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Reading Journals - Do you really need them in 2023?

Digital Reads Media is a blog-haven for book posts and reviews. This is a post discussing the benefits of maintaining Reading Journals.
Shalini
Reading Journal

Reading Journals

Do you really need Reading Journals in 2023?

Have you used reading journals so far, and will you consider using one? Either the physical one or the digital one would help you so much in this literary journey.

A reading journal is a great book for keeping track of books read, and recording our reading log in such a book becomes a daily habit that we can greatly learn from. Both newbie and voracious readers benefit from such a daily log.

A journal is not just a diary for making lists, but it is a reader-response book, a place where you can put in your genuine emotional reaction to the story which can include summary or descriptions or intriguing scenes or recurring lines and lyrical lines. You can make it whatever you what, but its true purpose is from understanding the response the story provokes.

Reading as much as I do, I feel that I need a reading journal to keep track of my books. Goodreads is a good way to keep track, I have to agree. But the emotions I go through in each of my reads and the way the characters have interacted with me are lost in that translation.

Today, I share below the many reasons such a journal would become a necessity for the casual or a voracious reader.

Come on. Let’s embark on this journey down the post to get an idea of why you need a reading journal starting from 2023. We may be at the mid-half of the year, but the journal can be kept forever to lock all the memories we receive from our books.

Also, I’ll give you some beautiful choices of journals that you can buy and start using ASAP.

What is a Reading Journal?

There are many words that a reading journal is known by. Bullet journal, reading tracker, book planner, or even a simple diary, these are all used interchangeably. And only by its use of keeping your reading on track and reflecting your evoked emotions does it become a reading journal. It is a perfect way to detail your insights and observations, along with things learned from the reading.

I am of the opinion that the best such journals will give you the opportunity to do all of these, though some of them can be more particular in their actions. You don’t need anything extravagant to start a reading journal. A simple blank or lined spiral or bound book will do just fine. Just ensure that you have the right number of pages for the year.

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Affiliates program. If you click an affiliate link and purchase it, I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. That helps in maintaining this blog. 

The UK affiliate links are slightly wonky. I have no idea why. Just click at Shop Now in any of the UK links and find your perfect Reading Journal.

Which of these Reading Journals calls out to you?

Do you have a lot of ARCs and author-requested books that you have promised to review in the week of the release? Then a reading tracker is what you need. One glance at it will tell you when you ought to post said review.

A reading tracker helps you singularly to keep track of your TBR, especially if you have a lot of ARCs.

Have you ever seen a book on social media that you desperately want to read but have lost its name after a few days? Don’t worry. Such a reading planner will be most helpful to you. A place where you can jot down the names so that you never forget and can buy them during a sale. Not only that, but such a planner will also help you to keep an eye on all these recommendations, new book releases, and the book challenges that you are tagged in.

A traditional reading journal can, without a doubt, be used as a tracker and a planner and a whole lot more. It will help you write your goals, the books you have read, the emotions you have felt, and the quotes that touch you. That forms the base of your reviews, and you become a better writer.

What does a Reading Journal do?

Let’s check out the various reasons and see which one tops your list.

To remember your most loved and favorite books

The journal will take you back to the time when you enjoyed this book. That memory is worth its weight in gold. Who amongst us would not want to get a book hangover all over again?

My 5-star reads are those that fill me with joy and other emotions. And reading so many books over the year, it is possible to forget this unless I have written it down somewhere.

A book review on any of the social or retail sites does help with this, but some of these places accept only limited characters. And I don’t usually pour my feelings into them. I am getting to be succinct and more technical in them.

To improve your memory

Don’t you remember your school days where you felt that when you put words to paper, they remain etched in your memory forever? As I have noted, I find that I am evidently able to increase my recall speed when I write it down.

To remember certain dialogue that affect you the most

Usually, I am asked what my favorite quote from a book is. And I am stumped. I don’t remember at that instant. That’s where my journal would come in. I have barely started writing in it, but I feel this is the comforting space where I can jot down my favorite quotes. Voila. I am always ready

These are different from the quotes and are the lines that you may not have read anywhere else. The lines that have triggered you in the most primitive way. Such specific scenes make it easy to remember the characters long after the book is gone or given back to the library.

