Reading Journals For Beginners: How To Start A New Reading Journal

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Reading is a hobby that I’ve actively put first since it’s the perfect way to let go of stress and escape into a fantasy world for a few hours. After creating a reading journal, my experience has intensified to a new level that is beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

Keeping track of the books you’ve read, writing down your thoughts and discussions on paper, listing the books you’re excited to read can make the process of reading even more fleshed out and a hobby that is worth investing time into.

If you’re looking to learn more about reading journals, here’s what you’ll learn:

  • What a reading journal entails
  • A step by step guide to creating a reading journal and tracker
  • Ways to use them
  • Different kinds of reading trackers to try
  • How to customize your reading journal

We’ve also included a variety of ideas you can draw inspiration from to make your journal look and feel at it’s best.

So, if this is something that interests you, grab a cup of tea and get ready to know everything there is to create a journal that will enhance your reading journey.

What Is A Reading Journal?

For many, the meaning of a reading journal can vary from person to person because not everyone will use a reading journal in the same way but there are many aspects to these journals that will be found in most reading journals.

A reading journal is a collection of multiple different insights ranging from personal thoughts and opinions and a way to keep track of the number of books and pages read daily, monthly, or yearly, including participating in reading challenges to explore creativity and develop better habits. 

Of course, this explanation of a reading journal is pretty subjective but it’s a good overall idea to give you a little sneak peek into what it entails which we’ll go over in detail soon.

Also, I’d like to include that this type of journal is a very personal entry of unedited thoughts that are most likely only going to be seen by yourself unless you choose to show it to others.

Reasons Why You Should Keep A Reading Journal

If you’re used to rating and keeping track of books to read online, then I highly suggest you give a reading journal a chance. It just might become your next favorite activity to do consistently.

Here is a list of ways keeping a reading journal will benefit you: 

  1. Glancing at your reviews can spark a desire to reread a particular book you liked
  2. New ideas and thoughts will form that can be used for book club discussions
  3. Self-awareness will be increased since you’ll be able to discern your likes/dislikes
  4. You’ll be encouraged to actively read and question what the author is trying to convey to rather than accepting what you read

There’s also something strange and exciting about flipping through the pages at the end of each month just to see how much you’ve read, your personal thoughts, the number of pages you’ve read among others.

Why Not Just Use An Online Tracker?

If you’re an avid reader and tend to look for recommendations online, you might be wondering, why not Goodreads? Well, it’s simple really.

For one, there isn’t much pleasure in just rating a book and you almost have to make sure you write a review that is eligible since there’s going to be family, friends, and strangers who are most likely to come across your review.

With a reading journal, you’re free to do and say what you want.

Another thing you might have noticed on those kinds of platforms is the negativity.

Sometimes, we fall head over heels for a book and when you’re about to rate it 5 stars despite its flaws, you will come across a first page full of 1-star reviews totally despising the novel.

This isn’t a completely bad thing since everyone has a right to their opinions and sometimes others tend to pick things up more quickly than you do and vise versa.

However, then again reading reviews on Goodreads can introduce you to new genres that will potentially be your next favorite book of the year and their annual tracker is definitely motivating to knock off those reading goals.

Hey, I guess there are two sides to a coin, right?

8 Ways To Use A Reading Journal

Before you embark on your journey of creating a reading journal, you’ll want to know the different ways to use a reading journal.

You don’t have to use all these ways but what I’ve found is that will a combination of at least a few of these ideas, journaling becomes more interesting and less like a chore.

It’s a way to keep your journal fun and exciting with new things to talk about and keep track of.

1. Keep It Simple and Easy

One thing you need to remember is that journaling should be something that you enjoy or at least find interesting and pleasing to a certain extent.

You will find many ideas that might make you feel pressured or overwhelmed but it’s important to just keep it simple when you’re only a beginner at journaling.

Once you find your feet and able to discern what you like or dislike in terms of the way you journal and how you do, you’ll be able to make improvements and changes wherever it’s needed.

Journaling isn’t as complicated as it seems but if you use some of the great tips and tricks out there, you’ll have loads of fun and experience to make your journal the best one for you.

At the end of the day, your journal does not have to be artistic or colorful in any way.

All you really need is a notebook and a black pen! The rest will follow.

2. Keep Track of The Books You’ve Read

A reading journal is honestly the best place to keep track of all the books you’ve read, want to read, your ratings, thoughts, and ideas.

