Want to start reading journal or tracker for 2021? Here’s how (not) to do it.

power up your readings and document those feelings

Hello friends!
Welcome to 2021 – another year to make an ambitious TBR and then rush through it on the last week of December. 🙂

As in all the years, recently I browsed my Read List in the past 2-3 years, upon which I realize:
a. that I cannot remember what half of the books in the list are about, and
b. I didn’t get why I rate a book 5 stars or other 2 stars.
c. it also happened on the books I wrote review on. So if someone suddenly ask me why I said that this book is so and so, sorry friends I might not be able to answer it before re-reading some parts of the book.

These made me reflect my reading and reviewing habits through the year.
Here’s how my journey looks like:

One. When I started blogging, I kept daily reading journal, bought stickers in many colors, and made my reading tracker as pretty as possible. I managed to do this for 2 or 3 months before abandoning it altogether when I had reading slump. Pros: it’s good to look at even if it’s not of much use for me these days.

Two. After abandoning the first tracker, I went without any physical tracker and tried to use Goodreads to record my thought as I read. It lasted a book. Oh well.

Three. I decided to create a quote keeper since I love saving words and quotes. In the meantime, I procured a monthly tracker notebook to keep my blogging and reading organized. It went okay for 2 months until real life caught up with me and when I took hiatus from blogging, so is my reading tracker.

Four. I finally had enough of keeping everything separate and had a blank notebook as both my reading and reviewing journal.
Now, here’s what I did wrong: I wrote my reading journal in the format of writing review. The upside of this is it saves time because then I just referenced it when writing my blogpost. The downside of it is this is a spoiler-free review and as such I cannot get into specifics. You can imagine what happened when I read my own writing that said: the secondary characters were not very well written and did not have that much depth to them, and I cannot even remember who they are. El O el.

So now, I’m on my fifth phase. I realized belatedly that there are things you need to consider about before starting a reading journal. I’m sharing them here so you do not have to go four stages of failing in reading journal-ing like I did.

  1. Decide on your objective of keeping a journal.
    Now I know that sounds like a duh of course, but also do you really? I didn’t think about why would I need one when I first started, I just did it because everyone else doing it and it (theirs) look amazing and eh why not. But you should have one and it doesn’t even have to be that ambitious. Do you keep a journal to encourage yourself to read more? Then maybe a page tracker or even goodreads might work. Do you want to diversify your reading, try to read more of different POV, author, or genre? A reading list may suffice and it wouldn’t take much of your time. Do you want to ensure you remember years from now why you read a book and why you love or hate it with a passion? Then reading journal is for you.
  2. Determine how much time and effort can you commit to it.
    I love watching videos of other people’s creative reading journal on youtube. They look so pretty and make me wanted one as well. But know this: those reading journals take effort. Trust me I tried. And not everyone is that passionate in making things look amazing. Take for example, me. I love SEEING beautiful bullet journals, but my own is plain as hell. It’s written on a traveler’s notebook with a black or blue ink, but I managed to stay on it for more than 2 years now.
    If you like being creative with your journal and can commit to making it look good, then go for it! I’m looking forward to see it in your blog or bookstagram or booktube.
    But if you cannot, then in all honesty black on white paper with a lot of scratches and notes written all over it is COMPLETELY OKAY. Don’t get burden with the need to make it looks as good as the others.
  3. Be specific when writing.
    When you wrote “her prose is expertly written” try to give some examples. Similarly, when you called out a problematic relationship during your reading, make a note in your journal why. Quotes and Names are things I often forgot to write about in my journal, but you definitely want them written as a reminder.
    As I said before, it’s frustrating to read my journal and still cannot remember why I said this or that. Always give examples.
  4. Do it daily. Or not.
    Seriously it’s up to you. I try to do it daily because I don’t have that long memory span. But some might prefer to write it when they finish a book so they can write more comprehensive thought. Others prefer to have reaction journal when they write short blurb and reactions whilst reading. Any way you do, be sure to also implement number 6.
  5. Make use of the tools available to you when reading.
    Depends on the format of the books you read, there’ll be tools to annotate or bookmark a specific quote or reaction. For example, I read mostly ebooks these days, and ebook reader applications usually have tool to highlight specific parts and make notes. I utilize this heavily because I don’t want to interrupt my reading to write on my journal but I also don’t want to lose these quotes or facts that I found so fascinating. Similarly, if your reading a physical book you can use bookmarks or paper receipts or whatever available to mark these pages. Audiobook usually also have similar tool to bookmark parts you want to come back later.
    Later you can look them up when you write your journal.
  6. Be flexible to change.
    When starting you might think you want to write a comprehensive review of each and every main and secondary characters in the book, but 2 months later you might find this overwhelming. So change it, get rid of the things you cannot commit on or you no longer find joy on. Implement and experiment new things in your reading journal.
    Oftentimes, I see people struggle to keep their journal even if it feels like a chore because they always write it that way. They might eventually quit journal-ing altogether because of this. Don’t let it happen to you.

Okay, so that was it. My journey into making reading journal and tips I share to help so you do not repeat my mistakes.
Currently, I’m going back to simple tracker and short log because I realize I want to keep the highlights that resonate strongly with me but am not able to spare time to document all my thoughts into comprehensive reading journal.

If you’re interested, I uploaded the printable templates here for reading tracker and reading log. These are A5 size, very simple, minimalist template I’ve been using myself. You can print it on those blank A5 loose leaf paper like me, or print them as two=pages on one sheet in A4 paper.

Click the links below to download
Click to download my reading log printable template
Click to download my reading tracker printable template

So let me know in the comments:

Are you keeping a reading journal yourself and what parts you enjoy the most?
Are you planning to keep a reading journal and what are your concerns?

Happy reading and have fun reading journal-ing or tracking or whatever it is you want to do! 🙂