Posted in Book Related

A Reader’s Guide to Reading “S.” by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst


S. by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst is one of the most underrated books ever. I have seen this in bookTube when it first came out but I have never seen a lot of book reviews, it’s mostly book hauls. But even so, I was intrigued because of the unique format of the book. There are handwriting from two individuals who exchanged notes on the margins of the book with inserts here and there that added the experience to the story.

Furthermore, this is the book that you need to read from cover to cover literally. You need to read the Foreword of the translator and even the footnotes. If you are the type to skip both foreword and footnotes, this is not that book. You must read EVERYTHING.

The book looks like an old library book. Complete with the Book For Loan on the front and the list of the people who borrowed the book. Even the spine of the book has a sticker from the library.

Let’s ignore the different lighting of each photo.

However, no matter how beautiful this book is, it might be overwhelming when you don’t know how to read this book properly. Plus, there are problems that readers might encounter like the misplaced inserts or where to start when reading this book. So this post is all about helping out those who have this and don’t know where to begin because I am telling you, if you read this the wrong way you might find this book more trouble than it’s worth.



Before I talked about the way to read this book, let’s have a quick talk about the inserts first because misplaced inserts could ruin the reading experience. If you misread the wrong inserts at a certain point of the story it could be a spoiler or it would not make sense. And missing inserts is also a problem so make sure to not lose any while reading the book.

Head over to S.Files22 for the full list of inserts and to which page it was inserted to if your inserts fell out and you don’t know where to put it back.

A quick tip as well, put a sticky note on each insert and write the book page from where it was inserted. I’ve seen someone on bookTube doing the same thing and it really helps because you don’t have to look up the list every time an insert falls out. In doing so, you can take out the inserts after you read it and put it back after.


Furthermore, before diving into the book, it is best to look at the inserts first or just familiarized yourself first as to what they are because some inserts do not really correspond with the actual pages where they are inserted. For example, the characters talk about a newspaper on page 10 but the newspaper insert is found on page 33. But it does not happen often, probably 2 or 3 cases out of 10.


↣ 3 Ways to Read the Book:

  1. Read the handwriting first in the margins then read the book itself.
  2. Read the book first then read the handwriting in the margins.
  3. Read the book and margins notes at the same time.

In my opinion, the best way to read the book is to read the handwriting in the margins first then read the actual book along with all the notes. Also as I read the notes, I also read the highlighted part in the page to get the context of what the characters are talking about. By doing so, you would understand as to what the Ship of Theseus is about in an academic point of view and what is the story behind the writing of the book itself. In addition to that, you would also learn the mystery of the author’s identity. So when you read the actual book and read the notes in the margin again, you will have a full understanding of what is going on and you will have a good idea as to what the author is trying to convey as he was writing the book. In doing so, you would see the book in a different light.

I think one of the reasons why others think that this book is more trouble than it is worth is because they read it the wrong way. When you read the actual book first then read the notes in the margin, you will not get the full meaning of the book. It would feel flat and vague. You already have a prejudice that the actual book is not good that the notes on the margins would not really make a difference. So believe me when I tell you to read the notes on the margin first (along with the highlighted sentence) and then read the actual book by reading the margins along with it.

↣ Notes on the Margins:

You would notice if you flip the book that there are different colors of pens that the characters used while they exchanged notes. And that will be your guide because if you see a page with multi-color pens (as the picture below) it would be confusing if you just read it. Yes, even the notes on the margins have a way of reading it properly.


↣ Proper Order to Read the Notes:

The different colors of the pens that the characters used would show the progress that they have made in their research and their relationship. So when you read a certain color, finish it until the end then read the next color again from the very beginning. That is the best way to get into this book in my opinion.

1. Pencil – Eric’s earlier notes when he was first reading the book.

2. Blue & Black – Jen & Eric’s first correspondence.


3. Orange & Green – second correspondence.


4. Purple & Red – third correspondence


5. Black & Black – last correspondence (this may be a bit confusing as the black pen is also used in the first correspondence but skip it if you see that it was Jen’s writing).


You can read the pencil notes along with the blue & black notes. But if you read the pencil notes and realized that the next note is a different color, skip it if you are not reading that certain color yet. It may be hard to ignore the other colors in the margins but believe me, you will do a good job of ignoring it as soon as you get the jive on reading this book.

Also, keep in mind that the notes are not written in chronological order. Just because it was written on page 33 does not mean that it was written first. The characters would leave notes depending on the context of the written text or the relevance of their notes in the actual story. But it is not as confusing as it sounds.

↬Down the Rabbit Hole↫

Even though I said that this book is one of the most underrated, there are websites that are actually dedicated to this book alone. Some websites actually have details about the fictional murders and crime scenes that the story is referencing. There are also theories and explanations about certain vague scenes that happen in this book. I spend my night reading about it after I finished the book and it really adds up with the experience. However, keep in mind that it is just a theory you can still believe in how you interpreted things in the story.

So I have two websites to recommend to you if you finished the book and love it as much as I do or if you are reading the book and just intrigued about something that they reference a lot in the story. But discussion wise, I think it is not as active as it used to.

S. Files 22 – this is the first website where I found inserts guide to S. and understanding the clues here and there about the ciphers in the book.

Who is V.M. Straka – now this website is everything that you would ask for about S. There are theories and explanation as to what happened that we did not actually see in the book. There are articles and such about the fictional incidents that happened in the book. Everything that you need to know about S. is here. Even the missing Chapter 10! (That’s not a spoiler it’s in the first part of the book.)

So be sure to check out these two websites if you love S. because it will be a fun time. It would make you want to reread the book again!

So that is all for this reader’s guide. I hope this is helpful to those who have this book or I hope this will intrigue you and makes you want to buy the book.

Until next time!




A reader who becomes a villain, a queen, a princess, a heroine, and a warrior depends on the story that she reads. A dreamer who wishes to dwell in the world that she visited through the pages of her book. A frustrated blogger who wishes to put into words the frustration, boredom, and excitement that she felt throughout her many journeys outside the real world.

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