To share recommendations

OMG. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been asked for recommendations, and I’ve looked back at them blankly. Now that I have started keeping a journal, I feel I can peruse my journal, look at my notes, and come up with a good list.

To help with the buddy reads

I take part in buddy reads on Instagram, so such a journal gives me the added benefit to enhance my reading experience. Also, it may just form the best gift to be given to special friends.

The book journal helps me keep track of my buddy’s and my favorites, so we can get back together for future book reads. A reading log is what it becomes with different friends and varied genres.

To reflect on the changes in your reading pattern

This journal is a memory log of my books. It reveals how far I have come in my reading goals and the trends in them. I have come to realize, looking at the pages of this book, that every few years, I have a favorite genre. This book gives me a glimpse of a younger me, the me I was a few years ago.

Sometimes I tend to stick to my comfort genre. And just by flipping the pages of this book, it gives me the proverbial kick in the backside to try different genres. That is how I ended up buying nearly 50 fantasy genre books. More about it later.  

To help me learn

This reading journal records all the new things that I have learned about different topics. I knew very little about ADD, and one of the books that I have recently read gave me new information. Furthermore, it compelled me to go back to Google and look up scientific articles.

To reflect on my emotions

In addition to all this, such a book helps me to remember the gamut of my emotions after I finish reading. I am often amazed at how deeply I have felt while reading. It is an equally important emotional tracker.

To buy more stationery

Don’t we all need an excuse to buy more stationery? I do. And I can assure you that if your loved ones ask, let them know this truth. To make your journal look colorful and cute, you need pens and colors and stickers and other stuff. Get to your local shops and buy all that tickles your fancy.

To trigger your creative side

Journaling makes reading fun. Bring out your Sharpies and colors and stickers. A journal brings out the artistic facet that resides in all of us and compels us to be creative. That is hours of pure fun. Make a page or two in between your intense reads to be your coloring and doodle pages. Draw those hearts with your book boyfriends. Go back to the innocence of your teen years and first crushes. A good trigger is this to the first flushes of love.

To make a list of your favorite authors along with the newly discovered ones

Making this list gives me a secret delight, especially when I have suddenly discovered a new one. I find it very exciting to make note of all the new releases in my emails and Goodreads and add them to my list.

To make a list of new books

For this, I think I will need a couple of such journals as the list is never-ending. Just have a look at Amazon, and you will see more than 500 books across all genres added each day. Oof. How is my brain supposed to remember all of them? The best way would be to make a note of the books that attract you to the journal.

To summarize, looking at all these reasons, it is obvious that the reading journal is a one-stop portal for books and authors. And so much more.

To meet your reading goals

Are you like me who likes to set your Goodreads reading goal bang on Jan 1st?  Then this book is the right reminder and gives you a feel-good factor when you are closer to meeting one. In fact, the journal pushes me to read more when I find I have made an entry in a long time.

To get over reading slumps

I listen to audiobooks or see Netflix. Then a glance at my blank pages plucks me out of the slump and pushes me toward my bookshelf. I am sure you also have experienced a moment, where the book cover just calls out your name and rushes to hug you warmly.

To make a weekly/monthly TBR list

Being a mood reader, I often tend to pick up books on the go. But that’s not very systematic, and it makes me kind of move toward a slump. Wouldn’t having a clear list/goal motivate you to make a mark on it? I love the positive enforcement I get when I put a tick against each book read.

To improve your writing

It’s true. Journaling improves your writing and helps you to make your lines stronger and correct typos faster. Anything written by hand does that. Check it out.

To conclude, a reading journal is creative and progressive that stimulates both the hemispheres of your brain. Who amongst us will not cherish the positive enforcement that a well-filled journal gives us?

Now comes the important part…

How to choose a Reading Journal

In most developed countries, there is no shortage of options. But, in my country, I find a limited number of choices, so I have gone with using my task planner as my reading journal. Due to the pandemic, many things are still difficult for me to get flown in from different countries. Amazon does it, but only a few journals. None that I really want. I am hoping 2024 will bring a new dawn in reading journals for me.

Let me enumerate the different choices available.