This can be done with the use of a simple spread or even a chart.

You could even do this on a monthly basis or just a compilation of the entire books you’ve read annually.

You could also include the type of media that you used to read a particular book and note it down whether it was an audiobook, physical copy, or an ebook.

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Idea via Savannah Scribbles

Extra details can be included next to each review of the favorite moments in the books, quotes that stood out to you the most, favorite characters, characters you wish the author never included, ideas that stood out to you, sections you’d like to reread and more.

3. Create a Recommendation Page

You can use a reading journal to list all the books you were recommended from others, seen online or would like to recommend to others.

This could be different genres you’ve never read before but thought it would be interesting to read or maybe a list of books that you know you’d love.

These could be categorized further in terms of where and whom you were recommended by and you can create a separate log for those you follow closely and who have similar taste in books with you.

Look through their books that they love and use this page to list the ones that stand out to you or sound promising in terms of story, characters, and couples.

4. Write Down Notes and Discuss Certain Chapters

This is optional really but if you really want to make full use of a reading journal, then as you read discuss each chapter and write down certain points or questions that you may have.

This will enhance your reading experience and you’ll be able to pick up more information than if you had to read a book passively.

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Image Source: Jessie Reads Too Much

If you’re part of a book club, this will help you greatly in coming up with new topics to discuss and explore with other members of the group.

5. Keep Track of Reading Goals and Challenges

Not only can a reading journal keep tracker of books you’ve read or want to read, but it’s also perfect to use as a tracker to list your goals, outcomes, and include challenges.

With the reading community, you’ll find many different challenges to try and a reading tracker is a perfect place to keep them listed so that you’re always updated with your progress and challenges.

To give you a rough idea of what a reading challenge includes before we talk about them in detail, here are a few interesting ones you can participate in yearly:

  • 52 Books in 52 Weeks
  • Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge
  • Dystopia Reading Challenge
  • O.W.L. Reading Challenge

These challenges will ensure you always have something to write about in your reading journal throughout the year.

There are over 100’s of challenges to pick from and you’ll never be bored again.

6. Have A Monthly Overview Page

Monthly overview spreads are great if you just want an overall idea of how far you want to go, important books and the dates you’d like to start and finish them, what you’d like to read for the month, and a general outlook of what you monthly goals are.

This can be done at the beginning and end of the month.

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Idea via Casey The Reader

The former being at the beginning while the latter can be used to look over things you’ve missed, whether you overestimated your reading goal and process, which books were your favorite for the month or whether it’s time to switch over to a different genre.

7. Include A Manga/Comic Book Collection

Besides reading novels, there’s also manga and comic books which are so amazing for helping you get out of a reading slump.

It’s less taxing and quick to read than an actual novel and it’s a fresh breath of air when you just want to divulge in a story that can be read in a few sittings.

Create a page dedicated to the list of mangas you’d like to read as well as those you have read.

You could also have more detailed spreads discussing each manga in detail.

8. Try A Book vs Movie Comparison Challenge

If you’re up for a fun challenge that will require your time and dedication, then try reading a book of the movie you’ve watched.

Here you can use the journal to draw comparisons from each and also talk about the differences, similarities, what they should have kept in the movie or even which was better.

How To Make A Reading Journal

Now that you know what a reading journal and tracker are used overall, let’s take a quick look at how to actually make a reading journal and you can use all those ideas to flesh out your journal.

These tips and steps will help you get the foot in the door and the courage to finally turn an ordinary notebook into a reading journal you’ll be obsessed with. Sounds fun?

Step 1: Decide what you’ll be journaling about

I’m obsessed with planning ahead and it saves me loads of time from cleaning up mistakes when you plan what you’re going to journal about before beginning.

Of course, the more you use a reading journal, you’ll be able to customize it better with experience.

On a page, write down a list of what you’d like to include in your journal whether that’s to do with trackers, certain pages, or the images and list formats you’ll be using.

You could even look through some ideas on Pinterest and Instagram to choose a theme or layout for your spreads.

Step 2: Choose your notebook

When it comes to reading journals, here you have the option of deciding between a normal lined notebook or a dotted grid journal.

Either way, both options are totally found and will work great with whatever you want to do but there is something to take into account.

