At the beginning of the year (which feels years ago instead of just a few months), I decided I wanted to connect more with what I was reading. Up until that point, I would read a book, log onto Goodreads, mark it as read, and move on. I wasn’t big on leaving reviews or star ratings because I truly believe there is a reader for every book. Just because I might not have enjoyed it doesn’t mean it’s not the perfect book for someone else. I didn’t want my less-than-five-stars rating to inadvertently deter the perfect reader from picking it up. It was also around this time that I reorganized my entire bedroom and discovered a plethora of empty journals. That’s when an idea sparked. Keeping a book journal would allow me to be candid with my thoughts, connect deeper to my reading, and create something cool and personal to look back on, all while utilizing one of my empty journals.
In this historical juncture where many of us feel untethered and uninspired, taking some moments to sit with your feelings and being intentional with your time are two big wins. That’s why I’m going to share parts of my book journal with you and explain how I came up with my cataloging system.
First, pick a journal you already own! I know how hard it is to resist the temptation to go out and buy a journal that’s “just right,” but I can promise you one in that stack on your shelf is perfect.
Second, lay out your intentions. I started my journal off with some reading goals I had for myself this year. While it included a number of books I would like to hit, I also made goals about the kind of books I wanted to read. I want to read a sci-fi book and a graphic novel because those are not my go-to genres. I want to read a book written by a trans author. I want to finish a series I started in childhood but never completed. Come up with as many goals as you want and know that you can always go back and add more! Here’s a list to get you started.
Third, create a reading key. I caved and bought a new pack of colored pens for this because I’m weak, but feel free to use colors, symbols, stickers, whatever you want to track important book characteristics. My key includes a color for books that I’m reading for the first time, books I’m rereading, books that contributed to one of my reading goals, and books I want to buy after reading if I borrowed the copy I read. This can grow and change as you create your journal, so don’t feel pressured to come up with a key right at the beginning. Mine took a few books to decide what worked best.
Fourth, create a template of what you want to track about each book. Mine has gone through a few versions since I started, so give yourself space to grow and change. I’ll share what I track as a jumping-off point, but feel free to leave out attributes you don’t care about and add ones you do! In addition to those below, some other ideas would be how you heard of the book, who you would recommend it to, a key takeaway, and other books you think are similar. Currently, I track:
- Dates read
- What number book this is of the year
- Book title
- Personal star rating
- Format I read
- Number of pages
- Genres/main themes (usually 3 per book)
- Quotes that spoke to me
- Summary/final thoughts
Fifth, it’s time to start reading! Start with the book you’re currently reading or pick up a new one and get to cataloging.
I still record my reads and purchases on Goodreads because having a digital record that spans back years makes my organized heart happy. This journal is a supplement that allows me to meditate more on the books I read, and so far I’ve really enjoyed updating it. I keep my journal pretty simple with my colored pens being the extent of the creativity, but I have a feeling some of you current bullet journalers will blow me away with the beautiful pages you will create. Be sure to share pictures of your journals and tag us so we can see!