Keeping a reading journal is a habit all book-lovers should adopt. See how this bullet journal adaptation has enriched my reading experience and my love of books!
|A Peek Inside My Reading Journal (& Why I Should’ve Started Years Ago)|
I’ll start by saying I should have started this habit years ago! I wasn’t much of a reader as a child, but I grew into it as a teenager. Now, I consider myself an avid reader. In fact, I get uncomfortable when I’m not reading something. I catch myself desperately scanning the coffee bag while my morning Joe is brewing just because it’s the only text within reach. In short, books are my jam!
My Reading Journal (10 Years Late)
I started keeping a reading journal about a year and a half ago. I wrote down as many past books as I could remember then added each new book I read.
But after I started bullet journaling, I became dissatisfied with the structure of my reading journal. It was really just a list of books with no sense of time or order. I needed room to expand, add my own thoughts, and index book reviews, TBR lists, or any other reading related collection I might like to add.
If you follow my blog, you know creative writing is one of my passions. Not only do I run a 6-word story challenge on Instagram, but I also use my bullet journal to improve my writing. It’s not enough to read books. A writer must study them, refer back to them, even dissect them.
So, I painstakingly recopied my reading journal–using the bullet journal framework–and now I can share it with you!
Why You Need a Reading Journal
Let’s back up for a moment shall we? Why do you need a separate reading journal, anyway?
My reason: I’ve forgotten so many books.
I’m deeply saddened by that last sentence. When I read a book, I feel close to it. I know you get it, my fellow book lovers. The story becomes a part of you as you travel through its pages. There’s a unique cooperation that happens between reader and book. You can walk away from a movie, or TV show, and it keeps playing. But a book needs the reader to enter into a type of covenant. If you close the book, the story stops moving. It stops existing in the mind of the reader.
So, when I say I’ve forgotten books, it’s like claiming an old friend never existed.
I keep a reading journal to keep my old friends alive.
I’ll show you how to make a simple reading journal to inspire, organize, and catalogue your reading experiences. It’s such a simple project to start, but it will give you many years of happy journaling.
For my reading journal I used:
- Leuchtturm1917 A5 Hardcover (white, grid lined): Ordinarily, I prefer the dot grid pages for journaling, but a company on Amazon gave me this one for free when they accidentally messed up my order. No biggie; it was perfect for this project.
- My trusty Sharpie pen: They make clean, dark lines on the page and they’re much cheaper than art pens.
- Westcott 6 inch craft ruler: No matter how many rulers I try, I keep coming back to this little guy. It fits perfectly in the back pocket of the notebook, and I like the grid to help with alignment.
- Graphite paper (optional)
Bullet Journal Structure
You caught me! I’m a bullet journaling addict. Actually, bullet journal fever is spreading fast these days, and it’s not surprising. The system is flexible, efficient, and highly customizable. Whether you want an artistic journal or a minimalist approach to note taking, bullet journaling has you covered.
Since I already keep a daily bullet journal, adapting the style for my reading journal was a snap.
Confused? Read more about bullet journal basics >>HERE<<.
The index is one of my favorite parts of the bullet journal. It pulls the whole system into order.
In the photo above, you’ll see that I’ve indented the lines for each year of books. The top line, “Goodreads’ 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime” is flush left, but each year is indented. You don’t have to align your index like this if you don’t want to, but it helps me separate my annual catalogue from “To Be Read” lists, books reviews, reading challenges, books I’ve abandoned, all-time favorite lists, and so forth.
I used a light pencil line as a guide for where to anchor “Books Read in…”
LT1917 notebooks have a pre-printed index (one of the many reasons I love and recommend them!). If your notebook doesn’t have a pre-printed index, leave a few pages plank before starting page 1.
A few words about TBR lists…
After combing through about 21,310 ultimate reading lists online (give or take 21,300), I finally picked Goodreads’ “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime” for page 1 of my reading journal. The list covers everything from contemporary YA to the classics of 10th-grade English. It’s been so long since I read some of these titles that I left them unchecked so I can re-read them.
I’m sure I’ll add about 10-20 more versions of “Books to Read in a Lifetime” before this is all through.
What can I say? I like lists!
My plan is to add my own TBR list (To Be Read) each year then catalogue the books I’ve read with a short blurb (my opinion, a notable quote from the book, etc.).
TBR lists are handy for keeping a list of quality books ready for the next time you need something to read. My advice is to not let your TBR list give you tunnel vision. If a book speaks to you that isn’t on the list, read it! The list will always be there.
I only began to formally journal my reading in 2015, so anything before that is recorded based on memory.
For each book, I list the title, author and stars out of 5, and yes, there are a few half stars floating around the pages. Hey, sometimes a girl just needs a half!
You do NOT need to use any fancy headers. Let’s get rid of that pressure right now, m’kay?
I chose to add a little fanciness because I like the way it looks in my journal. I enjoy journaling more when I add small touches like nice lettering or a splash of color, but let’s not pretend fancy is more effective.
It’s just fun!
The font I used is based on an old stamp set by Sassafrass Lass. I love the font, but the stamps ended up looking too small for my purposes. I used my printer to enlarge the letters and traced each one into the journal with graphite paper.
If need more help with this technique, check out my full tutorial.
Unfortunately, these stamps were discontinued, so you can skip the extra steps I had to take in enlarging them.
Instead, grab a font you love at Creative Market. I should have gone that route the first time since they have thousands of fonts to choose from. It doesn’t need to cost you anything (unless you’re like me and can’t resist all the pretties); they have free fonts & graphics you can download each week.
Simply type your headers on your computer and trace them. Argh! Sooooo much easier!
It’s wise to print a few years in advance. It will save you from having to create new ones each year.
I put a few sheets of graphite paper in an envelope and saved, oh, a few decades of header templates. Overkill? Nah. But I’m sure the notebook will run out before the headers do.
I stash it all in the back pocket of my Leuchtturm1917 and now I always have what I need to start a new year. Ready to read and record!
Do you keep a reading journal in a different format? Comment below to tell me your strategy for more engaged reading and a more inspired life!
Brainstorm with me!
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