The Evolution of My Reading Journal

Over the last few years, I’ve tried a number of different approaches to a reading journal. I’ve kept a commonplace/reading journal for a long time now, where I simply write out favorite quotes/passages from the books I read. But I’d never logged my books until several years ago.

So, the first year I began logging the books I read, I kept a reading journal separate from my commonplace/reading journal. That first year, I decided to go with a binder. I created a title page and then a simple log sheet. I had a tab for the log sheets and a tab for any reading challenge printouts. It was simple; nothing fancy.

2016 Reading Journal

What I learned from this journal:  The binder isn’t very portable and I prefer a size I can take with me in my purse if I want to.

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The next year, I didn’t use anything formal. I just kept a running list of the books read on a sheet of paper and kept a printout for the reading challenge I participated in that year. I then simply added those into the binder I already had from the previous year in a separate tab.

What I learned from this approach:  I prefer having a notebook. Simple is great but this was TOO simple and not enough information for my liking. 🙂

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In 2018, I got more creative. I took a simple, inexpensive graph notebook and did a more bullet-journal style reading journal. I made my own cover and pasted it on the front. Then I did some fancier pages on the inside. I created an index, pages for any book clubs and reading challenges, kept a genre tracker, page for favorite books of that year, a two-page spread for my TBR, and then I kept monthly logs of the books started and finished. Sometimes I even wrote out summaries of individual books on separate pages.

2018-reading-journal.jpg

What I learned from this journal:  I need thicker paper. The gel pens tended to bleed through the paper in this regular notebook.

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Last year (2019), I went with a pre-made reading journal. It was quick and easy, not to mention pretty. But I found over the course of the year, I didn’t really use a lot of it. I loved having the list formatted pages at the beginning where you could list the title and it’s genre. It was a chart format. But the individual book pages had a lot of stuff I just didn’t use.

2019 Reading Journal

I deconstructed the journal and had it bound.

2019 Reading Journal (2)

This is a sample blank page from the journal.

What I learned from this journal:  I don’t like having lots of space with stuff I just don’t use.

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So when I thought about what I wanted to do for my reading journal this year, I looked back over all the previous journals (with the exception of the year I only kept a list) and decided there was a common theme in the types of information I consistently kept a log of with each book. I also tried to look at what I learned from each one and compile all that in one journal.

I learned I liked having a page for each book in case I wanted to jot down notes. But I also liked having a line by line chart of just the titles for a quick at-a-glance look at my books. I enjoyed the minimal creativeness of my previous homemade journal of 2018. So I decided to go back to using a blank canvas instead of a pre-made journal. I can incorporate exactly what I want in my own blank journal and can add in any creative elements I want (I’m not really an overly creative person. But I do get inspired sometimes with creative ideas. LOL)

So here’s a peak at my 2020 Reading Journal. It’s just an inexpensive Exceed journal from Wal-Mart. It’s dotted like the bullet-journal style and has thick pages. It’s a smaller size that easily fits into my purse but is also hardback so that the pages are more protected. And bonus:  it has two bookmarks which is really nice!

2020-reading-journal.jpg

I put my title on a free graphic background and printed it on sticker paper for my cover.

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2020 Reading Journal (2)

This is the first few pages:  an Index, so I can easily find a book I have logged.

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2020 Reading Journal (3)

Next are pages to log in line by line format (title and author only) of each book I read and finish. It will be a numbered list to make it easy to see how many books I’ve read at a quick glance. This list will only be books I finished reading.

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Reading Journal Projects Page

Next up is a section where I can keep track of any reading projects I am taking part in.

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2020 Reading Journal (4)

Finally, the rest is for individual pages for each book. Here’s a sample of one of the pages. I like to log Title, Author, Publication Date, Pages, and Genre. Then I log start and finish dates as well. This year, I am trying to be more consistent in giving star ratings to my books so I plan to include that as well. It’s pretty simple. I’ve put a piece of pretty washi-tape after the book info. to divide it from where I jot down any notes. You can see that I have the top corners of the pages numbered.

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And there ya have it! My 2020 reading journal.

Are you keeping a reading journal this year? What information do you like to keep in your reading journal?

12 thoughts on “The Evolution of My Reading Journal

  1. I liked seeing your evolution through the years, formulating your own journal in the end. Everyone is different, so the preset reading journal isn’t the same for all. I like your idea of keeping one page for each book so you can include quotes or notes. and number of pages is another good idea. (I’ll probably add that to my log.)

