Book Journaling: What It Is and How to Get Started

I’ve been reading for as long as I remember. My Goodreads account boasts a fairly impressive number of books read, but it’s not a complete list. For many years, I kept a notebook with a list of the books I read and that, too, was incomplete. I wish I had figured out when I was younger that I would someday want the entire catalog of books I’d read. Even now, with Goodreads and other media that makes tracking reading possible, it’s often difficult for me to even remember basic plot lines or main characters’ names of books I’ve read because there are just so many. Fortunately, I recently stumbled upon the concept of book journaling, and I think it has the potential to totally turn this problem around.

What is book journaling? We've got a guide to the art and craft of book journaling and why you might want to try it. journaling | book journaling | book habits | reading habits | reading tracking | commonplace books

As a teen, I spent a lot of time listening to music and interacting with songs in the forms of writing down favorite lines and illustrating lyrics. Why it never occurred to me to do this with books—which have, overall, been a larger part of my life than has music—is beyond me. The idea was first evident to me when I saw a post about it on a Facebook group for library professionals. Lisa Johnson described a method she utilizes for retaining more of what she read. Described as “using a reader’s notebook,” Johnson’s process is simple and easily adaptable to the reader’s needs.

View this post on Instagram

My second book “Creatively Productive” will be released with @dbc_inc January 26th, 2019. Chapter 6 focuses on reading retention and using a reader’s notebook which has been life-changing for me. I find I remember, retain, and am able to really make sense of what I read, and absorb this info into my practice when I utilize this process. . . . 👉🏻🙌🏻My most recent spread is from @nishawrites and her book “My So-Called Bollywood Life” which was fantastic. . . . My process is 1️⃣ Read and highlight book, 2️⃣ Choose colors and objects that represent or mimic the tone or mood of the book 3️⃣ Write the title similarly as it is on the book, 4️⃣ Jot down my favorite quotes, words, phrases, literary devices, or things that spoke to or resonated with me as I read the book. (☝🏻I should also mention that the front half of my bullet journal is a reader’s notebook and the back half is my bullet journal with lifestyle lists and mood and habit trackers.) #tlap #creativelyproductive . . . #mysocalledbollywoodlife #readersofinstagram #readersareleaders #fiction #fictionbooks #reading #bookrecommendations #txla #teachersofinstagram #ncte #authorsofinstagram #readersnotebook #bookish #bookclubofinstagram #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookreview #bookreviews #librariansofig #bookclubs #bookclub #bookobsessed #readaholic #bookgram #commonplacebook #commonplacebooks #booksnaps #nctevillage

A post shared by Lisa Johnson, M.Ed. (@notechef4u) on

Outlined in both her Instagram post above and her book, Creatively Productive, the process is this: “(1) Read and highlight the book (2) Choose colors and objects that represent or mimic the tone or mood of the book (3) Write the title similarly as it is on the book (4) Jot down my favorite quotes, words, phrases, literary devices, or things that spoke to or resonated with me as I read the book.” In doing this, readers are tasked with reading more intentionally and deeply before reiterating parts of the book that are important to them in the journal, thus making the book itself more memorable. Plus, readers then have easy access to those parts that were important in the form of their journal.

This works for both fiction and nonfiction—in one example, Johnson shares her spread for Ellen Hopkins’s Crank, proving that even verse can be effectively transcribed into the reading journal. In addition to individual spreads for books, readers might also include their to-be-read and have-read list. For readers who like the bullet journal method, book journaling can easily be incorporated into an existing bullet journal and a have-read list can also serve as a table of contents, provided the pages of the spreads are numbered.

Johnson recommends a handful of materials for readers who like to fancy up their notes—washi tape, permanent double-sided tape (especially for notebooks with thinner pages that might benefit from things like cardstock or index cards), magazines for cutting out images and words, colorful pens or markers, stickers, labels, mementos, and ephemera. All of these can enhance book spreads. Book journaling can be done either digitally or in analog, so if you prefer not to collect lots of supplies, try the same process on Google Docs or another platform, where you can gather images and other pieces from across the internet to design your spread.

If you’re looking for more guidance or inspiration on getting started with book journaling, Instagram has thousands of posts tagged #bookjournal (and many ‘grammers include related hashtags in their posts—so check those, too!).

You might be interested in doing something that primarily captures the visuals of the book.

Or maybe a focus on quotes is better suited to your needs.