If you’re planning to write summaries and discussions you may want to opt for the journal with lines since this may be neater but if you want your journal to look neater in terms of images and it’s an aesthetic appeal, then a dotted journal will help you achieve this to a certain extent.

However, both can be customized to fit all your needs so it really depends on personal preferences.

Step 3: Gather your supplies

Once you’ve decided on your chosen journal, you’ll now want to arrange a few supplies.

You’ll need a few things like pens, pencil, brush pens, a printer if you want to print out the covers of each book and images from Pinterest.

Having pens that won’t leak or bleed through the paper will definitely be less stressful.

In addition, having other supplies such as washi tape, colored paper, brown paper, gel pens, glitter pens can definitely help you make your spreads look gorgeous.

Step 4: Start your first page

This step always makes people hesitate for some reason and I can’t blame them.

The first page always has that pressure to be perfect but if you keep it simple then it’s not as hard as it may seem.

A few things you can do on the first page of a reading journal can be to write down your name or simply write the words ‘reading journal’ in calligraphy or fancy font.

You could also include cozy images of mugs, books, or even beautiful reading settings and libraries.

Include a few doodles of flowers, feathers, books, or even stars to give it an extra cute vibe.

Step 5: Create an index page

The next page you’ll want to have is an index paper.

Here you can use a list format to write down the different categories you have in your journal and the certain pages with their numbers or symbols to indicate which is which.

You may want to leave this page blank and come back to it until you actually have a bit of content in the reading journal.

This will make it easier to keep track of where something is rather than having to struggle later on to rearrange certain categories to match the index.

Not all reading journals have an index but you can use them if you want to be more organized.

Step 6: Make it meaty and rich with content

Now the time has arrived to add pages that will make your journal rich with content.

You can take a few ideas listed above or try including a few reading trackers from below that will ensure your journal stays fun and interesting all year round.

Browse Youtube and other social media and look for new ideas to draw inspiration from or just to keep up to date with the latest reading trends!

How Do You Write In A Reading Journal? (10+ Reading Prompts)

In case you’re looking for more ways to actively journal while reading a novel, then you could try having a list of questions or reading prompts that you can think about and answer in your journal.

Here are the best reading prompts and questions you can answer while reading:

  • Who was your favorite character and what made them special or interesting?
  • What message did the author try to convey?
  • Did the villain get his due? If not, how would you have made sure the characters received their punishment?
  • A moment or scene in the book that made you cry
  • Quotes that shook your internal core
  • Your thoughts on the general mood or feel of the novel
  • Did you enjoy the ending? If so, what did you like or dislike?
  • Which characters did you connect to?
  • Would you reread this novel? If so, why or why not?
  • Which character would you have wanted to friend in real life?

Types of Reading Trackers

We promised earlier to introduce you to the different reading trackers you can include that will give you more things to journal about. These ideas are definitely a fantastic way to keep you always entertained every month!

Reading Logs

This is one of the most common and most used types of trackers you will find in just about any journal.

Books Read: An overall list of books you read either for the entire year to monthly.

Number of Pages Read: You could also have a daily log that keeps track of the number of pages or hours you read.

To Be Read: A list of titles that indicate the books you need to tackle as soon as possible either in physical format or ebook.

Tracking By Chapter: A spread that consists of a table and the number of chapters for a particular book. You can mark your progress as you read.

Another way to include a reading log is with the help of a full table spread. All you have to do is create 4 columns with the sections for the title, author, date read, and comments.

Reading Challenges

As mentioned earlier, reading challenges are there to test your limits and get you pumped up.

With different ways to test your strengths and weakness, use these reading challenges to see how far you can go in a month.

Reading will never be boring when you try at least two or three of the following:

52 Books in 52 Weeks

This challenge will make sure you read at least 1 book a week for the entire year.

There are different categories included that will ensure you never get bored and it’s one of the best ways to introduce you to new favorites.

Calendar of Crime 

If you’re a lover of crime novels, then you’re sure to love this challenge.

Here you’ll want to read at least 12 mystery books (one each month of the year).

Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge

Having a slice of life with an adorable romance once in a while is breath of fresh air when you’ve been chugging heavy novels for some time.

Participate in this reading challenge where you’ll have to read as many contemporary books as you can throughout the year!

A to Z Reading Challenge

Although this challenge may be a bit difficult at first since you have to read a book with the title that starts with each letter of the alphabet however you’re sure to discover various novels that will surprise you along the way.

