writing book journal

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writing book journal

Just Plan Books

What to Write in a Reading Journal + 25 Creative Prompts

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Do you ever finish a book and find yourself overwhelmed with emotions, yet unsure of how to articulate them? I’ve been there. The first time I started a reading journal, I stared at the blank pages, feeling a mix of excitement and uncertainty. Over the years, and after analysing countless books, I’ve realised the right prompts can be a game-changer. They can transform that overwhelming feeling into a deep, reflective journey with every book.

Are you wondering what to write in a reading journal or looking for a way to connect more with the characters and story lines in your favourite novels?

If so, you’re in the right place. In this post, we’ll explore what a reading journal is, how it can enhance your reading experience, and provide you with 25 creative prompts to get you started on your own reading log

How To Keep A Reading Journal?

How to start your reading journal: simple notes or structured reflections, what to write in a reading journal – 25 reading journal prompts, reading journals, reading log benefits, reading journal book, printable book log, digital reading log, what is a reading journal.

A reading journal is a great way to keep track of the books you’ve read and record your favorite books. There are many different ways to keep a reading journal, from a simple tracker or list of books read, or recording the number of pages you’ve read each day, all the way through to recording favourite quotes and authors and a full book review with star ratings.

Learning how to write a reading journal that’s personalised for your own preferences is a great way to get more from your reading experience .

One of the best things about keeping a reading journal is that at the end of the year you can count the number of books you’ve read through the year. If you’re an avid reader and get through a lot of books keeping a book reading journal is a great way to add much pleasure to your reading life.

Another benefit of keeping a book log is keeping track of great books and authors so you can always find inspiration for your next book. They’re also great for book club members to use as a reading tracker and to note down a good idea or discussion point for your next meeting.

Keeping a reading journal is a transformative experience, turning the solitary act of reading into a documented journey of discovery. But like any journey, the first step is often filled with choices. What kind of journal should you use? What details are essential to capture? How can you make your journal a true reflection of your reading self?

As you stand on the cusp of this literary adventure, here are some key considerations to guide your choices and ensure your journal becomes a cherished companion on your reading voyages.

  • Medium: A paper-based journal can help to avoid digital distractions but a digital planner can be backed up and accessed anywhere.
  • Date of starting and finishing the book.
  • Book title and author name.
  • Personal reflections on the book (with page references if possible).
  • Reviews: If reviewing, rate the book and briefly explain your rating.
  • Creativity: Incorporate drawings, favorite quotes, and page clippings.
  • Flexibility: Make it as simple or detailed as you prefer. There’s no right or wrong approach.
  • Purpose: A reading journal documents your literary journey, offering a retrospective look at books read over time.

A reading journal is a deeply personal space, a canvas where readers paint their journey through the world of books. Its beauty lies in its adaptability; it can be as minimalistic or as intricate as you desire.

For the Minimalists: If you’re someone who cherishes simplicity, your reading journal can be just that—a blank page dedicated to each book, waiting to be filled with spontaneous thoughts, reactions, and musings. This approach is akin to having a conversation with the text, where you jot down anything that resonates, intrigues, or challenges you. It’s raw, unfiltered, and intimate.

For the Structured Souls: On the other hand, if you thrive on organization and consistency, a more structured approach might be your calling. This method is especially beneficial for students, academics, or anyone who wishes to draw comparisons between different reads. A structured format not only combats the dreaded writer’s block but also ensures that you capture standardized details for every book. Over time, this creates a treasure trove of insights, allowing for an at-a-glance view of each literary adventure. It’s like having a neatly organized bookshelf in written form, where you know exactly where to find each gem.

