Last Updated on August 18, 2023 by Louisa
If you’re someone who reads a lot, you might be considering a reading journal.
But what is a reading journal? A reading journal is a place where you can write down your thoughts, reflections, opinions, and favorite quotes from a book you have read.
It’s also a place where you can track what you’ve read and retain information about the book.
But a reading journal is more than this. In this guide, I’ve shared with you exactly what is a reading journal and why you would use one.
What is a Reading Journal?
Every story has something unique and special about it. It can have the power to move you emotionally or spiritually, it can transport you to new worlds and introduce you to unforgettable characters.
But if you want to deepen your reading experience, you might want to write down your insights, thoughts, and emotions as you read.
A reading journal is, in short, a diary. It is a personal notebook where you can record your thoughts and feelings about the books you’ve read.
You can write down your honest feelings, and reactions, and jot down your favorite quotes. It’s a place where you can share your feelings and turn back to them, later on, to reflect on a book that had an impact on you.
Why Use A Reading Journal?
So why would you use a reading journal? There are many benefits to starting a reading journal. Here are just a few…
1. It helps with reading comprehension
One of the main reasons why reading is important is to expand your mind and build comprehension.
Writing a reading journal slows down your reading process as you stop to write down your thoughts and feelings. While this might sound like a negative, don’t be hasty when reading, slowing down is a good thing.
When you slow down, you have time to reflect on what you’ve read.
When you reflect, you’ll find that you retain more of the information and have time to make sense of it. Not only do you understand the story better, but you will be better equipped to discuss the book with others.
2. It helps you know what to share in a book club
Because you have deepened your comprehension of the book, it means you have more to say at a book club meeting.
You can bring your journal with you to share quotes that you’ve written, share passages that had meaning to you, and share what questions or concerns arose as you were reading.
Having it all written down means you don’t have to conjure up ideas and thoughts from memory, which you may forget before your book club meeting.
3. It helps you remember the story better
Even if you are not attending a book club meeting, it’s a good idea to write a reading journal so you can remember the story better.
In a reading journal, you can write down quotes, passages, or literary devices the author has used such as metaphors, idioms, and puns.
This means you can refer back to them and use them for inspiration in life.
4. It’s good practice for aspiring authors
If you’re thinking of writing your own book one day, it’s good practice to read more to get inspiration from other authors.
I don’t mean copying their storylines, but to get a sense of their writing style and tone. Perhaps they had an interesting way of telling the story, such as how Lucy Foley wrote The Guest List with the ending first.
When an author does something unique, you can use your reading journal as a way to uncover the devices that made it successful.
5. Build a deeper connection to the book
A reading journal is a great opportunity for you to engage more deeply with the books you read.
Rather than simply consuming the story for enjoyment, you can start to engage with it.
Analyze the writing style, think about hidden meanings and the words that haven’t been said that should be. It can be a great way to enrich your understanding and build an emotional connection to it.
6. Personal record of growth
Finally, a reading journal is a great way to record how much you have read.
Perhaps you are not a fast reader, or you’ve set yourself a reading challenge to read a certain number of books in a year.
A reading journal is not just a diary but a tracker, too.
You can look back over the journal and see how your tastes have changed. Have you achieved your reading goals? Or even more deeply than that, you can see how your responses to certain themes or ideas have evolved.
Perhaps you have grown wiser, perhaps you are noticing more things that you didn’t see at the beginning. It’s interesting to see how far you, as the reader, have come, too.
What to Write in a Reading Journal?
The hardest part of starting a reading journal is knowing what to write. Here is a list of things you might want to write about or mention in your reading journal…
- Summaries. Briefly summarizing each chapter or section of the book to help you recall the key points.
- Quotes. write down quotes that grab your attention or resonate with you, and why they spoke to you.
- Analysis. Break down the book’s themes, character’s characteristics, and symbolism. Make personal connections to them and analyze how they relate to your life or society as a whole.
- Comparisons. Compare and contrast the book with other books you’ve read on similar topics or by the same author.
- Emotions. Jot down your emotional reactions to different parts of the book, whether it made you laugh, cry, or feel angry.
- Personal connections. Reflect on the characters, scenes, and scenarios in the book and find connections between them and your own experiences.
- Predictions. If you are reading a book as part of a series, make predictions about what you think will happen based on story clues.
- Critiques. Share a review of the story. Pick apart the book’s weaknesses and strengths.
- Vocabulary. Is English your second language? Or perhaps you have an interest in learning about literary devices? Write down new words you’ve learned while reading and look up their definitions. You can also write down metaphors, similes, idioms, puns and jokes that stood out to you.
- Ratings. Give the book a rating out of 5 stars and the reasoning behind it.
- Visualization. If you want to, you could even draw or illustrate scenes from the book in your journal, or draw what you think a character would look like.
- Author research. Use the journal as a tool for research. Look up the author and research their past work and how they compare with the present book.
- Relevance. Think about how the book relates to current events and political issues.
- Background. Dive deeper into the context of the setting, themes, and motifs that the book illustrates.
- Recommendations. Think about whether you would recommend the book to others and why.
A reading journal is a valuable resource for anyone who loves to read.
Taking the time to record your thoughts and opinions about the books you read, will have a long-term benefit as you deepen your understanding of them.
It’s more than a personal archive of your reading journey, it’s a reflection on you, as a reader, and how you perceive the stories and what messages you take away from them.
The next time you finish a great read, don’t just close the book and put it on your bookshelf, consider picking up a journal and see where your thoughts take you.