After spending way too many hours looking at pretty bullet and reading journals on Instagram and Pinterest, I decided I wanted to try keeping a reading journal this year. Last year, I successfully kept a bullet journal and it seriously changed my life. It keeps me organized and on task to get stuff done, but I’m able to create page spreads that fit my needs instead of using a planner that includes stuff I won’t use or doesn’t include something I need.

I’ve never been a fan of my handwriting and I’m not that great at drawing, so I was a little hesitant about how I would do this reading journal. There are so many beautiful journals out there, and I don’t want to constantly compare my journal with them. So this year is going to be a trial and error run for the journal as I figure out what I want to keep track of and how I want to do that.

I decided to use a journal a friend bought me for Christmas because the pages are lined and it’s bookish themed (Fantastic Beasts). I was going to use a dotted journal, but I decided I wanted the lines to keep my writing straight. I didn’t buy any new writing utensils since I have a pencil pouch full of fine point Sharpies and I have a colorful pack of G2 Pilot Pens, which I use for my bullet journal.

January (1)
You really don’t need more than a notebook and a pen.

I knew when I started that I wanted an Index to keep an ongoing list of books I’ve read. I also knew that with the amount of pages in this journal and the amount of books I read every year that not every book get its own page. I would have to combine pages for books I have less to say about. I might still fill the journal before the end of the year and have to find another one start. We’ll see.

The Index is simply what each page is, whether it’s a monthly goal page or a review or something else. (The “something else” I haven’t quite figured out. But I’m part of a few book clubs so I might include flyers and/or pictures and other things related. If I happen to meet an author this year or attend anything bookish, I might include something from that as well. I haven’t quite decided.)

January (9)
Oh, my handwriting looks awful.

When looking up ways to set up the journal, I saw several that include a monthly TBR list or a monthly overview page, so I combined these into one spread. I wanted to include the year for the month just in case I keep ongoing journals that flow month-to-month instead of year-to-year. While I know I say I don’t really make TBR list, it’s more like I don’t stick to them. I’m trying to be better about that this year since I’m working my way through books I own. I did fairly well with January.

I also wanted to include the overview portion to highlight genres, age-groups, and formats of books I’ve read. This might change over the course of the year if I come up with a better way to spotlight the genres and types of books. I also wanted to include a total number of books read.

January (8)
I’ll be using a different color pen for each month. Blue for January, pink for February.

Onward to the reviews!

I wasn’t sure everything I wanted to include on a review page, so the first spread is a little different than the others. I had to add stuff after the fact, which wasn’t the greatest, but whatever. For Call Down the Hawk, I knew I wanted to include a quote that stuck out to me. I reread The Warrior Maiden for a book club. At the meeting, we received “red envelopes” for the Chinese New Year so I wanted to include that on the page, too. It didn’t fit as well as I hoped, but now I know to glue whatever I want down first and write the review around it so I have space.

The same goes for the book covers. I didn’t realize until I started the next spread that I also wanted to include print-outs of the covers for the books so the two covers for these reviews are a little squished in there. Trial and error, people.

January (7)
I didn’t give Call Down the Hawk a rating because I have no idea what to rate it!

For the next spread, I put two books on one page and left a whole page for Lovely War, since it was so incredible and one of my favorites of the month. I also wanted to include a quote for that book and I drew a tiny (terrible-looking) jellyfish for The Thing About Jellyfish. I thought it would be cute, but it just looks weird.

January (6)
I probably could have given Lovely War its own two-page spread. I loved it that much.

On these pages, I only used about half a page for each book. These weren’t my favorites of the month, which worked out that I read them almost back-to-back. So each one got their “stats (title, author, genre, format, date read), book cover, and a short paragraph review. I also include star ratings, but I kind of hate rating books based on a 5-star rating. I don’t think I’ll be including ratings for the next month, but I did rate (almost) every book for January.

January (5)
I’d like to experiment more with fonts, too, like I attempted with some of these titles.

My favorite reads of the month were Even the Darkest Stars and All the Wandering Light by Heather Fawcett. I knew after reading Even the Darkest Stars that I wanted to do something bigger for this duology than just the regular reviews. I experimented with crayon and water color for the titles. Originally, I did it on the page of the book, but it didn’t come out correctly so I had to rip out that page and try again. Eventually, I learned to do it on a separate page and glue in later. I like how it turned out, though.

Because I didn’t read these books back-to-back, it means the books are a little out of order. But I didn’t want to separate the two since they’re from the same series and I was going more in-depth with the page spread. I think for any books that are instant favorites or blow me away, I want to do something bigger for their review pages. Yeah, that means I’ll be using more pages, but I’ll figure it out.

January (4)
It just doesn’t express how much I loved these books. 

Another spread with two on one side and a longer review on a single page. I probably could have given Northanger Abbey a longer review, but it was a reread and I didn’t want to take up more space. I tried to add “phoenix tail” doodles to the Heart of Flames review, but again, I don’t think it came out like I was imagining. I should probably lay off on the doodles, eh?

January (3)
Oh, that handwriting…

For the last spread of the month, I only had one more book to add, so I included a flyer from my library’s teen book club that I started. I thought it fit in the journal, so I’ll probably include more things like that in future pages.

I also had an extra page leftover if I keep the two-page spread for each month, but I didn’t want to just waste it and leave it blank. So I decided to write short reviews of each graphic novel I read that month. I like the idea so much, I’m going to keep doing that for now.

January (2)
The graphic novel page needs something more.

So there you have it. My first month with a reading journal. Cutting out the book covers was more work than I imagined, but I like having them next to my own words. I also want to try to be more creative in other ways if I can like I did for the Even the Darkest Stars duology page.

Do you keep a reading journal? If yes, how do you use it? If not, how do you keep track of what you read?