Physical or Digital Reading Journal or a DIY BUJO journal

Digital Reading Journal

I have a digital reading journal, and I think it is super useful as it can be downloaded onto the phone. It is cheaper than the physical one. A one-time investment since it can be used every year. It is customizable and you can print as many pages of it as you want.

And you can always find an online website to make your own digital journal, adding all the sub-categories of your choice. Also, a digital journal can always be modified into a print journal by downloading it on the paper of your choice and having it spirally bound at any local store.

Printed Reading Journal

But the pleasure of holding a printed journal and writing on its smooth pages is at a different level. What do you say?

And there are multiple choices in this too. Hardback or paperback, pocket-sized or A4/A5 size. It makes a perfect keepsake on your nightstand, something like a photo album that you will find joy every time you open it. Additionally, it is easily transportable too, and some of them have loops for the pen. So, just open it and start writing. A terrific accompaniment for your book.

The only con I see is it is going to be slightly more expensive, an annual investment that you will have to make. And of course, it has a limited number of pages. Also, making it customizable would depend upon the space that is available between different pages and categories.

DIY Reading Journal

Recently I saw someone on Instagram making a Reading Bullet Journal, also called BUJO, and I was left in awe. It will take some effort, but it is easy. Just needs different colors of marker and colored pens to draw checkboxes for each month and some fancy penmanship, little sketches, and creating layouts.

This can be done for each book you read and each day/week. That is totally up to you. At the end of each day/week, just note down your thoughts about the book with a star rating. This is totally up to your creativity. Such BUJOs can be started at any point of the year and is independent of the year. Just note the date and start scribbling.

Or forget all this...

And do what I did. Pick up a notebook/planner, add some stickers, and start writing about the book you have read. Voila! It is a Reading Journal.

Just an idea that struck me while writing this post – a digital journal for your eBooks and a printed one for your physical books. That will be so cool.

Reading Journal
Reading Journal

Tips to Make a Reading Journal

Consider these points while making yours

  • Use a small-sized book that you can carry in your purse so you can scribble on the go.
  • Write down the name of the book and basic details as soon as you start it.
  • Number the book in the journal so that you are keeping track of your Goodreads reading challenge.
  • Write small notes and important quotes as soon as you come across them if you cannot annotate them. The lines can be few, just so that it triggers your words when you write a detailed review. Writing down will help you remember the entire book then.
  • Make a separate list of your favorite books as this will give you an idea for a new post. Or for an end-of-the-month/year wrap-up.
  • Leave room for sticking the book covers if you can manage to get a thumbnail of them printed or just doodle a design of the cover. That can be a fun way to remember the book.

You can personalize your journal with stickers or washi tape. I am not very creative; my niece decorates it with stickers. It just adds memories and colors to the book.

The books above in the pics don’t yet have the embellishments as my niece has them. She loves decorating books. With bells and whistles and lots of glitter.

Things to include in the Reading Journal

These are just my suggestions. 

  • Book name  
  • Author
  • Genre
  • Year of Publishing
  • Date of start and finish
  • Standalone or Series
  • Star Rating
  • Format
  • ARC or Owned Book
  • Quotes
  • Names of the Main Characters (I generally do not remember my main characters after a book is done.)
  • Your Review
 

Other facts that can be added 

  • Number of Pages
  • Steam or Thrill Level
  • Opening line and ending one
  • Basic plot line
  • Similar Books
  • Adding new words
  • Different Characterization
  • Making a note of hobbies and activities (Some of our characters are made to jump many hoops by the author)
 

With the first half of the year bringing with it a multitude of problems, I have formally started using a planner book as my reading journal from the month of June. In the past, it was just jotting the book name on my phone. 

Now, I have added all the categories mentioned above, but the main review is what I will put up on my blog. My reviews are, therefore, getting to be pretty long.

A novel way to use the Reading Journal

Many of us have this burning ambition deep within us to become an author. A journal like this will help to flesh out the characterization and give us an idea of the reading trends. After all, we do add the bestsellers and hyped books to our TBR, don’t we?

The journal can be the starting point of your literary journey, the place where you know what settings and characterizations you would love to read/write.

