How to keep a reading journal

An open book and a stack of books to read.

Reading is a wonderful activity that enables us to escape from reality, explore new worlds, stimulate our imaginations, and gain knowledge.

A reading journal helps you keep track of the books you read and connect with literature on a deeper level.

Let’s hit the books together and explore the benefits of keeping a reading journal before learning how to use one.

What is a reading journal?

A reading journal is a place for you to track what you read. But what is included in this type of journal?

Every book journal is unique, but some common elements to consider tracking are:

  • book title
  • author
  • date started
  • date finished
  • publication date
  • genre
  • number of pages
  • pace
  • format
  • language (if you’re multilingual)
  • a rating
  • a one-paragraph plot summary
  • favourite character
  • least-favourite character
  • favourite passages
  • favourite scene or chapter
  • the book’s strengths
  • the book’s weaknesses
  • doodles inspired by the book.

You can also use a journal to set reading goals, keep track of books you’ve bought or borrowed, and list books you’d like to read in the future.

If you’d like to read more books by Black female authors, for example, why not curate a list of books you’d like to read by Black female authors and get started with your challenge?

Apps like Goodreads or The StoryGraph can record your reading progress too, but many readers enjoy using the traditional pen-and-paper method to reflect on recent reads.

The benefits of keeping a reading journal

Keeping a reading journal can be beneficial in many ways.

Firstly, it’s an opportunity for reflection and analysis. Did you learn anything from the story? Did it challenge your perspective or expand your worldview? Did the story inspire you in any way?

Secondly, when you’ve tracked your reading for a while, you can review your journal and see patterns indicating what you enjoy most in a novel and what is best avoided in future.

For example, your journal may unveil that you’re most likely to enjoy a thriller, yet you read more science fiction. Or perhaps you’re reading slow-paced novels when you find fast-paced writing more engaging.

The more detail you include in your journal, the more analysis you can do. You’ll often find the reason behind a reading slump hidden in your data.

A reading journal can also be a springboard for conversing with fellow readers. If you’re a book club member, you’ll find a reading journal helpful to jog your memory when discussing the novel.

The benefits of a reading journal for writers

If you’re a writer, a reading log can be beneficial for making notes on an author’s style and technique, which you can later refer back to and test out in your own writing.

You may enjoy the structure of a novel, how suspense is built, or how the author uses punctuation as a powerful tool.

You’ll also benefit from developing a critical eye when reading, as editors will read and question your work when you submit it for publication. An editor will favour work already cleaned up so they can assess the story without distraction from oddly-placed dialogue or grammatical errors.

How to keep a book journal

Book journals are personal, and each is unique, but there are some steps everyone can take to keep one.

Choose a journal

Firstly, you need to choose a journal for your reading log. This could be a simple plain or lined notebook, a beautifully designed journal, or a digital platform.

Most book lovers enjoy writing their thoughts down with a pen, but some also use an app to track further data in graphs, like the mood of each book they read.

Consider the size of your journal if you plan to carry it with you in a bag or pocket for on-the-go journaling.

Decide on a layout

Next, you can choose a layout for your journal.

Decide what elements you want to include for each book you read (dates, ratings, quotes, etc.), then play around with layouts in pencil until you find one you’re happy with.

If you’re struggling with this task, you’ll find plenty of book journal layout inspiration on Pinterest.

Decorate your journal

Your reading log can be left unadorned, or you can take the opportunity to let your creativity flow.

Some readers enjoy embellishing their journals with calligraphy, typography, drawings, stickers, and washi tape.

An excellent addition to any book journal is a colour printout of the cover of each book you’ve read — you can print book covers on sticker paper for quick application.

Use your book journal

Next, it’s time to use your journal. If you’re using it to track your reading and make notes on each book, you may need to wait until you finish your current read.

If you include your favourite quotes and passages in your journal, you’ll find it helpful to mark the pages as you read so you can quickly find the quotes when you come to write them down.

Remember to log each book as you finish them or keep a pile of books to add to your journal together.

Analyse the data

Once you’ve used your journal for a while, you can review it and analyse the collected data.

You may discover you prefer books light-hearted books with less than 200 pages despite regularly reading long, emotional novels.

Use the data to inform future reading decisions, and you’ll make better choices when selecting books to read.


As you love reading, you should also check out our blog post about famous authors and their writing habits to discover every trick in the book!

Lucy is our lead editor and has been passionate about stationery since childhood. She has a particular fondness for rollerball and calligraphy pens and is a keen advocate of snail mail.

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