Starting a Reading Journal: The How & Why, and My Experience

by Joli

Although I’m relatively new to book blogging, I have a degree in English, so I’m no stranger to writing about books. However, I’ll admit, blog-style book reviews are much different from the papers I wrote for class!

For my first couple reviews on Literary Quicksand, I didn’t have a reading journal. When it came time for me to write my review, I found myself struggling with parts. I wanted to quote the book, but hadn’t written down or otherwise indicated my favorite passages. Character names would elude me, and ideas I had for my review would vanish.

keeping a reading journal

So, I started a reading journal. And it’s wonderful! Not only is it a fantastic way for me to take notes while I’m reading about specific details I’d like to include in my review, but it helps me think more critically about a book while I’m reading. Not that I don’t enjoy getting sucked into the story (which I do rather regularly and don’t take notes for a hundred pages), but I really enjoy exploring deeper thoughts about the work while I’m reading it. Note taking, so far, makes this happen much more naturally. I can’t help but stop and think when I’m writing things down.

The other reason I’ve found reading journaling to be really satisfying is because it’s an excuse to actually put pen to paper. So much of our world is digital these days that there’s something so special about a fresh notebook sheet and a pen, and being alone with a book and a journal. Now, when I was in college and taking notes every day in class, I’m not sure if I’d feel the same way about this. Reading for pleasure in college for me (although it didn’t happen often due to course load) was definitely more for escape and didn’t involve much critical thinking.

That’s why you can make a reading journal into whatever you want, and journal about whatever’s most important to you and your reading goals. Maybe that means it’s just an easy list of books you’ve read with a couple details, or maybe it’s something more like mine with notes on how long it took me to read, characters, quotes, themes, and other nerdy awesome details.

So, I want to know…do you keep notes while you’re reading? Or just a list of what you’ve read? Do you find putting pen to paper as satisfying as I do? Weigh in please!

Related Posts


Sharanya April 1, 2016 - 11:11 am

I’ve started writing in the margins (gasp! I know), and sticky-noting favorite parts so I can go back to them. Or, highlighting them on my kindle!

Joli April 1, 2016 - 11:17 am

Oh no, not the margins?!?! Haha just kidding, I notated the heck out of margins when I was in school. Now I’m too protective of my pretty books to do that…and I get a good number of reads from the library :] But that definitely works!

Whit April 2, 2016 - 3:28 am

I recently found a copy of The Hobbit that I had when I was in middle school, and I had written all sorts of notes in the margins. It’s really cool to see how one’s perspective on a book can change throughout the years. It’s also really awesome to pick up a book at a used book shop and find notes from another reader.

So, keep writing in those margins!

Chelsea @ Sparkles and Scribbles April 1, 2016 - 11:44 am

I’m also a (former) English major turned book blogger. I go back and forth on the whole reading journal thing and always have. I love notebooks and having my thoughts about a book preserved but I also struggle to stop and take notes consistently and/or juggle a notebook and regular book. Teach me your ways!

Joli April 1, 2016 - 12:29 pm

Former English majors, unite! Hahaha I’ll try 😀 First, I made sure to buy a journal I really, really liked. It’s this one:
I love it because it makes me feel so calm, and that’s been a big thing in my life lately – attempting to connect with those calm points throughout the day, and reading is definitely one of them! I also get lost in the book sometimes and don’t take notes for a long stretch, but I notice when that happens and try to think when I’m done and scribble a few things down. It’s not perfect, but it works most of the time! I like that a journal is so personal…even when we’re all writing about books, we write different things in different ways about books.

Can you tell I went to yoga class this morning? Lol :]

Whit April 2, 2016 - 3:25 am

I’m not the tidiest person, so my book journaling consists of scribbling on whatever piece of paper is closest to me while I am reading. Printer paper, sketch pad, old receipts and bills—if it’s paper, I’ll use it. Which is why my fiance happened upon a random slip of paper during my days reading 1Q84 that simply said, “Too many boobs.”

Angela @ Angela's Library April 2, 2016 - 11:12 am

It’s amazing how big a difference book journaling makes! I’m a fast reader but a notoriously slow review writer, but I’ve found that taking notes goes a long way in speeding up the process. It has to be on paper, though – I used to take notes on my laptop but it just didn’t work for me. There’s something about the physical act of writing that gets the juices flowing!

Joli April 3, 2016 - 2:13 pm

I agree! There’s something magical, calming and nostalgic about writing in a journal.

Samantha April 3, 2016 - 8:55 am

I love this idea! I actually bought a notebook at the beginning of the year for the purpose of book journaling so that I could not only remember what I read, but to also have points of discussion for a book club. I haven’t actually started doing but maybe now is a good time to start. Not being an English major myself, is there anything in particular you write out other than quotes and ideas/critical thinking points that you would like to explore further?

Joli April 3, 2016 - 2:20 pm

Ooo do it!
Here’s what I write down:
– Title, author, dates started and finished
– Quick character notes because names are hard for me
– Passages that are especially poignant, hilarious or awesome in some way
– General notes about the story with my thoughts. Like for All the Light We Cannot See, I wrote “The two stories parallel each other and intersect near the end” because that sounded like something good to write in my review.
– My star rating at the end, along with a fun couple-word description so I remember how I felt about it. Like for All the Light, I have “Amazing! Hype = Deserved.” For Bel Canto I have “Meh.”

Joli's Midweek Mix: Volume 4 - Literary Quicksand April 6, 2016 - 7:16 am

[…] Starting a Reading Journal: The How & Why, and My Experience April 1, 2016 […]

Rachel @ Never Enough Novels April 6, 2016 - 11:28 am

I love the idea of keeping notes but can never seem to remember to as I’m reading! So I just purchased this adorable reading journal from Amazon ( I’m hoping having this handy notebook will help…

10 Most-Loved Posts from Our First Year of Bookishness - Literary Quicksand March 23, 2017 - 12:40 pm

[…] Starting a Reading Journal: The How & Why, and My Experience […]


Leave a Comment