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Three Things That Will Take Your Book Journal to the Next Level

by Jacki Andre 16 Aug 2020
Three Things That Will Take Your Book Journal to the Next Level

Since you’re here--at my journaling blog--you’re probably a writer at heart. Amirite? And, since a love for reading and writing often go hand-in-hand, it's a good guess that you're a reader too. Why not combine your love of both things by recording details about books you've read in a dedicated book journal? 

What Exactly IS a Book Journal?

At its most basic, a book journal or a reading journal is a log of your reading activity. But, as I’m fond of saying in my journaling blogs, there are no rules. Just like any other personal journal you keep, your reading journal can be anything you want it to be.

To get started, pick a durable lined journal that you love. Writing journals contain anywhere from 150-250 blank pages. Unless you take copious amounts of notes on each book, it’ll probably take a few years to fill in one reading journal. Choose a notebook that you’ll enjoy working in and that will hold up over time. If you like, you could look for one with cover art or an inspirational quote that speaks to reading or writing--like this Writing Pen Journal from SohoSpark. For ideas on what exactly to look for, check my blog about how to choose the perfect notebook.

Next, start creating your index. An index is a key component of the bullet journal system. It’ll be particularly helpful in a journal that contains a few years’ worth of notes. Megan over at Page Flutter has a terrific example of a reading journal index if you need some direction in creating your own.

Finally, decide what you want to track. Obviously, the purpose of a reading journal is to log the books that you’ve read. But there are all kinds of other things that you can track too.

Things to Track: Books Read

There are a few reasons to journal about the books you’ve read.

  1. To help you remember details. I have a shelf designated for books that I absolutely adore. But, hey, I’m 49 years old. I read some of those books decades ago. I absolutely admit to having only a sketchy memory of some of them. As I discussed in another blog, just putting pen to paper helps us remember stuff. But a written log is also great for reference purposes.
  2. To be more mindful. In a guest post at Page Flutter, Alice Causarano says that the act of writing down even just the basic information about a book (title, author, date read) makes you actively think about the book, instead of just reading it passively.
  3. To become a better writer. In an excellent piece, Paul Sohn looks at how Mark Twain and David Foster Wallace interacted with the books they read. Both of these authors made notes about things they admired, things they challenged, and new ideas that popped up as they read. If you’re a writer, reading other texts is crucial to honing your own craft. But taking it one step further, and thinking critically about those texts, can make a world of difference to your own writing.

Most people advise against taking too many notes since that can end up feeling like a chore. (Yawn. Amirite?)  Instead, writers and bloggers like Roni Loren suggest using about a half page per book. Loren suggests including:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Genre
  • Number of pages
  • Date you completed reading the book
  • A star rating
  • The format of the book (print, ebook, audiobook, etc.)
  • Why you decided to read the book
  • A brief review

As for the review, Esther Lombardi over at ThoughtCo. suggests thinking about things like your emotional reaction, how events or characters remind you of things from your own life, questions and light-bulb moments that occur, quotes that you want to remember, and a plot summary.

Things to Track: Reading Goals

Writing down your reading goals can help keep you on track--or help get you back on track--if you’ve been slacking on your reading. In her guest post at Page Flutter, Alice Causarano suggests goals like a set number of pages or a set amount of time to read each day; a set number of books to read each month; or a genre of books or a particular author to explore.

Things to Track: Lists

Lists are fun to make and can be great motivators. You might want to list things like:

  • Newly published books that you want to read;
  • Classics that you haven’t gotten to yet or want to reread;
  • Book club choices;
  • Titles in a series; or
  • Books you’ve abandoned (and the reasons for abandoning them).
Things to Track: Challenges

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut with our reading choices. Joining a reading challenge is an excellent way to discover new authors and genres. Find a challenge that interests you and copy that list into your reading journal. PopSugar’s popular reading challenge, for instance, has diverse reading suggestions, including:

  • The first book you touch on a shelf with your eyes closed;
  • A book with a map;
  • A book about or by a woman in STEM;
  • A book about or involving social media; or
  • Read a banned book during Banned Books Week.

Do you already keep a reading journal? If so, I’d love to hear what you track in yours. If you don’t, is it something you would consider doing? Please drop me a comment below - I’d love to hear from you!

Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

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