Now, diving into the heart of a reading journal, let’s explore the myriad things you can record, inspired by some of the features found in meticulously crafted journals:

  • Reading Log: A chronological list of all the books you’ve journeyed through. Rate them on a scale that resonates with you—be it stars, hearts, or even emojis! This log serves as a testament to your literary conquests.
  • Book Reviews: Dedicate a few pages to each book and delve deep. What did you love? What irked you? How did the narrative make you feel? These review worksheets are your space to play the critic, applauding the masterpieces and critiquing the letdowns.
  • Books To Read: We all have that ever-growing TBR list (to be read list) of books we’re itching to read. A reading journal is a great place to start a reading queue that ensures you’re never left wondering, “What should I read next?”
  • Favourite Books: Ah, the crème de la crème! Dedicate a section to the books that have left an indelible mark on your soul. This list is your go-to for inspiration, especially on those days when you’re yearning for a comforting re-read.
  • Favourite Authors: Celebrate the wordsmiths who’ve enchanted you time and again. By recording your favorite authors, you can easily keep tabs on their latest releases and dive into new worlds they craft.
  • Notable Quotes: Every reader has come across lines that resonate deeply, echoing long after the book is closed. Capture these literary gems in your journal, creating a reservoir of inspiration, wisdom, and beauty.

In essence, your reading journal is a reflection of your literary self. Whether you’re scribbling spontaneous thoughts or meticulously filling out structured templates, the goal is the same—to celebrate the joy of reading and the insights it brings. So, as you embark on this journey of journaling, remember that there’s no right or wrong way—only your way. Let these ideas inspire you, and craft a journal that’s as unique as your reading journey.

Check out our reading journals available in a range of formats to suit your preferences. Tracking your reading and journalling about books read is a great way to get more from your reading and remember the plot of books read .

Pink and Green Reading Journal

It can be hard to decide what to focus on when writing your review. Sometimes you can’t put your finger on why you loved a particular book so much or even why it didn’t resonate with you. If you’re ever feeling stuck or staring at a blank page, try one of these 25 creative ways to get you looking at the text in a new light and generate some ideas for what to write about:

What to Write in a Reading Journal - 25 creative reading journal prompts to get you thinking about the text in a new light

Prompt #01: Write about your thoughts and feelings after finishing the book. Reflect on your emotional journey after finishing the book. Did it evoke strong feelings? Perhaps it reminded you of a personal experience or challenged your beliefs. Dive deeper into why you felt the way you did. Studies have shown that emotional engagement with literature can enhance empathy and understanding.

Prompt #02: Make a list of the characters in the book, along with their biographical information (e.g. name, age, job, etc.). As you read, refer back to this list and take note of how the characters change and develop over time. Consider their roles in the story. How do their backgrounds, jobs, or ages influence their decisions?

Prompt #03: Write down your thoughts and feelings about the book as you are reading it. This can be done in a traditional journal format, or simply by jotting down a few brief sentences after each chapter. Capturing your in-the-moment reactions as you progress through the book can offer insights into how your perceptions change as the story unfolds. Journaling in real-time like this has been linked to improved memory recall.

Prompt #04: Create a “storyboard” of the book. Draw pictures or write short descriptions to depict important scenes and characters in the novel. This can be a great way to visualise the story and gain a better understanding of what is happening in the plot. Many people are visual learners and retain information more effectively through visual means. Recording how you pictured a scene or a character can aid comprehension and help you retain more details about the story and how it made you feel.

Prompt #05: Take note of any interesting or unusual words that you come across while reading, and look them up in a dictionary. Use these words in your writing to add colour and depth to your journal entries and improve your vocabulary.

Prompt #06: Compare and contrast the book with others that you have read. What are the similarities? What are the differences? How does this particular book stand out from the rest? Comparing books can deepen your understanding of literary themes and styles. Literary analysis often involves drawing parallels between works to uncover deeper meanings.

Prompt #07: If you are reading a non-fiction book, make a list of the main points that the author is trying to get across. As you read, refer back to this list and take note of your own reflections and opinions on the subject matter. Summarising the author’s main arguments can help solidify your understanding. Additionally, reflective writing, where you relate the content to your own experiences or beliefs, has been shown to enhance comprehension.

Prompt #08: Keep track of the author’s use of literary devices such as similes, metaphors, and symbols. How do these devices help to create meaning in the text? Note down your favourite lines, interesting passages, or particular sections you’ve enjoyed and consider why these parts resonated with you. By identifying and reflecting on them, you’re engaging in a form of literary analysis, a skill that’s emphasised in many educational curriculums for its critical thinking benefits.