Surprisingly, I got to know I like writing romance and steam more than thriller. A new thing that I have discovered within myself. Go figure!

The different types of Reading Journals

Some use multiple journals to keep track of all aspects of reading. I want to start doing that from 2024. But, at the moment, I am more straightforward and maintaining only one, which keeps me on the narrow. To each his own. 

You might like a more detailed analysis of your reading. Do what is apt for you as you know journaling should give you joy, with no right or wrong way.

The Reading Tracker aka The Book Log

One of the simplest ways to start out as this type of journaling can be as detailed as you want, and you can choose the easiest of the headings. Not much work is needed, as it has only the name of the book and the author and the dates of starting and finishing the book. You can choose to add a few small things to make it complete like a rating and a couple of your likes and dislikes about the story. 

This is just a continuous list. And at the end of the year, the list might just surprise you. I use Goodreads and my reading challenge as my Tracker.

Book Review Journal

This is the one I am most interested in, but I am not finding a good one on my country’s Amazon. I don’t like the generic ones available in my local store. The paper quality is too low. 

As a book blogger, I feel that a book review journal would help me plan my book reading and posting of my reviews. Since the beginning of the year, 2023 has been so harsh to me that my reading has gone awry. Still trying to get it back on track, but it is an uphill.
I am starting to use my day planner to do this, just keep the names and genre of books on it. And short notes were needed. Trigger Warnings are something that I must now add to my journal. This might help me in my book list posts, which I plan to start in the last quarter of the year.

TBR Book Journal

A TBR journal is new to me, but I think it would be most apt to keep my ARCs and author book review requests and books on tour on track. Also, it would help me in adding the books that attract me, including those I want to read on its release.
I usually use the Amazon wishlist to do that, but I can see how a TBR journal can be most useful. Maybe the genre and some points about it could be written. That will help you to whittle down the books that should stay in your TBR and those that can be safely removed. All the books in our TBR don’t appeal to us in different stages of our life.

Reading Challenge Journal

I don’t usually participate in one other than that of Goodreads, but I have many friends who do. And this journal would help to keep track of all the challenges that you are tagged in different social media. Also, doing all these challenges would help to make new friends and increase your follower list.
This journal can also be used for writing or reading prompts that are so famous in the blogging world and on Instagram. Writing them down will help you stay focused on meeting up with all your reading challenges. It also helps to get the inspiration to plan your posts.

Books You Love Journal

This is a new concept that has just been launched a couple of years ago. I saw it making rounds on Instagram. A journal where you can note all the books that you have loved in your reading journey. Sounds fun, right? Something that can remain in your drawer for future reference. All your favorites old and new can be mentioned, and they can become a collection of your all-time most loved books. You can add as many or as less a detail as you want. One thing that you can make space on it would be how these books made you feel.

The Others

Reading Bucket List Journal and Thoughtful Reading Journal are those I have heard about. Mentioned here just to complete the list. I don’t plan to check them out, as I don’t have any access to them. If you have used them, drop a comment and let me know how they have helped you.

List of Reading Journals from Amazon

These are just my suggestions based on their descriptions. Kindly do the due diligence on them, and check out the reviews before buying. I have tried to find the UK equivalent too, but you will have to do more exploring on your Amazon.

Romance Book Reading Journal

Available on Amazon as hardcover or paperback with around 160 pages. It is both a reading planner and tracker and has pages to jot down your reading lists and habits along with the authors and quotes. In addition to this, it has creative and coloring pages and book challenges.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Annual Book Reading Journal

For those who love reading challenges or want to create your own. It comes in both print and digital format (only from the creator’s website)

Bullet Reading Journal

This reading journal is for those who like tracking the past reads, deciding the present books, and designing the future ones.

Reading Log Journal

Tough matte paperback with 100 pages to record all details along with ratings for plot and character development and ease of reading and quotes.

Reading Journal: A book tracker

At 120 pages, this 6”x9″ journal has space for reviews for 96 books along with coloring pages and TBR tracker and Monthly Wrap Up and Book Challenge Logs.

Other Reading Journals

As you can see, there are many options available. Choose what suits your style.
Do you use a Reading Journal in your life?
Let me know in comments below what you write in it and how it has helped you in your reading.

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