So many books, so little memory! Or at least for me, anyway. Last year, I began a book journal (which I posted about here) for the purpose of logging information about books I read for my future reference. However, after only five pages into it, I ceased to use it.
The hardest part of keeping a reading journal is keeping up with a reading journal. (Again—for me, at least.) It’s easier for me to move on to reading the next book than it is to sit down and coordinate a beautiful page with stats, a summary, and my opinions, so I just stopped doing it until I got so far behind I didn’t even want to catch up because the task became so daunting.
However, then I received a notebook that was so perfect for my reading journaling needs, coupled with the fresh start of a new year, that I decided to give it another try. The failure of the first book journal? It was just a learning experience, and I’m here once again to discuss what I took away from my failure and my new attempt at keeping a reading journal.
My Note-Taking Method
For the month of January, I tried out this new note-taking method and found it worked really well for me!
Sticky Notes. I have somewhat of a lifetime supply of sticky notes, thus my enthusiasm for using them. As I read each book, I jot down notes such as:
- Important character names
- Observations about the characters or writing style
- Trigger/content warnings
Why this works for me: It’s sloppy. It’s informal. It’s temporary. Before I document the book into my reading journal, it helps me form my opinions and sketch out my analyses. Moreover, it’s incredibly useful when synthesizing the book’s information into my more-formal reading journal—it’s not a struggle to flip through the book searching for the one time the town name is mentioned.
My Journal Set-Up
I’ve found that my Clairefontaine notebook is perfect for a reading journal because it has a built-in table of contents template at the beginning and all the pages are numbered. Moreover, the pages are durable and resist ink bleeding through, and there’s a lightly dotted grid printed on each page. On the inside cover, there’s a small flap to hold papers, such as my sticky notes.
When setting up your own reading journal, ask yourself, “What purpose do I want my reading journal to serve?” For me, data is more important than aesthetics. Sure, I want it to be organized and look clean, but the information about each book is more valuable to me than the decorative presentation. Again, hence why this notebook works for me. Other people prefer setting up their own contents and reading trackers, but all I want is a page for each book and a way to list all that in the beginning. For me, having the template table of contents automatically included, that made the set-up process less overwhelming for me.
However, the one especially decorative flair I added to my reading journal was the first page: where the notebook’s logo and a “This notebook belongs to:” was printed, I covered it up with a book-themed scrapbooking collage:
I did this to make it feel a little more like “me” and play with my craft materials.
Then, I began filling in the pages! I wanted to fit each book into just one page (to save room), so I really only used washi tape and a sticker to decorate each page. To give it more “style,” I also changed the font of the title depending on the book; for example, with Luster, I drew the title in 70’s-style font.
For each book, this is the information I included:
- Title and author
- Publication date
- Length (pages or hours)
- When I read it
- If I own it
- Content warnings (if applicable)
- Summary, including all relevant character names (which I underlined), setting, and important plot points which contain spoilers
- My opinions
- Quotes I liked (haven’t actually done this yet, but want to add it!)
The following are some example pages! Be weary; some of my summaries contain spoilers for the book!
What I learned from my first attempt at a book journal is that I need a more routine practice. With the first one, I thought I was starting a fun, low-pressure project, but because I had no real structure for it, I never developed a practice. I was printing out pictures of book covers, choosing books at random to write about, revisiting books I’d read months ago, having no real “system” to my process.
While this laissez-faire style may work for many people, it did not for me. I needed a bit more structure and less pressure—turn down the “decorative” intent, give up on the hassle of printing the book covers (our printer is a finicky beast), and give myself a new starting point. Moreover, with my sticky notes about the books, it’s easier to approach the reading journal because I already have a head start. I know that I want to log every book, and when I do my end-of-the-month reading wrap-ups, that’s my signal to make sure I’ve caught up on my reading journal entries.
Keeping a journal is all about trial and error, switching up our practices to fit our unique needs and work ethics. If you want to keep a reading journal but have struggled with it in the past, I say don’t give up! Just find the notebook that works best for you and figure out your own way to make it a more enjoyable and beneficial experience.
Happy reading, happy journaling!
For more journaling posts, check out this page!