I have a confession to make. I’m a journal junkie.
I can’t walk into Barnes & Noble without wandering to the back wall where blank journals are temptingly displayed. I drool over the hand-tooled leather journals, the handmade paper journals, the journals with funny covers, and the ones with images that calm the soul. I dither over spiral vs bound spines, or desktop or pocket size.
Now that hanging out in the stacks at the bookstore is no longer part of my regular routine, I still browse the journal wall online. I idly wonder what I’ll put in a new journal, especially since I have more than a few blank ones nestled in a drawer at home.
And there’s the rub. I love journals, but my vows to write in them regularly fizzle like fireworks in the night. I start with a bang of good intentions, only to watch my resolve disappear.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a sketchbook on the clearance table. I fell in love with the book at first sight. The front and back covers illustrate shelves filled with vintage books, some with spines showing, others with the front cover on display. Every title is an adventure story for girls written in the early years of the 20th century: Little Miss Sunshine by Gabrielle Jackson, A Ripping Girl by May Baldwin, The Abbey Girls Go Back to School by Elsie J and Wood Oxenham, and more. This is girl power meets vintage bookstore.
I decided that this clearance table find would be my book journal.
What is a book journal? Depends on who you ask, but the most common definition is a record of books someone has read. After that, a book journal becomes a personal thing. No two book journals are alike.
I’ve always wanted to keep track of what I’ve read, but I’m not a list person. I tried the whole bullet journal route, but by using one of these I felt pressure to keep my life in spit-and-polish order. I obsessed over the grids and felt like a bullet journal failure if I didn’t check off daily tasks or use calligraphy. I’m just not that kind of girl. I like structure but too much of it makes me snippy.
Knowing I didn’t want a book of lists didn’t help me decide what I should write in my book journal. I turned to the internet where advice abounds among readers who blog. The result? There is no right way to keep a book journal. I decided to take inspiration from those who have gone before, stealing the ideas that click and jettisoning the rest.
Here are some suggestions that I found:
- Record the author, title, and publication information. Yep, this is kind of a no brainer.
- Write down the dates of when you start the book and when you finish. I agree with writing down the date at the end, but I’m not sure what memorializing the day I started will do, other than let me know how slow I read. Or, if I start a book and then not finish, will I have an incomplete entry? Is the failure to finish a book something that I want to remember?
- Take notes while you read. Uh-uh. This one will not work for me, unless I am conducting research. Having to stop every few minutes to jot notes while I am reading for pleasure takes me out of the world I entered when I cracked open the book.
- Write down quotes. I’m on the fence about this one. It would have to be a really good quote to change my mind about #3. But there are some really good quotes worth remembering.
- Write your review as you read. For me (and I stress this is a personal opinion), I prefer writing the review after I turn the last page and am still basking in the glow or experiencing the disappointment of the story. Again, doing it while I read takes me out of the moment. I prefer the next suggestion…
- Write the review as soon as you finish. I totally agree. There is nothing harder than trying to recapture the feelings and observations days, weeks, or even months after finishing the book. Write the review while the story is fresh. And, finally,
- Remember that this journal is just for me. Absolutely. Keeping a book journal is like a diary. Looking back on it later gives a snapshot into what was on my mind at a certain time in my life. Some writers suggest locking up the journal away from prying eyes.
These are a few of the ideas I’ll take with me while I create my book journal. I suspect there will be a few tweaks along the way to make it fit my style. After all, what a person reads is more than a list, it’s a reflection of the reader’s personality.
Isn’t that what journaling is all about?