    I watched a great YouTube clip from The [blank] Garden, and she has an extensive reading journal! She had a page at the end of the year where she printed and cut out small images of the books covers of her favorite books. It was very inspiring, as your ideas are, too.

    But as I want to keep a written journal so badly, I keep returning to my Excel program. : ( I want to be creative, but it just isn’t in me. Most of all, I loathe my handwriting, which is sloppy and inconsistent. Hence, visually, I do not like to look at my journal. Nonetheless, I do have a softbound lined journal that I write down my monthly reads, but that’s all. However, in my boring Excel program I log book title, author, origin of author, published date, genre, and book challenge, if any.

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    • That is very true that there are different pre-made journals. I looked through several before I decided on just sticking with a blank journal. They each were designed differently and had a variety of different things in them. There was one I was tempted to buy, but in the end, I knew I just would end up not using some of it. Plus, even though I’m not overly creative, I did enjoy creating the basics design elements I added to my 2018 journal. But I watched lots of videos on creating bullet journals to get some inspiration! Ha! Speaking of videos, thanks for telling me about the youtube video. I’m going to see if I can find it and watch it. 🙂 I actually thought about printing little icons of the book covers to put on the individual book pages; but I wondered how much color ink that would end up using. LOL I may still end up doing that at some point. But I really like the idea of the end of the year collage of book covers. What a visual that would be!

      I like having a print-out at the end of the year which a computer program can provide. That’s one of the things I like about Goodreads. I can do a print-out and choose what info. I want to include. So I get the best of both worlds I guess….handwritten journal customized for me and computer print-out at the end of the year. 🙂

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  2. Great thoughts Karen. In the past I’ve only kept a list of books read on a page of my bullet journal. It’s very simple; title, author, the format, (kindle, book, audio), and the date finished. When I kept up with my blog (haven’t blogged in almost a year) I reviewed most of the books I read. Your post is very timely because I’ve been thinking of keeping a Reading Journal in a bullet journal format using an Exceed journal as you are, nothing fancy. I have one for crochet projects and it has an index with numbered pages. Thanks for sharing!

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    • I really like the Exceed journal I got. The page thickness is great and the size of the journal is big enough to have ample space to write about my books, but small enough to fit nicely in my purse. Are you thinking about trying to blog more about your books soon? I enjoy reading your book reviews!

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  3. What a great post! Thanks for taking the time to explain your process and take photos!

    I have one journal where I just list the books that I’ve read. Then I have another that a mish-mash of hand-written blog posts, quotes, etc. Then I have an organized one that I use when I want to document the full read, sort of a la The Well-Educated Mind where I analyze the complete book. I don’t use that one often because it takes time to do. But I know I get the most out of a book when I use it or post chapter by chapter on my blog. Oh, and I almost forgot … I have a journal just for quotes that I’m not very diligent filling but I love going back and reading the quotes.

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    • I have “The Well-Educated Mind” book too! I have entertained the thought of trying to read through the books Bauer lists. However, the process she outlines for that approach feels way too time-consuming when I think about trying it. 🙈 The times you’ve followed her process, did you follow it exactly as is?

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      • I saw “The Well-Educated Mind” and I had to stop….I’m reading through the book list since 2012. I’m in the histories right now. Cleo read through the biographies and some of the histories w/ me, too. I can’t speak for Cleo, but I used to use her questions while reading the novels, and it was helpful, but like Cleo said, a little time consuming. Sometimes I was just dumbfounded and couldn’t answer all the questions, so I left them out. And now I just don’t even bother with them. 😦

        There are three levels of questioning that correspond with the three levels of reading. I’ve not read my books three times, but I know it would be a more concrete experience if one did read the book three times and went through the levels of questions. However, if I remember correctly, Bauer admitted that most of us do not have time to read a book three times and do this type of evaluation — that is why she provided levels of questioning to go deep, deeper, and deeper still into your first reading. But I could be wrong about that.

