reading journal

Every writer will benefit from keeping a reading journal.

Journal writing is something I’ve done on and off since I was a kid. I’ve always wanted to keep a reading journal, but usually I inhale books, leaving little time between chapters to jot down my thoughts and reactions.

And by the time I finish reading, it’s often the wee hours of the night and time to fall asleep, which means I’m far too exhausted to post entries in a reading journal.

Next thing I know, I’m on to the next book without a minute to spare.

But lately I’ve been trying to capture my reading experiences by writing down notes about what I’ve read, and I find it incredibly helpful.

The Benefits of a Reading Journal

Keeping a reading journal:

  • Increases retention.
  • Forces you to contemplate the material you’ve read.
  • Allows you to study and analyze the material from a writer’s perspective.
  • Provides a time and space for writing practice.

Most writers already practice regular journal writing. There’s no reason you can’t start including your reading entries there, or if you like to keep things neatly separated, start a separate reading journal. Use a Word document, launch a blog, crack open a notebook. The important thing is that you record your thoughts and your reactions or observations about what you’ve read.

What to Include in Your Reading Journal

 If you just want to keep track of all the books you’ve read, you can keep a running list in a spreadsheet or use a website like Goodreads. However, a comprehensive reading journal allows you to do more than maintain a list. Here are some details you can include in your reading journal:
  • This is pretty obvious, but be sure to include the title and author.
  • It can also be helpful to jot down the publisher. As an aspiring author, you should start familiarizing yourself with publishing houses. Noting the publishers of books you read is a good habit for acquiring knowledge about various publishers.
  • Note the year of publication. This may be relevant for understanding the book’s context.
  • Track the dates you started and finished the book and note the page count. This information can be useful if you ever want to assess how fast (or slowly) you read. It can also help you with future goal-setting: if you know how much you normally read, you can set goals to push yourself to read a little more each year.
  • Write a short summary or description of the book. You don’t need to get into a lot of detail — just enough to jog your memory of what the book was about if you need it for reference later.
  • General notes: Make some notes about the book’s strengths and weaknesses as well as what you liked and didn’t like. If the book gave you any ideas that you might want to use in your own work, jot them down. Make notes about anything else that you feel is relevant or useful, even if it’s just your general response to the book you’ve read.

Keeping a Reading Journal

Make it a habit: every time you pick up a new book and start reading it, make a note in your reading journal. Revisit the entry in your journal when you finish the book.

You can keep notes about all your reading, not just books and novels. Jot down your thoughts after reading a magazine article, news story, or blog post. If you really want to get all-inclusive, you can even include music lyrics, movies, and TV shows. All of these are sources of inspiration.

Do you keep a reading journal? Is there another type of journal writing that you prefer? Share your experiences by leaving a comment.

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