Prompt #09: If you are reading a book that is part of a series, take note of any foreshadowing or clues that the author has provided about future events. This can be a fun way to speculate about what might happen in the next instalment of the series. Foreshadowing keeps readers engaged and builds anticipation. By noting these clues, you’re honing your analytical reading skills and improving your own creative writing skills .

Prompt #010: Reflect on a moment in the book that deeply resonated with you. Why did it stand out? How did it make you feel, and why? By taking the time to write down your thoughts and observations, you will be able to better appreciate and enjoy the novels you read.

Prompt #011: Talk about what caught your attention while reading. It could be a scene, a character, or a phrase that struck you as interesting. Describe it in detail. What about this part of the text made it memorable?

Prompt #012: Connect the book to your own experience in some way. How did this connection enhance your understanding or appreciation of the story? This can help you to better understand what you are reading. It can also help you to remember the details of the book better if you can connect it to your own life experiences.

Prompt #013: Write about a character and analyse their motivations. When you write about a character and their motivations, you can get inside their head and understand what makes them tick. This can help you to better understand the story as a whole, and can also give you insights into the author’s intentions.

Prompt #014: Choose a character and write a diary entry from their perspective on a pivotal day in the book. What might they have been feeling or thinking? What decisions did they make that affected the course of the rest of the book? How might the book have ended if they’d acted differently? How would you have acted in the same situation?

Prompt #015: Think of another book you’ve recently read. How would a character from that book react if placed in the setting of your current book? Would it result in a comical but brilliant mash up? How would the characters backstory affect their decisions in the new setting? Would it result in a different ending?

Prompt #016: Keep a list of questions you want to research further after finishing the book. Have you just read a historical novel and want to learn more about the setting or if it has any basis in fact? Or perhaps you want to know if the author has written more books. Make a note of these questions as you read – this will help keep your thoughts organised and give you something to come back to later on.

Prompt #017: Start a conversation with other book lovers on Goodreads or social media about the book. Starting a discussion with other readers can help you better understand the book and get more insights. If you don’t want to get social imagine a conversation between you and another reader who had a completely different take on the book. What would you discuss or debate?

Prompt #018: Create your own graphic novel page for one chapter of the book. Creating a graphic novel page for one chapter of the book can help to provide a different perspective on the text. It can also help to better understand the characters and the main plot points. Additionally, it can be a fun way to engage with the material and to further explore the themes and ideas presented in the book.

How to Write a Reading Journal - 25 reading journal prompts to help you review your latest read and gain a deeper understanding of the book

Prompt #019: Write an alternate ending or missing scene. Rewriting the ending can help to clarify your thoughts about the story and what you thought about it. What would you change and what would you keep? If the ending was ambiguous or didn’t quite make sense, rewriting it can help to clear things up. Was the ending rushed? Perhaps there was a part of the book that the author skimmed over that you’d have liked to read in more detail.

Prompt #020: Write a fan letter to the author. It can be really helpful to write a fan letter to the author of the book you just read. You don’t have to send it to them, but it can be a fun way to connect with the author on a personal level. It can also help you to better understand their work and what they were trying to achieve with the book.

Prompt #021: Analyse the book’s theme. By understanding the themes at play, you can see how the author crafted the story and what they were trying to say. This can help you appreciate the book more and see it in a new light. How does this theme relate to current events or societal issues?

Prompt #022: Make predictions! As you read jot down what you think is going to happen in the book? What clues in the text led you to this prediction? Predict what will happen in the sequel or in the characters lives after the book leaves them – where will they be in 5 years time? Making predictions helps your enjoyment and understanding of a story because you are actively engaging with the material. By thinking about what you think will happen, you are forming connections with the text and deepening your understanding of plot devices.

