Book Journaling: What is it and how to get started?

Someone recently asked me whether a book journal was similar to keeping a daily diary and in a way I suppose you could say it is related to it; it is a log of your thoughts essentially.

But why are people turning to book journaling?

Let’s think about it for a moment.

How long have you been reading for? How many books do you consume each year?

If like me you have been a voracious reader since an early age, we are talking literally hundreds if not thousands of books.

Even if I say I didn’t really start reading excessively until I was 16, let’s take a minute to do the maths.

Being conservative and taking into account the highs and lows of my reading life; let’s cap the reading I have done to 45 books a year.

24 years x 45 books = 1080 books

Now, I know I have a good memory, but even I would struggle to be able to name all the books I have read, and I know I am not alone when I occasionally pick up a book, read the blurb on the back and cannot decide whether I have previously read it or not.

I have even been known to buy books, start them, and only then realise when I am half way through that the plot, if not the same, is definitely similar to something I have read in the past.

The idea is that journaling will go some way to alleviating this problem.

How Have I Been Tracking What I Read?

For the last few years I have been using Goodreads to keep track of my reading and I love their yearly challenge where you can set yourself a target of how many books you are going to read (yes, I know not everyone agrees with target setting, and I know it is all about quality and not quantity but I personally find it quite satisfying to reach my reading goal each year).

However, it still doesn’t allow me to make varying notes about the title I have just read. I can of  course write a review, just like I do for many of the books I read on my blog, but that doesn’t necessarily  mean I remember the story line or my favourite quotes. I always feel like if I wrote down everything I wished to about what I have just read I will be told that I had written something full of spoilers, even if I do not share the outcome. Simply the act of writing how the story makes me feel, or the themes running through it are enough for people to complain sometimes.

So where can I jot down my inner most thoughts and internal revelations about a book without ruining it for others? In a personal book log or journal.

How to Start a Reading Journal

Firstly, remember this is not meant to be a chore; the idea behind journaling is to enhance your reading experience. It is not meant to cause your stress or make you feel in any way inadequate to others. There are some wonderful artists out there that create stunning journals, and while that may be something to aspire to, always remember the real reason you are doing this. 

It is a personal log of what you have read and enjoyed. No-one else ever needs to see it! The last thing anyone needs, especially right now, is to feel added pressure to do something. Journaling is not necessarily for everyone, and if it isn’t something that you enjoy then simply stop!

Firstly, let’s look at the tools we will need.

note books

Image provided by nist6dh

#1 Choose a Notebook

Honestly, this will be one of the main reasons why many bibliophiles will opt to start journaling. I do not know may bookworms that can walk past the stationery section in any shop without stopping to at least browse.

I have always be a tactile person, so wielding pen and paper has always caused my creative side to spiral out of control far more than when I am sat in front of a laptop.

There are so many notebooks available in various sizes, colours and patterns.  Choose one which appeals to you. There are no rights or wrongs here. Some people want an A4 notepad while others want one that will fit in a pocket or handbag.

The key here is to pick one that you like aesthetically; reminding yourself, of course, that in 5 years you will probably question your choice. 

#2 Colourful Pens, Pencils and Stencils

This is where stationery fiends will start to squeal with joy! I can see you all now getting excited over the prospect of shopping for a set of new gel pens, or perhaps a fancy calligraphy set.

In order to make your journal attractive you will need to add some colour. Many opt to use a key of colour.

For example, you could write in RED for crime, BLUE for memoir, and PINK when discussing Romance. You could list your books in one colour, write your plot reviews in another, and use yet a third for character analysis.

You may even decide to use multi colours for all of the above.

There are no hard and fast rules; it’s your journal so you decide.

Many also use a stencil to create bold, eye-catching headlines and banners (like this banner SVG from Design Bundles) or utilise the larger lettering to embolden their favourite quotes.

Some may find their artistic flare and prefer to freestyle.