View this post on Instagram

“She doesn’t know a thing about me, yet she wants to make me into the big bad villain who is influencing her precious son. God forbid, he hear what people like me have to deal with on the daily. It might be nice to panic over some goddamn words. Because that’s all they are. Words.” //⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⠀⠀⁣ ⁣ ⁣ My second five star of this year. On the Come Up totally surprised me. It is way outside of the usual genre I read (YA) and I am not a big fan of rap music so I wasn’t entirely sure how much I would relate or enjoy that part of this story. Overall the book was great! It depicts real life struggles, racial tensions, sexism in the music industry, and negative perceptions of rap music and race that society constructs. I really enjoyed how Angie Thomas comments about how people will see what they want to see when they look at a person in order to fit their own preconceived narrative of that individual. Bri wants her music to stand for something more meaningful, but she is told time and time again that people will only see her as a “hoodlum.” I think thats something we (as white individuals) need to work on fighting against in order to be better allies to those in the black community; knowing the person on a human level before we just jump to conclusions that society has constructed for us. Mostly my reason for choosing the above quote.⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ On a lighter note, I loved the familial relations and Bri’s relationships with her friends. There was a lot of humor in Bri’s internal dialogue and her comments on how ridiculous some things/person were, were hilarious. I definitely snorted and laughed a few times. And the rap moments were very catchy, I found my head bobbing along and rapping inside my head as I read those parts. The ending was also left a little open ended to make room for a possible sequel? I would be on board with one, in which we see more of Bri’s raping.” ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⠀⠀⁣ #bookstagram #booksofinstagram #bookblogger #bookblog #ya #youngadultfiction #onthecomeup #angiethomas #diversebooks #penguinpress #journal #journaling #creativejournal #bookjournal #bulletjournal #bujo #readersofinstagram⁣

A post shared by courtney lynn🤓📚 (@reorganizedreading) on

Perhaps you’re just looking for a better method to review books, either for your own use or for sharing.

View this post on Instagram

I read this for the module, Rethinking Failure, in one afternoon last Thursday before class! It was like Valentine’s day and it was honestly fairly depressing to read about the habitually cheating but “beautiful” Husband that the Wife is obsessed with? In her words, “beauty makes sex sex”…which sounds fairly reasonable, except that this text becomes less of one about love than of lust and desire. Imo both the Husband and Wife have serious issues la, and neither of them really fulfil each other’s needs so I would recommend marital counselling and therapy lol. Edit: I forgot to mention that I included a photo of Dodo in the second picture. He’s beautiful. He’s male. Too bad he ain’t a Husband.

A post shared by The Study Theory (@thestudytheory) on

There are so many ways to try book journaling…

View this post on Instagram

‘𝓼 𝓯𝓲𝓻𝓼𝓽 𝓹𝓸𝓼𝓽 i want to read more books! so im starting this instagram to track my progress 🥰 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #bookjournal #bookstagram #bujo #bookspread #aesthetic #drawing #journaling #artjournal #reading #readingjournal #studyblr #journeytothecentreoftheearth #bookstagrammer #read #bookworm #book #bookclub #bookish #bookreview #bujoweeklyspread #bujoideas #bujoinspiration #bulletjournal #bulletjournalideas #bulletjournaladdict #handlettering #handwriting #brushlettering #bookphotography

A post shared by tee (@paper.stdy) on

…and there’s no right way to do it!

View this post on Instagram

Minha primeira leitura de 2019 foi o livro The Bear And The Nightingale (O Urso e O Roxinol), da @arden_katherine Esse livro se passa na Rússia medieval, no meio de um vilarejo numa floresta cheia de criaturas mágicas que só podem ser vistas por uma garota. Tudo vive em perfeito equilíbrio até que a madrasta dela chega e quebra o acordo silencioso entre as pessoas e as criaturas. Essa é uma história mágica e com personagens bem desenvolvidos. Tudo tem um ar de conto de fadas e a escrita faz você se sentir no inverno intenso da Rússia. Para mim, esse livro é muito bom e me deixou ansiosa para ler a continuação. . . Nota: 4,5 🌟 . . . . #TheBearAndTheNightingale #katherinearden #thewinternightseries #bookinstagram #bookporn #bookworn #booklover #literature #winter #introvertedgirl #yaliterature #yabooks #book #booknerd #yalit #favoritebooks #readingnook #bibliophile #booknstagram #bookish #bookishfeature #bookphotography #bookishthings #booknerdparadise #vsco #artjoural #bookjournal

A post shared by Roberta 🌸 (@robsinbujoland) on

If you’re an educator, you might try implementing book journaling with the students in your life. Teens in particular may be drawn to the artistic potential in book journaling and ultimately walk away with a better understanding and memory of the reading material.

Find other book journal methods here and here.

Book Riot has Avada Kedavra-ed the comments section, so please come chat with us on Twitter or Instagram!