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  • Writer's pictureKara C White

Keeping Track with a Reading Journal

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

While it's true that colorful characters and moving stories can stay with us long after we've turned the last page and returned the book to the shelf, it's much harder to remember the details of all the books we've read, especially if some time has passed. Several years ago I started a simple notebook to help me keep track of my reading, and this journal is now a cherished record of time well spent.

The notebook itself isn't large or fancy. It's spiral bound and measures about 6.5 inches by 8 inches. The front and back covers are purple (my favorite color). The lined pages feature one of five colors which are also visible from the side and give the notebook a playful feel. But for me, the real sense of wonder comes from opening the journal and reliving my reading history from the hand-written notes inside.

One section of my journal is simply a list of all of the books I've read over the past few years. Each entry consists of two lines: the title of the book and the date on which I completed it. Line by line, page by page, I can remember the works I've loved and those I've just been thankful to finish. Scanning the completion dates, I can marvel that I knocked out that memoir in just three days, but for some reason a novel took me two weeks to finish. I can see when my free time for reading was limited like when we were busy traveling or when my schoolwork had piled up. Seeing the titles makes me smile, like bumping into an old friend. How could I have forgotten about this one! Or yes, that book was too long but worth it in the end!

Of course, this list also fills the very practical role of helping me track progress on my reading goals for the year. This year, I'm aiming for at least 25 books. You can read more about my goals here. My list gives me a visual reference point on how I'm doing. I know that 25 books will fill two pages of my journal so even a quick glance will help me gauge how far I've come, and how far I still have to go.

Now I am well aware that there are multiple apps available which would help me record my reading. Many of them offer far more features than my pen and paper list. I do keep a second list of books I've read on my phone. I can refer to that electronic list when I'm at the library or bookstore or a friend asks if I've read any good books lately. Nevertheless, my written list in my old-school notebook feels more personal, more intimate. My handwriting isn't beautiful, and there are no hand-drawn illustrations. This is by no means one of those bullet journals you see featured on Pinterest. But writing the titles and dates myself seems to connect me with both the experience of having read the book and the record of it being read.

The other sections of my journal are devoted to notes and quotes from books which truly impacted me in some way. Not everything I read ends ups in my journal. Sometimes I jot down a single sentence from a book that really struck me. Other times I've filled pages with notes on a book I found enlightening or moving. Over time, my collection of notes and quotes becomes a living document of what's important to me, what I'm learning, what I don't want to forget. There are notes on personal productivity, meditation and spirituality, enjoying read-aloud time with your children, and the power of story in our lives. My journal becomes a map of where I've been in my reading and where I'm going as a person.

How do you track your progress on reading goals? Do you also have a special way to remember important passages or quotes from books you love? Tell me about it in the comments, and happy reading!

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