Obsessing Over a Reading/Book Journal

It's not enough to have a blog to write about the books I read. Now I need to have a reading/book journal. Yes, I do own a notebook in which I inconsistently record books I read or quotes that appeal to me, but it is not pretty. 

I have used this ugly journal for several years to keep or write down every book I've ever read because GoodReads is not enough either, right? Well, in truth, I do prefer to handwrite everything. 

Unfortunately, my method was and is unattractive and severally boring. 

A year ago, I began watching numerous YouTube videos on handmade and beautifully decorated reading journals. 

I tried. I really tried to do this countless times, but it only ended up in torn pages from the notebook.

Then I knocked myself out with this layout. Whoa.

Finally I became bold and drew my shelves into yearly reads. This is what daring looks like. 

I still plan to use my messy notebook to track statistics, like determining my favorite read for each month, and eventually, the entire year. It will depend on my mood at the moment; therefore, it won't be concrete. I will keep a TBR for the year, too. 

I also expect to do some year end stats, though I am not so sure I will care. 

My TBR for 2021 is already growing, which, by the way, I also have on an excel spreadsheet on my laptop. If I was content with my handwriting, I would eliminate my excel spread sheet because it is duplicated work. The bottom line is: I loathe my handwriting. If it was beautiful, I'd do everything by hand. 

So I was not satisfied with that above journal as an official reading/book journal. I thought about what to do differently and why I should do it? What was most important to me? It finally came to me: I wanted it to portray my personal experience with books...a sketch or a study of my life with books. This is what I have been working on obsessively for several weeks.

The physical work definitely reflects who I am: messy, imperfect, and inconsistent. But that's me. 

Here is my cover page, using water color with dry brush. 

The table of contents is in progress because I will add more pages. It should have been moved over to the left more to make room on the right. [eyesore]

If I had planned better, I would have put this next page before the table of contents. It's almost like a dedication page.  

My first page is a record of the books I remember from the early years: elementary/middle school, high school/college, and early married years. So I called it the Early Years.

And for the next eleven years, I started reading a lot. The next three pages in the journal look a lot like this following page, with books I have read aloud to my kids or to learn more about homeschooling. I mostly read for others. Hence, I called it the Homeschool Years. 

Here I colored each book according to the rating I gave it on GoodReads. I dislike the colors I chose and later changed it.

In the last image I pointed out The Well Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer because that is where my reading changed drastically. I read Bauer's book in 2011, and started reading through her list in 2012.  

But first I added a WEM reading list of the novels, and rated each using the ugly color scheme from the previous years. 

And then I gratefully switched over to a more pleasant color scheme in 2012. I wish I would have called this the Intentional Years. 

Out of order, these next two pages are the WEM biographies and histories. I'm almost done with the histories.

The remainder of the pages are bookshelves containing the books I read for that year, including rereads; but more importantly are the memorable quotes from past reads. There are so many that I have collected over the years, though there is not enough room to include them (although I have the option of placing them on the opposite facing pages, which I did not use because the ink runs through). I would need to write it on a loose sheet of paper and glue it down, and I am still open to that. Significant quotes from loved books are pertinent to who we are.

This is the final bookshelf page of 2020, which is not complete, yet. I don't expect much more to be added this year. I'm SO distracted with lockdowns, riots, fires, and the election.

Finally, my other favorite part was recording my personal canon. I cut and pasted the little blurb I have on my personal canon page on my blog and included it here. 

I did not include all of the pages in this post, but you'll get the idea how I wrote them down under fiction and non-fiction.

This is the last of the non-fiction. (Gosh, I'm so messy!)

So, what's next? After this unpleasant year ends, I will begin a page for 2021 books. I also expect to complete the WEM histories next year. After 2021, I will add a WEM list for plays. Plus there is the question of what to do when I want to add to my canon. I'll just have to start another page(s), which is fine. Things will change. They always do. Right now, this is how it is, and I'm content. I finally have a reading/book journal. Yay!


  1. I am THE WORST at doing this by hand stuff. I have no craft ability, ha ha! People say I have good handwriting ("like a teacher") but it doesn't look artistic like the bullet journals you see online. :-) I tried to do this for about five separate years & I never lasted beyond a week or so. That's why I ultimately decided to just keep a blog online. I'm far more likely to write if I can type it.

    (I am commenting as I read...)

    I love your decision to embrace the messy & record your journey. That appeals to me.

    Ah, I'm so happy to see a personal canon on the table of contents! "The early years," "the homeschool years" -- this is lovely, Ruth. Like a book written to yourself, about your life in books. It makes me want to write one. I bet you had a ton of fun setting this up -- revisiting your former self. Imagining what's coming in your journeys. And it will be a treasured keepsake. You're right: your own handwriting is what makes this precious.

    Okay, now I'm inspired. <3 I may need to do this too.

    YOUR TBR for 2021 looks AMAZING so far.

    (Also, I was right: I didn't get a notice that you posted on Feedly or Wordpress. I will be popping in to see if you've written rather than following. I'm liking our quiet ways.) xox

  2. Thanks, Jillian!

    About the messiness...many of the book journalists made changes or mistakes throughout their journals, and it never bothered them; so I told myself that I was going to have to accept that I would change my mind along the way or make mistakes, and it's ok. I cannot keep tearing pages out of my book for every mistake, dislike, or smudge. And yes, it has been so much fun. I like to be hands on and creative, but I do not study enough to get ideas or be inspired or improve. But it was such a relief to finally have an idea.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you. It was or is actually a lot of fun to do, once I have something new to add.

  4. Your handwriting is beautiful! :) I keep a book journal, too, but mostly for planning my seasonal tbrs, tracking my long-term projects, and writing a summary of some of the books (mainly the ones I read from the library, so that I remember them!). I like the idea of creating a spread for your personal canon! I might try something similar. :)

    1. Thank you, Juliana.

      Well, I have been inspired by the video of your book journal. I may have even watched it twice over the last year or so, just to get ideas and inspiration. :)