Reading Journal Header Image

Reading is a pleasurable activity that can expand your mind in numerous ways. But sometimes, without the right tools, you may find yourself forgetting the things you have read, perhaps because too much time has passed, or you weren’t really present when you were reading.

One way of tracking the books you’ve read and the lessons you’ve learned is by writing in a reading journal. 

Reading journals have risen in popularity in the last few years. Both those who love to read and those who would love to read can benefit from a reading journal, because it serves as inspiration to read new things, and also makes it easier to process the information you consume.

What Is a Reading Journal? 

A reading journal is a record of the things that you have read. It is not merely a list of books; it also allows you to reflect on and process what you are reading.

reading journal image
Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

Way back in the 19th century, British educator Charlotte Mason advocated the use of a commonplace book, or a notebook where you list down all the thoughts and ideas you get from your readings. The purpose of this is to help you not just have a record, but also to contemplate those readings as you write. 

This method of education is making a comeback these days, particularly among homeschooling families, and the use of the commonplace book is very much similar to keeping a reading journal. 

What Do You Write in a Reading Journal? 

The great thing about reading journals is that you can write pretty much anything you want about the books you’re reading. Many readers love to list down quotes, lines, or whole passages that stood out to them. Others include their own reflections and thoughts on those passages. 

If you are a student required to keep a reading journal for school, you may have to list down your reactions to the books you read, as well as other requirements that your teacher sets. The reading journal can help you prepare for classroom discussions (and even exams) by pushing you to really process what you’ve read, build connections, and think critically.

How to Start a Reading Response Journal

A reading journal can be as simple or as detailed as you wish. If it’s your first time starting one, here are some tips to help you get on the bandwagon: 

1. Find a notebook you like. 

Start by finding the best journal that matches your preferred style and also meets your journaling needs. Here are some things to consider when choosing a notebook: 

  • Where do you intend to write in your journal? Are you keeping it on your desk at home, or would you like to bring it around with you? If you travel a lot (and read a lot when you travel), a smaller, lighter notebook may be easier for you. 
  • What types of pens do you prefer to use? If you use writing instruments that tend to bleed, consider a notebook with thicker paper. 

Some of the most popular options for a notebook include: 

  • Regular planner: The great thing with a regular planner is that it already comes with calendars and schedules. So if you intend to use it for listing down books you plan to read each week, you can actually write them down in the corresponding spot, and also have space to write down a quick passage or reflection.
daily planner image

Buy Now

  • Composition notebook: The composition notebook is the no-frills journal option. The lines make it easy for you to write down your thoughts or important quotes. If you’re aiming for simple and affordable, this is the way to go. 
Composition notebook image

Buy Now

  • Grid notebook: A grid journal gives you more room for creativity, especially if you want to add drawings, grids, and charts, such as a reading progress chart.  
dotted grid journal image

Buy Now

  • Sketchbook: Its thick blank pages makes the sketchbook a favorite among the artistic types, as you can use watercolor or calligraphy pens on the rich paper without the ink bleeding through to the next page.
sketchbook image

Buy Now

  • Bullet journal: The increasing popularity of the Bullet Journal makes it another good choice for a reading journal, since you’re not pressured to write long entries. 
bullet journal image

Buy Now

  • Moleskine: A favorite among journal aficionados, the moleskine is classy, with excellent binding that can handle wear and tear without a hitch. 
moleskine journal image

Buy Now

2. Get inspired, but don’t feel pressured.

You can look for inspiration from other people’s reading journals by doing a quick Google search. Many have posted images of the inside of their journals on social media sites like Instagram and Twitter. The key is simply to get your inspiration from what you see. 

Don’t let yourself be pressured to be something you’re not. If all the samples you see online have great-looking calligraphy but you don’t have the slightest clue how to do calligraphy, you don’t have to imitate them. Instead, find what works for you. 

3. Start with a list.

One of the easiest ways to get started on your journal is by making a list. The following options are great lists to have in a reading journal: 

  • Books you have read: Do you want to list all the books you’ve read throughout your entire life? Over the past year? Choose your time period. 
  • Books you want to read: This is essentially your TBR (to be read) list. 
  • Books you want to buy: This can be a separate list if your TBR list contains books you already own.
  • Books to watch out for: Are you reading a series and waiting for the next installments? This is a good place to list down, for example, their expected release dates, if you have them. 
  • Your favorite authors: Writing these down will help you look out for great new titles. 

4. Be creative.

Remember, your reading journal is your personal collection. If you want to draw in it, feel free! Some people like to draw a bookshelf where they list down all the books they’ve read. Adding visuals to your journal gives it more character, and also encourages you to tinker with it more often. 

Some visuals you can add are calendars, bookshelf lists, tables detailing author names, date started, date finished, among others. For an example, check out this flip-through video of a reading journal:

5. Keep your journal in an accessible place. 

Lastly, no matter how much effort you put into starting your journal, it won’t do you much good if you don’t actually use it. Put your journal (and all related writing tools!) somewhere you can easily reach it whenever you have something to write. 

Keeping a Reading Journal 

Keeping a reading journal can be one of the most rewarding things you can do as a book lover. Years down the road, you can skim through your journal and reminisce on the books you’ve loved and the ideas you’ve embraced. 

And hopefully, you will see evidence of what Charlie “Tremendous” Jones once claimed: “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

Do you keep a reading journal? Tell us how you like to use it in the comments below!


If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like: