Setting up a reading journal

No, I don’t have a reading journal for school — I’m just a grown woman who really likes to document her literary escapades.

At the end of last year, I channeled my inner geeky fourth grader and started keeping a reading log in a slim Stalogy B6 journal that I’ve since adorned with obnoxious Arthur stickers. I actually think that I revisit it more than my private life things journal — something about connecting with a good book just really gets my brain juices going, you know? 

Black reading journal with Arthur sticker on it
I put letter stickers on upcycled magazine paper and laid contact paper over it to keep it from falling off of my notebook. Then, I stuck on this cute Arthur sticker!

The benefits of keeping a reading journal (as an adult)

I consider myself a fairly voracious reader, but I’ve noticed that I don’t retain a lot of what I read. Keeping a reading log not only helps me remember plot points but also connects me to the books I love by way of an archive that I can later reference. Maybe it’s the former stationery marketer in me, but I don’t necessarily love reading journal apps. I keep track of my books on Instagram stories and used to have a Goodreads (and Storygraph), but I prefer an analog system that’s a bit more personalized and private for collecting my bookish thoughts. Plus, a physical reading log also gives me an excuse to get crafty and buy pens and stickers! (And, hello, aren’t Arthur and Dr. Seuss stickers the perfect reading journal stickers?)

While I don’t have the most charming reading log page spreads, my DIY reading journal has been well-loved and yes, actually used, over the past few months. (Maybe my spreads are charming in their functionality, crooked, chicken-scratch handwriting and all.) Here are a few of reading journal page spread ideas that I’ve implemented into my notebook so far.

Reading journal page spread ideas: How to set up a reading journal

You can easily keep a reading log as part of your bullet journal, but I like the idea of having an entire notebook dedicated to my bookish pursuits. Here are a few reading journal spread examples that I hope you’ll find helpful. 

To be read book list

To be read books 

Every reading record worth its salt needs a TBR list, right? This list needs to be updated, but it has been helpful for eliminating impulse buys and keeping track of the library books I want. Plus, referencing this TBR page encouraged me to finish books like Daisy Jones and the Six and Rebecca! I also like to take note of any books I’d like to get in a special edition. I’m especially a huge fan of getting classic books in nice hardcover form since I find them more compelling to read that way — I have too much eye strain to trudge through tiny fonts!

Books read in 2022
Books read in 2022…this is very cluttered…
Books read in 2023
I’m working on this as I read, so it’ll probably be way less cluttered than my 2022 spread!

Books read 

Because, of course. I didn’t really have a creative spread for 2022 since I started my reading journal late last year — it’s basically just a dump of everything I’ve read. My 2023 spread is a bit cuter so far. It even has a sticker of the Brain! 

The Vanishing Half book notes

Quotes and personal thoughts

I often like to be reminded of the beautiful writing I come across as a reader, so I jot down my favorite quotes with most reading log entries. I might create a standalone page for quotes, but I’ll often recollect my thoughts about a story in a paragraph or two, then jot down my favorite quotes underneath. 

Powell's bookmark in notebook
My friend gave me a Powell’s gift card for my birthday, and I saved the bookmark that the store sent with my books.

Mementos and other memories

I like to keep charming mementos (like bookmarks) from bookish gifts and used bookstores. I also have swag from book events pinned here, but you’ll just have to trust that it exists in my journal because I don’t want to dox myself. 

Other book log ideas I may incorporate in the future:

  • Reading habit tracker: I don’t actually keep track of my reading, but I think it could be helpful! I tend to rotate between a few books at once and end up DNF’ing a handful depending on library due dates. 
  • Library due date tracker: Speaking of library due dates, I have WAY too many library materials checked out at once. While I usually stay on top of renewals, I’m no stranger to late fees. It would be helpful to have an analog record that I can quickly skim so that I can plan out a feasible reading schedule. 
  • Table of contents: Having a table of contents for any kind of journal simply makes sense. However, I’m still experimenting with this log, so I’m not super pressed about keeping it meticulous and organized. In the future, I might consider creating a guide at the beginning (or an index at the end) to easily reference my notes.

How to choose a notebook for your reading journal

My notebook of choice is the Stalogy B6 in black because it’s lightweight, has durable binding, and looks relatively sleek. You could really use any notebook, but I find that a stitched and glued journal with a water-resistant, flexible cover works really well for my needs. I also find that a notebook that’s nice but not overly pricey (this was around $10 to $15) feels like something I want to consistently write in. 

Reading has been such a joyful hobby for me, and it’s one of those things that makes me feel productive but not necessarily stressed. Because it’s a big part of my leisure time, I’d actually like to keep track of how I engage with books. And so I have a journal for books I’ve read. Maybe I have a pathological need to archive everything, but it’s not actually work if there are sparkly pens and cute stickers involved, right? 

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