5 Great Reasons to Keep a Reading Journal

Kelly Woods, writer

14 July 2017

A few years ago, I started a journal of the books I read.  If you have ever read a book (and I sincerely hope you have!), then I suggest keeping a reading journal, too.

I am an avid reader. Not surprised to hear that from a librarian are you?

Many years ago, when my mother was interviewed for a job at a university library, they asked her, “Why do you want this job?”  And then, followed it by the statement, “Don’t say it’s because you like to read.”

Apparently, we don’t all spend our working days with our nose in a book. 

Oh, but if we only could!

As I am currently a rogue librarian (aka: a librarian without a library), I suppose I could spend my days holed up with a good novel. If only life were that simple (obviously, there are non-fiction books to contend with, too! ha!).

In all seriousness…

I love challenging myself, expanding my mind, and seeing how other people use the written word to share their message.

A few years ago, I started a journal of the books I read. I decided to be more intentional in capturing the words of wisdom, thoughts and little snippets that speak to me as I read.

“There is something deeply satisfying about keeping a beautiful, inspiring notebook on my bedside ready to capture beautiful, inspiring thoughts.”

Here are some great reasons to keep a reading journal:

1. Your memory needs an aide. Let’s be honest, no one is a computer, and we could all use a little help in the memory department. That is, after all, why writing was invented in the first place. Keeping a reading journal helps you remember those “aha!,” moments that you would soon otherwise forget (unless you are an elephant).

2. You create your own reading archive. Beyond remembering specific words, phrases or concepts, a reading journal creates a record. If you keep one for the year, you have a record of the mental experiences you took yourself on that year. Like a photo book, it serves as a great document to flip through later, and a record of what would otherwise pass undocumented.

3. The act of writing changes your experience with the text.  It is one thing to actually have a copy of something to read over later (see point one), but the physical act of writing itself also serves as a storytelling aide. By jotting down notes about the text you are reading, you are changing, adapting and committing that text to your story. It becomes a part of you.

4. Aesthetic beauty. I believe life is enriched by beauty. There is something deeply satisfying about keeping a beautiful, inspiring notebook on my bedside ready to capture beautiful, inspiring thoughts. It is the physical embodiment of the written words I am reading, and then writing, inside it. Its beauty inspires me to use it, and raises the caliber of the words written inside.

5. Ideas! Ideas! Ideas! Writers are always needing ideas to write about, and thoughts to share. What better place than the books we read to get amazing, inspiring, awesome ideas? I believe that reading widely is one of the most powerful ways to ensure your writing grows, and you have something of value to share with the world. Capture those ideas as they come in a reading journal, and you will have fodder, connections and material for endless pieces of your own writing.

If you decide to keep a reading journal, pick a beautiful one. Keep it bedside, or carry it around with you wherever you read. Jot down those wonderful thoughts and epiphanies before they float away, and enjoy combing over them, exploring them and using them to change your life for years to come!

I’m always on the lookout for new gems. Do you have a favourite summer read to recommend?  Please do share in the comments.

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