If you’re seriously interested in finding a reading challenge to include in your journal, then I highly suggest you try out this master list!

There are over 100s of reading challenges to pick from and listing them here might make you a bit overwhelmed.

Annual Spread

If you’re not up to keeping a reading journal all throughout the year, then you can include this annual reading spread in your bullet journal.

Here you’ll be listing the title of the books you read for each month all in one place or you can use a line graph or box to indicate the books read per month and you can color coordinate each month.

 

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This will also show you your most productive reading month vs the least amount of books you’ve read in a particular month.

One thing to note is that it’s incredibly satisfying to look back at these results and see the list of books you’ve read in a year and bask in that feeling of accomplishment.

Book Club Spread

Allocate a few pages in your journal to include information about a book club you’ve joined or are currently running.

Here you can use this spread to write down thoughts and feelings about a particular book you’ve read, controversial topics, intriguing questions, details others might have missed, as well as interesting subject matters to discuss with fellow book members.

You can also keep track of book club meetings and the prescribed books you have to read for the month.

Library Card Spread

If you tend to visit the library more than buying books, then you might want to create a library card spread.

Here all you need to do is draw up a table and allocate a column for the title and author of the book, date borrowed, due date, and rating of the books.

Also, be sure to indicate which library you borrowed the book from since sometimes we can check out another book from somewhere it’s actually available.

This way you’ll never forget when a book is due or when you can expect to have the book you put on hold. It’s definitely a cute little spread that will make borrowing from the library fun and easy.

Bingo Board Spread

Whether you’re new to bingo or love playing this popular game, this reading inspired bingo board will make your next choice something surprising and fun.

So here’s what you need to do: draw up a few blocks and in those blocks, you’ll want to include a few of these challenges:

  • Different genre (fantasy, chick-lit, middle grade, adult)
  • A character with a specific trait
  • Book set in a certain time period
  • An animal or word on the cover
  • A book with less than 200 pages
  • A book more than 500 pages
  • Poetry/short storybook
  • Debut Novel
  • Book With Magical Elements
  • Free Space

Smart Ways To Decorate A Reading Journal

One thing that always got to me when bullet journaling as a beginner is figuring out how to decorate my spreads to make them look cute but along the way I discovered the basic ways to decorate pages that actually really make a huge difference in any ordinary spread.

1. Use Washi Tape

This is the easiest trick you’ll ever find and one of the cheapest ways to decorate.

They come in all different colors and patterns but the best part is that they’re really cheap and easy to use.

Stick them around the pages to create a border or add them in blank spaces, they go great in just about any places.

2. Add Patterned Paper To Pages

This is a fairly new trick I’ve come across even though it’s been around for years in scrapbooking and that’s to take pieces of paper with pretty patterns on them like dots or lines or even a simple brown paper will do to give a bullet journal spread more detail.

3. Make Use of Stickers

Thank goodness for stickers because if you’re terrible at doodling, they’re there for the rescue.

Now you’ll find adorable sticker of cats, plants, planets, you name it, there’s a sticker for just about anything.

You can easily add book-related or even winter-themed stickers to make your reading journal spreads look cozy and cute.

4. Draw Doodles

I always suggest using a reference sheet for doodling since this takes off the pressure to create doodles from your mind but the great thing about doodling is that there’s no need to have them looking perfect.

The goal here is to just draw a cute version of the thing we want  (books, pens, or even succulent doodles) just to make the spread look fun and cute.

5. Print Out Book Covers And Fanart

If you’re planning to write reviews or just have a visual themed reading collection, then all you need to do is print mini versions of the book covers to stick in your journal.

This saves you from having to draw each cover (which would look really cool if you’re aiming for an artistic reading journal) and it’s a fantastic idea to break away from the standard font format of a bullet journal.

Conclusion

Creating a reading journal is exceptionally easy and fun to do. It’s a way to bring a book to life and truly explore your reading tastes to discover more about yourself.

As you’ve seen, there are plenty of different ways such as the use of reading trackers and challenges to ensure that you always have something to discuss in your reading journal.

I really hope you did enjoy this completed guide to reading journals for beginners and I wish you the best in your new reading journal adventure.

Do let me know if you found this article useful in the comments below and if you have any tips for fellow beginner journalists, then feel free to give your best advice!

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