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        • Great Book Study, it’s been a good long while since I’ve pulled the book off my shelf. I’ve had it for a number of years. 🙂 (I also have “The Well-Trained Mind” and have actually printed out the booklists in that too.) I need to grab “The Well-Educated Mind” off my shelf and look through it again. I remember thinking at the time that to read a book three times and do the whole process outlined felt like it would be very time-consuming. I remember that I didn’t like the thought of taking my reading time to spend so much time with just one book, reading it multiple times, when I could be reading more books. LOL But since then, I am re-reading more. Funny how things change, huh? We are always growing as readers, aren’t we? 😉 I like the idea of applying the levels of questioning to a first reading – although I imagine it would depend on the book and how you are approaching that book the first time too. You know? For example, I may be able to more readily apply various questions to a first reading of a history; but might find it more difficult to do that in a first reading of literature because of wanting to just first read the novel to the end. It seems maybe we learn more from a novel the second time reading it (and third, fourth, etc.) because we already know the plot line and what’s going to happen and so that makes it easier, sometimes even more clearer, to pick up on connections and such. Usually with a second reading I’m picking up more and so I can see how applying more questions to that second reading (and a third reading too) definitely would have benefits for sure as well!

          I find it interesting to discuss! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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      • Ah, Ruth gave you some great information. My in-depth journal (that I don’t use often, lol!) is based on The Well-Educated Mind process. While I’ve found the process useful, I’m not certain the time invested is worth what I get out of it. I do think some of her questions valuable depending on what you’re reading. For example, the questions you’d ask yourself when reading a novel would be different than when reading a history.

        When I read now, I tend to follow a more simple process which I’ve applied here on my much-neglected children’s book blog: http://cleoclassicalchildrens.blogspot.com If you scroll through the posts you can see the focus on Plot, Conflict and Themes. With such simple concepts to focus on, and if you do it regularly, I find that you begin to see these things as you’re reading and picking them out becomes easier and easier. This method you can find here: https://www.centerforlit.com/teaching-the-classics It’s based on the Socratic Method of teaching. I would also recommend Mortimer J. Adler’s How To Read A Book (his How To Speak and How To Listen is excellent as well, though not so well-known). It’s more complex but well worth the read.

        It’s a year away but I’m going to join Ruth again when she starts the Plays section of The Well-Educated Mind. That’s gives you lots of time to think if you’d like to join us! 😉

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        • Oh! I’m glad to have a name for Great Book Study! Hi Ruth!

          Anyway, I read How to Read a Book by Adler last year! (Portions of it I had already read a few years ago but re-read those portions anyway.) One of the things that has really stuck with me from his book (from when I read that portion of it years ago when my oldest daughter was reading it) is about reading hard books. And I’ve carried with me the idea that in order to understand hard books, you have to *read* hard books. That’s one of the reasons why I want to stick with this epic poetry thing…why I continue to expose myself to this genre and to the ancient classics. I can’t grow in my skills of reading these ancient works if I don’t actually read them and do the work required with them. Last year, I just read “The Iliad”…didn’t do much work with it. *sigh* But really, that could count as just that first pass through a book, right? 😉 I also read “The Black Ships of Troy” last year and I did take away more about the story from reading that (but still not a lot because admittedly I read it fast because I was previewing it to see if it would be okay for my younger daughter to read).

          This morning I pulled out my copy of “The Well-Educated Mind” and had just a few minutes earlier today to skim through it. I want to look more closely at the questions asked with each section. (It’s been so long since I read some of this book!) But while I was skimming through it, I went to the poetry section and read a snippet here and there. There’s actually some helpful things that I want to look at more closely as I am reading “The Iliad”. I was reading one part that I was like – oh! I have to share this with Cleo and Silvia over at the read-along post. 🙂 I’ll try to get over there today or tomorrow.

          But I like your simplified version Cleo. I’ll try to hop over to your children’s blog this week to take a look at the posts you talk about that in, as well as check out the other link for the Center for Lit. I’m very familiar with the Socratic method of questioning and discussion. In fact, my husband is very good at Socratic discussions.

          And I agree with what you said about how the questions you want to ask of the book you are reading are going to differ based on what you’re reading. I was speaking to that a bit in my reply to Ruth.

          I think I mentioned over at your blog in one of the the posts – that I’m seeing myself as a student right now with both “War and Peace” and “The Iliad”. I have my little notebooks of Notes & Quotes for both. But I totally did not even think about pulling out both “The Well-Educated Mind” and “How to Read a Book” to use as a resource as I read both of these works. I’m so glad you brought up “The Well-Educated” mind in your first comment here and that we’re discussing it along with techniques for analyzing/studying a book. 🙂

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  5. Oh how I need the reading projects tracker idea! I keep mine on Goodreads–lots of shelves and the finished ones I also keep in a blank book journal. I have a Commonplace Book that has suffered as I’ve done so many audios and I get tired of either nearly wrecking the car writing and driving [yes!] or stopping and writing it all down. The Kindle is ideal for Commonplace lovers. Good, useful post!

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