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Transform your Reading by Keeping a Book Journal

by Jacki Andre August 06, 2018

Transform your Reading by Keeping a Book Journal

Hey Sparkly Unicorn Friends:

The most magical day of the year is just around the corner. No, not Christmas, you silly goose. Book Lovers Day. August 9

If you’re here, at my journaling blog, you’re a writer at heart. And if you’re a writer, it’s a fair assumption that you’re also a reader, and an avid reader at that. I suspect you, you cool cat, might find as much joy in celebrating books as I do.

There are all kinds of things you could do to mark Book Lovers Day, like:

  • Visit a library.
  • Browse a local bookshop and buy a new book (or three).
  • Read a book to a child, to imbue the love of reading in a new generation.
  • Pick up an old friend of a book and reread it or find your favorite passages.
  • Commit to a reading challenge, like the popular one at PopSugar.
  • Donate books to a local literacy group.
  • Create a Little Free Library in your neighborhood.
  • Begin that novel you’ve been meaning to write for years.
  • Start a reading journal.

Wait. What?! A reading journal? Oh, come on. You totally knew that was coming. This is a blog about journaling after all. There has to be a tie-in.

What’s a Reading Journal Anyway?

At its most basic, 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. You know it, cool cats: 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. For ideas on what exactly to look for, check my blog about choosing 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 you’ve read. But there are all kinds of other things you can track too. Read on for inspo.

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 adored. But, hey, I’m 47 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 this 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 from The Geeky Burrow 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 lightbulb moments that occur, quotes that you want to remember, and a plot summary.

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 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.


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).


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:

  • A novel based on a real person
  • A book involving a heist
  • A best-seller from the year you graduated high school
  • A book by a local author
  • A book with an ugly cover

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

Jacki Andre
Jacki Andre

Jacki Andre has been journaling for over 30 years and still has her jam-packed Judy Blume Diary to prove it. Somewhere along the way, she started writing for reals, and is now a published author and Huffington Post blogger. In her spare time, Jacki supports dog rescue, advocates for disability rights, and educates other drivers via hand gestures about the importance of using turn signals. She keeps in shape by chasing joy (and her ‘80s teen idols) in earnest.

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