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Monday, September 19, 2016

My reading journal

A writer needs to read. It fills the well with inspiration (if only because of, like, "ugh, wtf, I could do better" sometimes), and it gets you familiar with what's already done so you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Plus, it's awesome.

But here's the thing about my brain: when I read a lot (which I do, even when I claim I'm in a slump, since the average person in America is hard pressed to read even just five or ten* books and I read like twenty by accident**), and when I HAVE read a lot all my life, I forget what I'm reading.

When I was in undergrad, I wrote down every article, magazine, poem, story and book I read in a big long list. It was great. Early this year, I decided I wanted to read 52 books***--one a week--in 2016, and I remembered that long list and thought it would be cool to sort of revive the idea if not the same format.

Then yesterday, I read this post: A Peek Inside My Reading Journal (& Why I Wish I'd Started Years Ago) | Page Flutter and I knew what today's blog post was going to be about, even though it wasn't on the list of potential posts I'd made at the beginning of the month!****

Here's a look at how my current reading journal is set up! It's pretty simple right now because I hadn't really thought about making it a whole history of me, reading, like the one in that link, but as soon as I get all my books out of storage, whoo boy am I adding pages! (Or maybe when this one is full and I start the next one, whichever happens first).


I absolutely LOVE these little Apica 11C notebooks. They don't have huge amounts of pages, but the paper is smooth and wonderful, the size is perfect, the covers are pleasing to the touch, and they come in lots of colors. Plus, they're less than 2$ a piece on JetPens.com! I bought a whole bunch at the start of the year and still had a few around a few months in when I started my notebook, so that's what I used for it.


The first page is literally just a messy-ass list. I'd intended to keep it neater, but apparently when I've just finished a book, I'm sloppy. But it's a list, mostly in order, of every book I read this year, and that's what it's purpose is, so I forgive myself when I can't seem to write a title properly or spell someone's name right, or when I can't line up a line. I've left three or four pages behind this blank, so that I can continue the notebook after 2016--it has just enough pages to do the 52 book challenge, just about, but since I'm behind, I probably won't fill it by the end of the year, and that's fine; I'll keep going until I do, like any other journal.


After the list pages, I give a page for each book I read, and I just fill the page with bullet points of whatever caught my eye in the writing, the story, the characterization, whatever. It's not a review, it's just, like, notes of stuff I want to remember. It makes me organize my thoughts before I do my official review, since most of the books I read are for New York Journal of Books, and it gives me anchors to remember what the book was about later, when a dozen other books are between it and me.

I like sticking a printed pic of the cover to the page, too, since it sort of unifies the notes with the actual edition of the book I have. Also, usually I do a star-rating, though not always. Sometimes I forget, or it's too hard to distill a whole book into a series of stars out of five.

I used to put this stuff into my usual journal, but I like all my book stuff in one place where I can reference it and see it in context.


A lot of the books I get for review have these info sheets that come with them; I used to keep them in a separate file, but I like them better here, in context*****. A standard sized printed sheet folded in half fits almost perfectly inside the notebook, so I just slot it in wherever it's page is, and there you go. Context!

Also, it fattens up the book. Sometimes I get those promo post-cards for the books, too, and those'll get slotted in with the rest of the stuff in the right place, too.



This is something I just added because I saw it on a Bujo link on Pinterest last night. I didn't do anything fancy, as you can see, but I did break down all the books I've read by various stats that matter to me, and here's the results! I'm doing a pretty good job of keeping everything all well-rounded, I think, and it's nice to see it all in one place like this. It'll make my year-end reading report that I always do on here a heck of a lot easier!

NEW IDEAS FOR THE NEXT BOOK:
Since I always think ahead, and since one of my main ways to calm myself down when things are stressful is to collect idea on Pinterest from all the billions of journaling posts made every month, I've started hoarding ideas for my next reading notebook, and here's a few I really like:

  • An actual TBR list, rather than just a vague idea in my head or a series of post-its all over my desk and / or journal--probably a list of books I actually want to read but haven't bought yet, AND a list of books I have bought and haven't read yet.******
  • Lots of those "books you need to read in your lifetime" lists, and the "top 100 books in ___" lists. Because I love lists. Like this Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge with all the books ever mentioned by name on Gilmore Girls.
  • Print outs of my reviews, wherever I post them. Because I'd like to also remember what I had to say about all these books.
  • Lists of books I've read in the past, as close to the year when I read them as I can get.
  • Reading challenge checklists.
  • Answers to book journaling prompts, because journaling AND books is a match made in heaven, PLUS it means more LISTS!
  • Reading trackers, like the one I sell in my shop, printed out, filled in, and stuck in.
  • Maybe I'll go back to the running list of smaller-than-books stuff, too: poems, articles, magazines, short stories...
  • I think my next reading journal will need to be a bigger notebook. Or in several volumes...
What sorts of things do you keep in your reading notebooks? Do you think you'll keep one now, if you didn't before? Share in the comments or come talk to me about books on Twitter @pirategirljack!



NOTES:

*I can't. Like. What. How? There's so many books around, America!!

**Humblebrag but also the truth.

***I'm perpetually fourteen books behind. Like, somehow in the early-middle part of the year I missed fourteen books, and no matter how much I try, I'm always 24 behind now. How weird.

****Even tho I haven't been doing a very good job of keeping up with three times a week posting lately, and if you've stuck around through the recent weirdness as I try to figure out cross-posting from other sources, you're kind of my fav people.

*****Context is a big part of why and how I journal, as it turns out.

******Because of those library book sales we go to each year, I usually have literal dozens of books I haven't read yet but that I've bought. It's like building a reading list for my retirement, when I stop reviewing and have time to read whatever I want.^

^My grandpa, before he died, was reading something like fifteen to twenty books a week. They weren't long books, but it was literally all he did through that last winter. #LifeGoals

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