Learn the answer to the question, “What is a reading journal?” Plus, discover the benefits, what to include, how to start one, and tips for maintaining your dedicated book journal.

As an avid reader and full-time book blogger, I have been book journaling for many, many years now, in many different forms, from GoodReads to my own printable Reading Journal, and beyond.

In fact, one of the main reasons I started this website was because I had written so many book reviews on Evernote that I wanted to share publicly. I was writing these reviews mostly because I am an overthinker, and the way I process my thoughts and emotions is by writing about them.

Now, I journal about books and reading for additional reasons, including tracking my annual reading goals, my monthly book lists and favorite books read, and my progress on my own reading challenge.

So, with that in mind, let’s answer the question, “What is a reading journal?” so you too can benefit from keeping a reading tracker.

What is a Reading Journal?

A reading journal is a dedicated space where readers can document their reading goals and reading experiences. It may be kept in printed or digital format, including books, apps, social media, bullet journals, printable PDFs, spreadsheets, and more. It can include a variety of information including books read, books to be read, book reviews, book ratings, reading habit trackers, statistics about books read, favorite quotes, favorite books, book notes, progress on reading challenges, and so much more.

There are many reasons people keep reading journals, including to improve their comprehension skills, critical thinking skills, and writing skills; to track their reading goals; and to reflect back on what they read at a later time.


What are the Benefits of a Reading Journal?

A reading journal offers a wide range of benefits, including the following:

  • Improves reading comprehension
  • Improves critical thinking
  • Improves writing skills
  • Helps you process your thoughts and feelings
  • Tracks your progress
  • Documents important things you read

Personally, I have used reading journals for all of these benefits. Some of my favorite things to journal about are book reviews, monthly reading lists, how many books I read each month and year, my favorite books each month and year, book adaptations to watch, how many books I read on the Gilmore Girls book list, and what states and countries I have read about.

The first year that I set a reading goal on GoodReads, tracking it on this digital type of journal motivated me to read far more than I ever read before (multiples, actually).

Then, it became not just fun and helpful to track my reading life, but also somewhat necessary. When I felt strongly about a book I read, my thoughts would swirl around in my head endlessly, distracting me from other things. When I started journaling, I was able to process my thoughts and feelings and, in doing so, I would sometimes also discover new things about the book too.

I also love to maintain notes on books like self-help books, so I can look back at their best tips and continue to implement them in my life.

And, it’s just so useful to have a running list of everything I’ve read and want to read. I’m always re-organizing my “to be read” list each month.

As mentioned, I now primarily use GoodReads and my own printable Reading Journal to do all of this. Of course, I also blog and share about books and reading online on a daily basis!

Through all of these methods, I have definitely seen all of my communication skills improve. I can speak faster, and I write so much more clearly.


What To Include in a Reading Journal

collage of reading journal pages

I have already mentioned a few things you can include in a reading journal. Below is a more detailed list of reading journal examples for you to consider.

My personal favorite things to include in a reading journal are all a part of my printable PDF Reading Journal, and they include:

  • “My Bookshelf” Coloring Page
  • Monthly Planner
  • “Books Read” List
  • “To Be Read” List
  • Reading Habit Tracker
  • Yearly Book Tally
  • Reading Challenge
  • Alphabet Challenge
  • Book Adaptation Checklist
  • Book Review Template
  • Quick Book Review List with Star Ratings
  • Favorite Quotes Template
  • Favorite Quotes Template
  • Lined Notes Page
  • Bonus: Daily Planner
  • Bonus: The Gilmores’ Bookshelf

My email subscribers also have free access to lots more checklists for celebrity book club picks, the catalogs of their favorite authors and series, the Gilmore Girls reading list, the U.S.A. reading challenge, the around the world reading challenge, and more.

Here are even more things you may choose to include in your own reading journal:

  • Summaries of major plot points
  • Characters
  • Themes
  • Symbols
  • Page count
  • Format read
  • Genres
  • Things to discuss at book club
  • Things you learned
  • Mood
  • Types of diversity included
  • Dates you started and finished a book
  • Doodles or illustrations
  • Questions
  • Connections to your personal life
  • Literary bucket list
  • Pairings (adaptations, recipes, songs, similar books, etc.)
  • Fan fiction

How to Start a Reading Journal

If you’re excited to start your own reading journal now, here’s how.

First, pick your format (print or digital) and sub-format (i.e, app, spreadsheet, book, printable). It will help to consider what you want to include, so you can ensure the format you choose is capable of managing all of it.

Second, set up your reading journal. Personally, I store my Reading Journal in a three-ring binder with dividers, and I write on it with a simple mechanical pencil and colored pencils because I am often changing things, especially my monthly “to be read” list.

If you’re using a printed reading journal, you can also consider these writing tools:

Lastly, just do it! It’s time to start your reading journal journey. Remember to have FUN!


Tips for Keeping a Reading Journal

Like starting anything new, you may struggle with maintaining your reading journal. Here are a few things that can help.

Create a Journaling Routine

I recommend starting a journaling schedule and a routine at first, so that, over time, it becomes habitual for you.

For example, I always enter my books into my GoodReads account and rate them the second I finish a book. This way, I never forget to do it.

Personalize Your Reading Journal

I also think journalers should focus on making sure their journal is very customized and personalized so that it’s both a helpful and fun hobby for you to want to do.

For example, one reader may never give books star ratings, while another may love to add star-rating stickers to each title. If you really like your reading journal, you’re more inclined to stick with it.

Keep Your Reading Journal Handy

We are so much more likely to do things when they are easy to access, so think about what that means for you and your reading journal.

I like keeping mine with my daily planner, but someone else may like keeping it with their book or as a shortcut on their phone or desktop.

Tweak Your Journaling

Remember to also tweak things along the way once you learn more about your own unique journaling preferences and needs. This is one of the reasons I love using a printable Reading Journal so much. I can easily add or subtract pages, erase things and move them around, etc. For me, a reading journal is a living, breathing document.

Banish the Idea of Perfection

Lastly, I want to remind you that nothing is perfect. I think a lot of aspiring journalers can want to give up when they make a mistake, forget to journal about something, or even forget to journal at all.

There is simply no rule anywhere in the history of book journaling that it has to be perfect! I mean, nothing in life is perfect, so holding yourself to such a standard is more harmful than helpful.

Remember to think of your reading journal as a snippet of time, for better or for worse, and you will be more likely to stick with it.


Conclusion

To summarize, a reading journal is a dedicated space where readers can document their reading goals and reading experiences. Keeping a reading journal can help you do such things as process your thoughts and feelings, document what you learned, and improve your communication skills.

In your reading journal, you can include things like book reviews, monthly reading lists, how many books you read, your favorite books, and so much more. Just pick the journal that’s right for you, set it up, and get started!

Along the way, it will help to do things like creating a journaling routine so that it becomes a habit that serves you for years to come.

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