOW. The Moleskines are pretty expensive, yes, but, well, I’ve grown really used to them. They’re not the only notebooks I use, though, but I like them best. And it helps that there’s this place where I get them half-off. Evil laugh. :] I like the, hm, the stoicness of the plain cover. Although when I get artsy, I paint over it, haha. Or, well, pass it on to artist boyfriend so he can attack it at will. :)

      That’s another beginning of this journal: I got tired of hunting down Post-it-marked pages on books that I decided to just keep them in one place. :) As with erasures, well, I don’t really mind them. I mean, if I make a “typo,” I just write Oops after it. Hahaha, I am very stream-of-consciousness that way. ;p I mean, I can’t stand squiggly erasures, and I’m not that uptight to draft it all in my head before I commit it to paper. :)

      And please share your photos! Many of us will be giddy beyond belief, I assure you.

  11. Jennifer · · Reply

    I think it’s fascinating that you keep a reading journal! The idea to do so never occurred to me before. But I like it. I think I’ll give it a go.

    I echo kiss a cloud‘s question: how do you manage not to make mistakes? My diary is riddled with cross-outs and patches of white-out.

    1. Hi, Jennifer. Hello from Tumblr. :) I’m flattered that my reading journal is giving you a push. I began with just noting down what I’d read, with a short reaction to it. And then I started recording the quotes I loved. And then it got out of control, haha.

      With the mistakes, as I’ve replied to Claire, I really don’t mind mistakes. It’s free writing, I suppose–it’s personal, so I don’t consider “typos” an offense to the whole thing. I just keep writing. If I misspelled something, or the “wrong” thought made it to paper, I just put in Oops that’s not what I’m supposed to say haha and move on. I don’t like crossing out. I’m way too OC for that, haha.

      1. Jennifer · · Reply

        How fortunate! I ALWAYS mind mistakes (it’s the perfectionist in me, I suppose). Sometimes, if I’m really unhappy with a diary entry, I’ll rip the page right off the binding, and start afresh. Thankfully, that’s not too often. I don’t like defiling my Moleskines. :P

        1. Eek, I rip out pages too. Not as much as I used to–sometimes I have to yank myself away from the notebook. The flimsiest of reasons: weird handwriting, not-so-ideal ink. We’re nutty, aren’t we? I suppose this is partly the reason why I try to not mind mistakes. Other than the fact that it just might drive me crazy, I’m likely to run out of notebooks too. :)

  12. I love the pictures of your notebook. I have a red Moleskein that I take notes in, but they are not nearly as neat as yours!

    1. Thank you, Kim. :) I love the red Moleskine–and, no worries, the neatness is as much a flaw as it looks cool, haha. :)

  13. […] I am mentioning it again because I want everyone to read it. Everyone. Also showed you guys what my Little Red Moley [my handy-dandy notebook for taking book thoughts] looks like, and so far the consensus is I have […]

  14. Wow, that’s some incredibly neat and beautiful handwriting you have there! My handwriting is awful and at times even I can’t read it. I think I deliberately made it so nobody could read my things.

    I admire that you can take notes while you read. I can’t do it because it distracts me and takes me out from the novel. And I share your Moleskin love. :-)

    1. Thanks, Mae. I’ve been scribbling notes alongside reading for so long, that I feel awkward now without a pen. It’s training from Lit and CW classes, I suppose. :) And I used to deliberately mess up my handwriting–but, well, I couldn’t understand them either, haha.

      To Moleskines! :]

  15. […] course I read it in one sitting. I am predictable that way. Heh. Following, lifted from my LRM, and I’m in a considerate mood, so I disguised possible […]

  16. Geez louise, that is a lot of tiny writing! Is it sad that my hand physically hurts from writing now?

    I’ve kept a notebook of Kari Ramblings (a la Harriet the Spy, composition book and all) since the 5th grade, and at one point in life, when I was uninspired to write anything, I started writing about the books I read. It only took me 3 years to figure out I should blog about that, and now I no longer write about books in my notebook.

    This actually kinda reminds me of scrapbooking—something I always wish I could do, and I have momentary inspiration, but I just end up with another scrapbook with only 2 pages used.

    1. I’m borderline O.C., haha. I’ve always liked journals, have kept one for years. Never Sasha Ramblings exactly, though my version doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it. :] The blog is actually just an online version of my Little Red Moley, give or take a few inanities. Why not do both, Kari? I dunno, just touting the whole handwritten tiny notebook thing, haha.

      Also, well, I can’t scrapbook because I always think my stuff looks messy that way, haha. It’s a wonder I even dabble at drawing with how uptight I can get, ;]

  17. […] This post led me to discover that we also share a philosophy on book blogging – not wanting to necessarily present ourselves as authorities on what other people should or shouldn’t read, but instead, reflect on our reading experiences, and when applicable, say, (in her words) “Goodness, my friend, read this, it’s awesomesauce!” (a phrase I was later reintroduced when she wrote about Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World). Also, like me, she enjoys a good, over-priced, “Little Red Moley.” […]

  18. […] “Taking Notes: Me and Little Red Moley.” What marginalia looks like when it doesn’t make it to the page. Thus, technically, making it not marginalia. Huh. […]

  19. My notebooks stunning lime green (this one) & I,ve been carrying notebooks for years, mainly because my memory’s is not that good, plus I like to think I have minor bursts of inspirition.

  20. Love this! Love Moleskines. And I need to know which kind of pens you use. (To satisfy the dork in me.) Thanks! :)

    1. Haha, thanks, Jessica: I’m not very particular about which pen I use, but they do have to be water-proof and fade proof. Artline and Uni-ball tech/drawing pens have worked well for me. I like Pilot G2 pens too, they’re fluid and they’re bright black, haha. Usually with .03 and .05 points. :]

  21. At the moment a Staedtler handwriting pen 309 (drysafe)

  22. That is simply lovely! I envy your tiny, perfect handwriting and extreme organization. If I could keep journals like that, maybe I’d actually succeed in keeping one! You have inspired me to try again. Though Moleskine lines are the perfect height for me to write a single line of text in…if I tried to match your tiny double lines, I wouldn’t be able to read a thing!

    1. Thanks so much, Erin. I wish you all the best with your journal-keeping. And no worries: I’m convinced that the tiny handwriting of mine is a particular sickness, haha, I can be really OC, but at the end of the day, there’s this little thrill when I leaf through the pages. I’ve been thinking of getting a plain Moleskine, though — this one’s running out — and maybe that expanse of page will let me loosen up a little. :] Welcome to the blog!

  23. Marija · · Reply

    This is awesome! Now I am gravely bothered by the fact that I haven’t gotten around to proper note taking in a proper notebook written in proper handwriting. Must there be something wrong with me?

  24. I CANNOT SO NEAT NEATNESS OVERLOAD OMG <3 it

  25. […] thought about a book so I can go back and remind myself. I love the idea of reading journals like this, but, really, I’m not crafty or patient enough or consistent enough with my reviewing to do it. […]

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