If you’ve ever thought about tracking your reading habits, you’ve probably considered writing a book journal where you track all the books you’ve read. A book journal is easy to set up and helps you learn more about yourself as a reader.

a red mug sitting next to an open journal with a page filled by hand with blue ink and the text "What You Learn from Writing a Book Journal"

Yes, there are super pretty book journals all over Instagram, and yeah. You’re going to feel compelled to make a fancy, energy-intensive book journal when you start out. But know that you don’t have to.

In fact, the simpler your method, the more likely you are to keep writing a book journal. But don’t let simple make you think you aren’t going to get anything out of it.

How to Make a Book Summary Journal

You can absolutely search Pinterest for a book journal PDF if that’s your thing. And if you want a small reading journal to take with you, I created the Pocket Reading Journal just for you. But if you want to make your own, I’ve got your back.

001: Decide what you’ll track.

Before you dive in, you need to know what you want to write about in your book journal. Some people like to add plot summaries. Some people like publisher info.

Everyone is different, but before you start, you need to think about the information you want to have in your book journal.

You can keep it minimal by recording the title, author, and your personal rating for the book. Or, you can go more in-depth and include quotes from the book that you enjoyed as well as your own analysis of the story.

Whatever you decide, make a list of what you’ll be writing about and think about how you’d like to format it and how much space you’ll need for it.

002: Grab a notebook.

Once you know how much space you’ll need to journal about a book, it’s time to grab a notebook. This is a great use of an old blank journal. Of course, it’s also a great excuse to buy a new notebook.

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Again, think about what you’ll be tracking and think about what sort of pages will help you journal the way you want to. I’m a blank page or grid user myself. I know everyone and their brother loves a good dot grid since bullet journaling busted onto the scene. And some of you are holding fast to normal lined pages.

Pick what you need to keep up with this reading journal.

003: Get to journalin’!

Once you have your notebook in your hot little hand, all that’s left to do is to start journaling. Create a table of contents if you want, and then get to writing about the books you’ve read.

Don’t feel obligated to stick to recording information the same way if you realize what you originally planned won’t work for you. If switching things up is what you need, or if you read a book that makes you feel compelled to write more than you planned, that’s totally cool.

004: Make it digital if ya want.

If a notebook isn’t your thing, you can always make an online reading journal. There’s no one way to do this, so think about what works best for you.

Knowing how to make a digital reading journal could be as simple as creating an Instagram account or setting up a blog. Knowing what you want to track will help you pick the platform. So if you want to write a lot about each book, I recommend a blog. But if you want to record a quick and easy review, Instagram would be great.

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What You Learn from Writing a Book Journal

Now, once you’ve been writing a book journal for a while, you’ll see you have some data to play with. Flipping through your reading journal will show you the following things:

001: Author Styles

You’ll see what type of author styles you’re more drawn to. And you’ll see the authors you come back to over and over again.

Even if you’re only tracking the title and author in a list, you’ll see what genres and stories your drawn to, and which authors do it the best in your opinion.

002: Trends Over Time

I go through phases where I read every book from a specific genre and time period I can. Then, when I’ve gone through them all, I’ll grab the same genre but pick a story written in a different time period.

It’s always interesting to me to see what was the norm in publishing days gone by and what’s the norm now. As a writer, this is good information to have.

And while I know that everyone always says you should read the classics, your book journal will help you see that even though the classics are good, they absolutely wouldn’t be published today.

003: What Works

It’s no secret that there are no new stories. Even the most original idea will fit into a particular plot and trope structure. And that’s fine. (Yes, you’ve already read that book.)

Keeping track of what you’ve read will help you see the plots and tropes that work. It will show you the remixes on these old standards that refresh the story. And it will help you think of ways you can refresh them if you’re a writer.

004: What Doesn’t Work

Okay, so, sometimes those remixes mentioned above don’t work. And being able to see that is super helpful so you don’t spend all your time trying to make them work.

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Also, sometimes noting what doesn’t work helps you see all the ways it would work if you got some room to remix it. We always learn the most from bad stories.

005: Where You Can No Longer Suspend Your Disbelief

Sometimes a story is so full of implausible things and you don’t even care. Sometimes, you can’t stand to finish it.

Taking a look at all the stories where you couldn’t suspend your disbelief is a good way to find the genres and tropes you don’t care for. It doesn’t mean they’re inherently bad, it just means they aren’t for you.

And, if you’re a writer, it will help you see what you need from a story to make you enjoy it more.

007: Tropes Your Absolute Trash For

I am trash for tropes. It doesn’t matter if it’s the humble orphan finding out they’re the chosen one, or if it’s a romance novel where the two main characters hate each other and find they’re stuck in a hotel room with just one bed.

I love these.

And recording the tropes you love is a great way to help you find stories you will enjoy the next time you hit up the bookstore.

What Do You Track In Your Book Journal?

Do you keep a book journal? How do you track your reading? Are you a digital book journaler?

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