6 Fun Ideas For Keeping A Reading Journal

You have the cute notebook all ready, so now what do you fill the pages with?
Ideas for book journal, how to start a book journal
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Journaling has become an increasingly popular hobby and reading journals is no exception to this trend. Whether you allocate space for one in your larger journal or have a separate journal just for books, keeping a reading journal can help you stay on track for your reading goals!

What is a Reading Journal?

A reading journal is a place for you to keep track of books. Some people keep digital journals and some people like the feeling of pen and paper. You can keep lists of what you've read and want to read, along with mini-reviews of books to help you remember them later.

The lists will help you stay on track with your goals, remind you of books you're interested in while you're shopping, and help you give great book recommendations to your friends! Overall, keeping a record like a journal can really enhance your reading experience and incentivize the act of finishing books.

Ultimately, what you put in your reading journal is up to you, but if you're having trouble getting started,  here are some ideas:

Ideas for Your Reading Journal

Staring at all the blank space of a fresh journal can be daunting. Here are some ideas to maintain a reading journal that will spark some inspiration for you!

1. Keep a Log of All the Books You've Read

The easiest way to use a reading journal is as a reading log. These can be as simple as just a list of books you read or include a lot of information about the book like your rating, thoughts, and notes. 

For my reading log, I make sure to include:

  • Book Title 
  • Book Author
  • Rating (1-5 Stars)
  • What I Liked
  • What I Didn't Like
  • Thoughts / Notes 

In this thoughts and notes section, I like to include the names of people I think would like this book so I can let them know later. Writing a little extra information like my likes and dislikes really helps me remember the plots of books I read better so that I can more easily discuss them with friends. 

2. Track Your Reading Goals

Adding a reading goals section to your journal is a fun and simple way to stay accountable and on track! For me, I like to set a goal for the number of books I want to read in a year, and I add a sticker for every book I read. At the end of the year, the page looks beautiful! Some other ideas for this section include simple tally marks or coloring in a progress bar or some other picture. Whatever works to keep you excited about accomplishing your goals!

I personally have extra goals outside just reading a certain number of books in a year. For example, I have goals to read a certain number of books by Black authors and another to read a certain number by disabled authors. I usually keep these sub-goals on a separate page, and in addition to adding stickers, I write the titles and authors of the books in a list under the sticker section. 

3. Start Some Reading Challenges

Reading challenges are super fun ways to branch out and read things you might not have picked before! A lot of challenges start at the beginning of the new year and may specify a time frame for each category, but I like to take them at my own pace, and even do past years' challenges, just because I like the help in choosing books. 

Some really fun challenges you can join are: 

This challenge has 24 tasks, with prompts ranging from "Read a middle-grade mystery" to "Read a book you've been too intimidated to read." Like a lot of challenges, this one has a Goodreads group for you to discuss the challenge and look for recommendations if you're stuck on a certain prompt. 

This challenge has 40 regular prompts and 10 advanced prompts for a total of 50. The POPSUGAR prompts can often be really fun, like "Read a book whose title starts with 'Q,' 'X,' or 'Z'" but they also have prompts that help you read books by marginalized voices, like "Read a book by a Muslim American author."

This challenge is intended to start the first week of the year, so you can read a book every week, but as I mentioned earlier, I think these challenges are fun to work through at any time! The prompts in this challenge range from relatively easy ("Read a coming of age novel.") to a bit difficult ("Read a book by an author who has only published one book.") so there's a good mix! 

This is another "timed" challenge, but it shouldn't be too difficult to catch up since there is only one prompt per month, plus one bonus prompt per quarter. With a total of 16 prompts, this is a relatively short challenge! The DYR challenge is focused on genre, so you will be asked to read a classic, a memoir, a crime novel, and other novels from various genres you might not have picked up before. 

4. Keep a "Want to Read" List 

A "Want to Read" or "To Be Read" section is probably one of the most important parts of a reading journal, right up there with a reading log. These sections are usually just ever-changing lists of all the books that have yet to be read. Books will be frequently added to this list and, ideally, frequently moved to the reading log!

Keeping this list is beneficial for several reasons: 

  • You can easily keep track of all the books you've already purchased and have at your home or on your e-reader. (I usually highlight already owned books!)
  • It allows you to know which books you're on the lookout for when you're at the bookstore or library or see a sale online. 

Keeping this list updated and handily makes it easy to pick out your next read, which can be overwhelming when there are so many books. 

5. Record Your Favorite Books 

A list of favorite books can be really helpful since I used to always draw a blank when someone would ask me what my favorite book was! I like to note the genre of the book along with the title and author because sometimes people want to know what my favorite science fiction book is or what my favorite romance book is. 

In addition to a shortlist of favorites, my "favorite books" section includes a half-page or page dedicated to a small plot summary and what I loved about that book. This is both for refreshing my memory and making it easier to talk up these books to anyone who asks. I know for me, a glowing review makes all the difference when I'm taking recommendations. 

6. Keep Track of Upcoming Books and Release Dates

This section is for keeping track of books that are not yet published. I like to keep them separate from my "Want to Read" section so that I don't try to look for them at the store or library before they're even out. When they finally get published, I move them to that section so that I can start the hunt! 

This section is one of my favorites because I get so excited about all the new books coming out! (Getting hyped for upcoming books is something I'm really passionate about, see my 2021 upcoming young adult books and upcoming young adult romance lists!) I personally like to use a calendar-style layout for this section of my journal, but a list would also work. I personally just find the calendar works best so that I can add books whenever I hear about them, and they stay organized by date instead of when I added them to the list. 

7. Have a Recommendations List 

Keeping a list of books people recommend to you can be useful to refer to when creating your "want to read" list. You may not want to read every book recommended to you, so this list is a good reminder of books to look into and learn more about. 

Taking note of who recommended the book can also help you remember to thank the person later after reading the book and let them know your thoughts. I personally love when people come back to me later and tell me their opinions on the books I recommended since I put a lot of thought into my suggestions. 

This section can also be a great place to keep track of books you want to recommend to certain people. I like to write small "pitches" about the book right after I've finished them so that I don't forget vital information when I'm making the recommendation later on in the future. 

8. Tally Your Re-read Books

Some people have movies they've seen dozens of times and songs they've listened to hundreds of times, but some bookworms have books they've reread quite a bit. Since books require such a time commitment, I think rereads are a sign of a remarkable and beloved story. 

Keeping track of which books you've reread and how many times can help you figure out what books are your favorites (if you're struggling to find that out) as well as help you pinpoint what things you enjoy in a story. For example, through noting what books I've come back to multiple times, I was able to recognize that one of my favorite story elements is "devoted male friendships." 

9. Write Down Your Favorite Book Quotes

This section can be especially fun if you're trying to learn/practice calligraphy, but I think anyone can benefit from writing down treasured lines from books. The words we read and hear in our media have the potential to stick with us and influence our personalities and the way we see the world. Noting powerful, meaningful quotes from your reading can be a useful way to offer strength in difficult times or enhance joy in happier times. 

I hope these ideas help you get started on your reading journal, a great companion on your reading journey! If you're looking for more tips on ways to enhance your reading experience and enjoy more stories, check out my Ultimate Guide to Reading More!

Stevie is a writer who perpetually has a coffee in her hand and a cat on her lap. Her other hobbies include reading and playing video games.

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