Why I Keep a Reading Journal and How to Start Your Own

Megan Mabee |
5 months ago

In this era of bullet journaling, I encourage you to channel your creative energy and fine-tipped pens into another style of notebook: your very own reading journal. Calendars and checklists are cool, but who doesn’t love the way a nice blocked quote from your favorite book looks on the fresh page of a notebook? Below, I’ve included some tips on how to start your own.

A Little Background

I first learned about reading journals from one of my professors. He recommended we keep a notebook to use as a field book of sorts during the expeditions we took through the worlds of books. The journal was not intended to keep track of every book we read with our reviews—I find Goodreads more enjoyable for that. Rather, any memorable quotes we came across while reading could go into the notebook.

My reading journal allows me to carry the words and their power with me after I’ve turned the last page in a book. Interested in giving it a try? Check out these suggestions!

Choosing Your Reading Journal

For my reading journal, I selected a violet Decomposition notebook with vintage, floral designs. I decided on a pocket-sized one so it can tag along with me if needed. With so many tempting notebooks to choose from, I’m already itching to get my hands on a new one. Notebook covers are so trendy these days; who doesn’t love looking at manatees sitting in cups of tea or the satisfying snap as you close the strap on a soft Moleskin notebook? For now though, I’m making myself wait until I fill this one.

Using Your Reading Journal

Have you ever felt that extreme focus and calm of getting completely drawn into the story you’re reading? Your legs could be cramping and your tea grown cold, but you can’t make yourself move because your book is too good? Having to pause reading to hurriedly scrawl a quote down in my reading journal would interrupt this feeling. No one wants pleasure reading to feel like a homework assignment.

To work around this, I fold down the corner of a page that I’ve found a good quote on (yes, I’m one of those people—feel free to keep scraps of paper handy to bookmark pages instead). Later, I go back through my dog-eared pages and jot down the memorable quotes from them into my journal. I promise I’m not a complete troll and do unfold the page corners when I’m done.

Choosing Your Quotes

You may be wondering, what kinds of quotes do I write in my reading journal anyways? It varies. When I’m reading, I sometimes get a gut feeling that the line or passage I read meant something to me. It could have simply created a beautiful picture in my mind, like this one:

“She dropped the bike, observed the street, and crossed the yard. The shadows of clouds were buried among the dusky grass. Were they holes for falling into, or patches of extra darkness for hiding in?” —Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Other times, it leaves a resounding feeling in my heart that I can’t shake, like this one:

“The ship sank…Everything was screaming: the sea, the wind, my heart…’Richard Parker, can you believe what has happened to us? Tell me it’s a bad dream. Tell me it’s not real. Tell me I’m still in my bunk on the Tsimtsum and I’m tossing and turning and soon I’ll wake up from this nightmare. Tell me I’m still happy. Mother, my tender guardian angel of wisdom, where are you? And you Father, my loving worrywart? And you, Ravi, dazzling hero of my childhood?…What are you doing Richard Parker? Don’t you love life? Keep swimming then!’” —Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Some quotes become imprinted in my mind, burned into my brain, and though the traces of the letters may fade, the feeling I have from reading them never truly goes away.

One Final Note

Nearly five years have passed since I first started my reading journal, and I’m pleased to see the garden of quotes it’s grown into. Flipping through the pages and reading snippets here and there draws me back into the worlds of my favorite stories. I take comfort in the moving, lyrical, and thoughtful messages I’ve collected. I hope I’ve planted a seed within you to start your own book garden too.

Do you keep a reading journal? What do you like to write in it? Tag us @BookRiot on our social media with a picture of your own!