Dear Diary: Favorite Books Told as Journal Entries

Open a blank white notebook, pen and coffee on the desk

For the past year, my husband and I have been traveling around the world. We worked our butts off to save money, sold all of our things, packed up some bags, and went. Every day of that trip, I have kept notes on inside jokes, observations, silly things, scary things, and everything else in a black Moleskine journal with a monkey sticker on the front. I used my journal like a Pensieve. As Dumbledore said to Harry: “One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the [journal], and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.” If I put it in the book, I didn’t need to take up bandwidth in my head remembering everything. After a year, it was full and I sent it to my brother who is keeping our things until we get back.

Last weekend, USPS told me they had lost my journal.

Naturally, “upset” isn’t quite the word I’d use to describe how I feel. Dumbledore would’ve avada kedavra’d them. OK, Dumbledore is much kinder than me and wouldn’t have done that. He would have at least accio’d my journal, though.

Losing my journal got me thinking about books written in a diary format. This happens to be one of my favorite story-telling devices and probably a big reason I kept such a complete journal. Writing in journal form is a popular way of conveying a character’s story and losing that journal is often used as a way of moving the action forward. Here are some of my favorites. Warning: Spoilers for books published long ago are included.

  1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling– Obviously, we have to start here. If Ginny hadn’t picked up that journal, the whole thing wouldn’t have happened. Plus, there would still be a Horcrux bouncing around and an evil man whom-we-shall-not-name would be on the loose. Who knows if my past self is communicating through the USPS workers reading my book now? I just hope someone stabs it with a giant snake fang if anything is getting out of hand where it is.
  2. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding – If Bridget Jones lost her diary, there wouldn’t be a story. Bridget keeps a long journal about her struggles with men, her weight, and her parents. I’m sure if she lost it, she would be mortified to learn that her inner thoughts were out there for strangers to read. I am somewhat worried about what people would think if they picked up my journal from the USPS floor and read it. I didn’t have any secret affairs or major conflicts with my husband but what will they think about all of the personal things I wrote?
  3. Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnGone Girl is the novel that everything else seems to be compared with these days. This is a trickier diary-themed entry because the journal is used to set up a suspect. Are you really sure I “lost” that journal or did I make it go missing in order to frame someone I know?
  4. The Jessica Darling series (Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, Second Helpings, etc.) by Megan McCafferty– These YA books came out several years ago but I still love them. Jessica writes down all of the insightful (yet maybe not polite) thoughts she has about her classmates, her life, and herself throughout her high school, college, and adult years. Of all of the journals on this list, mine most resembled this one. Will losing my journal change my friendships and career plans?
  5. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki – This is one of my favorite books of all time. There are two interweaving stories – one about a writer who lives in Washington who finds a teenager’s journal and that teenager’s story. If Nao’s journal was lost by USPS, Ruth would’ve had a nice, uneventful walk on the beach and there would be no concern about suicide, bullying, or Buddhist nuns. Maybe a writer will find my journal washed up on a Washington beach and attempt to contact me?

I’m always up for reading a journal story so if someone has a suggestion to add to this list, please let me know! What are your thoughts about using a journal as a way to tell a story? Most importantly: does anyone know someone at USPS that can find my journal for me? I’m not ready to have it turned into a plot point!

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