How to Start a Reading Journal: Step-By-Step Guide (2024)

Wondering how to start a reading journal? You’re not alone! Tons of book lovers these days have realized the benefits of keeping a reading journal, and luckily there are lots of easy methods to use to get started!

But since reading journals are so popular, there are also a lot of different options to consider. Which is, perhaps, unlucky if you’re new to the reading journal world and don’t know where to start. But I’ve got you covered—read on to learn what you need to know to choose and start your own reading journal!

How to Start a Reading Journal: Step-By-Step Guide (1)

What is a Reading Journal?

Wondering what a reading journal actually is? I talk in more depth about the concept of reading journals here, but in short they’re a dedicated place for you to record your response to and thoughts about books you’re reading. There’s lots of things you can record in a reading journal, but that’s the basics that it all comes down to!

Benefits of a Reading Journal

There are so many benefits of keeping a reading journal! One of my favorite benefits is that I no longer forget or can’t find information about a book I read and loved but for the life of me can’t remember the title. The days of having to find a book from a vague description are over!

But reading journals also provide lots of other benefits, including better information retention, better reading comprehension, improved writing skills, are an outlet to process your feelings about what you read, and more.

How to Start a Reading Journal

Ok, so you know a little about reading journals now and the benefits of keeping one, but how do you actually start a reading journal? Here’s your step-by-step guide to how to set up a reading journal!

1. Choose Your Reading Journal Format

When looking to start a reading journal, it’s important to first decide on what format you want to use. By format, I mean do you want your journal to be physical or digital?

Once you’ve decided between the physical and digital mediums, you’ll also need to decide on a sub-format type. For instance, physical journals can look like a printable journal (you can get a free one here!), a premade reading journal, or a bullet journal (which allows you full control over what information you want to record).

If you decide to go the digital route, then you’ll need to decide between options like choosing a reading app, choosing a premade spreadsheet (you can buy the one I made and use myself here!), or creating your own spreadsheet from scratch.

Feeling overwhelmed by the options and don’t know where to start? That’s ok! I talk about some of the most popular reading trackers and apps here, so you can see some of the options available. Check it out to help you decide what method is best for you if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed with this first step!

2. Set Up Your Journal

The next step for how to create a reading journal is either a BIG one (if you’re doing it all from scratch yourself, like bullet journaling or setting up your own spreadsheet) or super easy (if you’re using a premade template or spreadsheet like mine).

We’ll start with the easy part. If you decide to go the premade route by using a free or paid app, using a free or paid printable journal, buying a premade physical journal, or buying a premade spreadsheet, then all you need to do is open your new journal and start recording your books as you read! It’s that simple.

However, if you decide you want more control over what you track (or maybe even more artistic creativity) and go the self-made bullet journal or spreadsheet route, then you’re going to have a little more set-up to do before you can get to tracking your reading. You’re going to have to decide what to include in your journal and how you want it to look.

Some things you might want to add to your journal includes space for:

  • Title, author, and published date
  • Genre
  • Year Read
  • Star Rating
  • Thoughts or notes
  • Reading Goals
  • Book Wish Lists
  • Reading Challenges (you could include a popular internet reading challenge or create your own challenge, and then mark each book off as you read).
  • TBR (To Be Read) List
  • Visual reading tracker (for bullet journals…make book outlines and fill them in with titles of books you’ve read)
  • Reading by month of the year
  • And lots more!

There are so many different and fun reading journal ideas for things to include in your custom bullet journal spreads, and as for spreadsheets, whatever data your heart desires to track can be included!

I recommend you start simple and see what works well and what information you actually want to use, and then the more you use your journal the more data or fun bullet journal spreads you can add in once you get the hang of it.

3. Start a Routine for Journaling

Lastly, a reading journal how-to wouldn’t be complete without talking about creating some sort of routine for your journaling to make sure you actually use your new journal. Creating a reading journal is only the start of the journey!

My routine consists of religiously entering the books I’ve read into my journaling spreadsheet as soon as I finish a book, because otherwise there’s a big chance that book won’t make it into my records. And then I won’t be able to find it again if I can’t remember it…or if I need to look up a detail about it I forgot.

Your reading book journal routine doesn’t have to be the same as mine, but choosing a time or habit to help trigger the action of journaling can be a big help, especially in the early days of journaling. Later on it will eventually become habitual, but in the beginning you’re going to need to make an effort and start creating journaling as a good reading habit.

Final Thoughts About Starting a Reading Journal

In the end, the best reading journal is one you actually will use. It doesn’t have to be the fanciest, it just has to capture your fancy. Maybe that means you make it really simple and practical or go with a premade version that means you don’t have to deal with all the setup. Or maybe that means you want creative control or are more likely to use it if it’s beautiful and artistic (like bullet journaling!)

Ultimately, the decision is up to you…but the only way to get the benefit of using a reading journal is to actually use it! So go discover the method that works for you, and get started with your very own reading journal!

How to Start a Reading Journal: Step-By-Step Guide (2024)


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