Shauna Bickley

A Reading Journal

Posted on Sunday 8th January 2023 by Shauna Bickley

Towards the end of December 2019, I read a thread of tweets from people about their reading for the year taken from their reading journals. I’ve always been an avid reader but before then I’d never considered keeping a reading journal. Despite being a writer, I’ve never really taken to journaling and so my reading journal is a spreadsheet.

A reading journal doesn’t have to be time-consuming or a work of art. In its simplest form, it is a way of keeping track of the books you’ve read, those you’ve enjoyed, and any ‘new to you’ authors you liked and want to read more of their books.

My spreadsheet is simple: book title and author, dates read, a rating column that I can use to sort the books easily, and a final comments column on the storyline and my thoughts on the book or characters.

I’ve found keeping a reading journal useful for future book purchases and checking whether I have already read an author and, if so, how much I enjoyed the previous books. I’ve also noticed that sometimes with authors who have a large backlist and have written several different series, there are some of their series that I enjoyed, but others less so, even within the same genre.

Alongside my reading journal, I also keep a list of books and/or authors that have attracted my attention. For example: from a book recommendation by a friend or on social media or a review, upcoming new releases by favourite authors, or extracts from books that interested me and which I now wish to read in full.

A reading journal can be as simple or creative as you wish to make it. A friend often mixes her reading journal entries in with her morning journaling, and people who are visually more creative than I am might want to add sketches with their entries or use collages. I saw one summary of an annual reading list depicted as shelves with each book drawn on a bookshelf, some standing upright and others stacked. I thought this was a brilliant idea and something you could pin to a corkboard or office wall.

The important thing is there is no right or wrong way to create a reading journal.

Choose a format you enjoy. It might be a paper notebook, or it could be a Word or Google document. Use what works for you.

I don’t generally need to be motivated to read but some months are busier than others. Last year I found that I read less for about six weeks while I was deep into editing my novel. When I checked my reading journal it gave me a kick of personal competitiveness to see that I’d read less than for the previous year.

I’ve also found that keeping a reading journal has helped me to read a little more mindfully. To observe and reflect on what I have enjoyed about a book and how the author made me feel about a character, theme or storyline.

If the number of books you read during a year makes it into double or triple digits then I recommend starting a reading journal — and what better time to start than now?

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