#3 Utilise Online Sources

Not an artist, don’t fret. Some people have a natural flare for drawing whereas others can only look on with envy. For those of us who are artistically challenged there are plenty of websites now offering a selection of templates, both free and paid for that could help with this sort of project.

Personally, I like the images offered by Design Bundles, a website that offers every possible shape imaginable that you can download and use for your own purposes. Take the Star SVG for example, you could use a smaller image when giving a book a rating or the larger pictures can be used as a header or within the body of your review to make something stand out.

Star SVG from Design Bundles, offering free ND PAID FOR IMAGES

A simple star design can be used in many ways

What to Include in your Book Journal   

There are many helpful guides out there that offer ideas and downloadable printouts should you require it.

The majority of journal-writers though will combine any number of the following:

#1 A Book Log
  • Name of book
  • Date read
  • Format (audio, eBook, print)
  • Number of pages
  • Star rating
  • Theme notes
  • A brief summary
#2 TBR List or your Reading Bucket List

This is often an ongoing list that would exasperate most people, but for the bookworm it’s a way to keep a tab on all the books you want to read. Some create actual lists while others draw bookshelves and add every book they wish to read, colouring them in when they get around to taking it off the pile.

 #3 Reading Challenges

For those that love a challenge you may find that your journal becomes a testament to all those you wish to take part in. This year alone I have looked into completing a Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge, A Travel around the World Challenge, A Classic Book Challenge, a Top 100 Books of all Time Challenge and a Year of Non-Fiction Challenge.

#4 Favourite Quotes

We often read something and feel inspired only to forget it again once we close the book. By noting down your favourite quotes you are more likely to remember them for later, and if not, at least they will all be in one place should you want to refer back to them at all again in the future.

#5 Thoughts on the Writer/Book

This could be the perfect place to note down thoughts on the author’s writing style, the character growth, plot development, originality, hang ups, or best bits. The great thing about a journal is that it is private, so go ahead and write down all the spoilers, the honest reflections and the things you did/didn’t like about a book!

Journalling can be whatever you make it

Journaling can be whatever you make it (Image provided by Lauren Manning)

Why Bookworms Should Consider Writing a Book Journal

If you don’t suffer with papyrophilia, an obsession with stationery, you may be wondering why people start such a hobby. Are there really any benefits to journaling? Apparently there are.

The act of journaling itself it meant to:

#1 Improve Critical Thinking

Be honest now, how many times have you paused while reading and had a really insightful albeit fleeting thought about what you have just digested? If you had written those musings down would it not lead to more meaningful reflection later on?

#2 Improves Your Memory

The physical act of jotting down notes helps people to memorise important facts.

#3 Improves Future Reading

Without even realising you may be noting down what is lacking in a novel and what you would like from future reads. You may start to seek out specific genres or books written by a certain author or social demographic in order to make you’re reading a more holistic experience.

#4 Gives You a Greater Focus on Your Reading Goals

Only last year did I start to plan my monthly reading. I use to be a reader that would randomly look at their bookcase and pick their next read. Now I am not saying that there is anything wrong with the act of spontaneity, in fact sometimes we need it, but at other times, we all feel unease if we do not know where we are heading.

By writing my goals down in advance I can plan for and try to achieve more each month. It may mean forfeiting an evening in front of the TV watching Netflix in order to achieve my target but it is also helping to focus my mind.

Ultimately, whatever your reason for starting a book journal make sure that you consider what you want out of it. Is it purely to track your reading? Is it to meet a goal or organise your TBR pile? Perhaps you want to devise a way of remembering your favourite authors and their work?

Have you started a book journal? What do you include in yours? What suggestions do you have for those just starting out?

Thank you to Design Bundles for sponsoring this article. I have been paid for my time but all views and opinions mentioned in this piece are my own.

Did you enjoy this article? Then PIN it for later…

What is book journaling? Is a book journal something you should consider. This helpful guide from @tbookjunkie contains everything you need to create the perfect journal for you.

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