Prompt #023: Compare and contrast two different versions of the same story (e.g. movie vs. book). When you compare a book to its movie, you can see how the director and writers interpreted the story. This can help you understand the book better and enjoy it more. You can also see which elements of the story were changed or left out in the movie. Compare a key scene in both versions – how do the interpretations differ, and which do you prefer?

Reading Journals

Our reading journals are a popular choice to help guide you through the process of recording your thoughts about each book as well as keeping a log of the book you’ve read.

Prompt #024: Write a monologue from one of the characters’ perspectives. Writing a monologue from one of the characters’ perspectives can help you to get into their minds and understand their motivations. This can be especially helpful when you are trying to write a book review or book journal entry.

Prompt #025: Choose a song that reminds you of the book and write about why. When you choose a song that reminds you of the book, you are linking the emotions and memories that you have with the song to the emotions and memories that you have with the book. This can help to deepen your enjoyment and understanding of the book. It can also help to make the reading experience more personal for you.

Whether you’re a seasoned reader or just starting out, keeping a dedicated book journal can help you get more out of your favourite books.

These prompts are also great to use if you’re not sure what to say about your latest book club read. Use these prompts to help you think about the book in different ways that you might not have thought of. You may find that a book you didn’t think much of reveals a clever plot or deeper meaning that you would have missed otherwise.

What to read more about the benefits of keeping a reading journal? See our post about the benefits of starting a book log.

Why keeping a reading journal is important

We hope this post has inspired you and it has given you some reading journal ideas for how to write a reading journal of your own. By recording page numbers, characters, thoughts and overall feelings, and other interesting details about the book, readers can connect more with the story and understand it better. Additionally, comparisons and contrasts with other books can be made, as well as connections between the text and personal experiences. The tips we shared are just the beginning – there are countless ways to personalize your journal and make it work for you. So get creative, have fun with it, and happy reading and/or writing!

If you found this blog post helpful, please share these reading journal ideas with your friends & family — you may just inspire them to start a reading journal of their own!

I’d love to hear your reflections on a recent read. Feel free to share an entry in the comments inspired by one of the prompts above!

What is the purpose of reading journals?

Reading journals are a great way to keep track of your reading progress, as well as to document your thoughts and feelings about the books you read. They can also be a fun way to keep track of your reading challenge progress. They’re a great way to document your reading life. At the end of the year, you will have a list of books to reflect on and hopefully some great books to rediscover.

Why are reading journals beneficial to writers and readers?

Reading journals are beneficial to both writers and readers because they help improve comprehension, allow for critical thinking and reflection, and provide a space for avid readers to document their thoughts and feelings about the books they read.

How can recording what I’ve read in a reading journal improve my writing?

One way to improve your writing is by recording what you’ve read in a reading journal. This can help you improve your comprehension, as well as your writing skills. Additionally, it can be a great way to reflect on the books you’ve read and to document your thoughts and feelings about them. They also help to get the creative juices flowing by providing valuable insights into the writing and plotting process employed by the author.

What kind of reading journal should I choose?

The type of reading journal you choose should be based on your personal preferences. Some people prefer to use a physical journal, while others prefer to use an online journal or word document. There are also many different types of reading journals, such as those that focus on book reviews, book journalling, or reading challenge progress. Choose the type of journal that will work best for you and your needs.

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23 Best Journals That Will Motivate You to Write More

There's nothing like a great notebook.

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Minimalism Art Classic Notebook Journal

Classic Notebook Journal

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Oprah's The Life You Want™ Planner

Oprah's The Life You Want™ Planner

Part weekly planner, part journal, this linen-covered book with an undated format offers writing prompts and quotes and advice from Oprah herself to help you set intentions for each week. 12 monthly calendar pages and 52 weekly calendar pages provide room for schedule-keeping while weekly reflection pages are your space to look back on achievements and forward to new accomplishments.

LEUCHTTURM1917 Hard Cover Medium A5 Dotted Notebook

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Flatiron Books The Wisdom Journal: The Companion to The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey

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Anthropologie Women's Empowerment Notebook

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Anthropologie The Well Journal

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PAPERAGE Paperage Lined Journal Notebook

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Amazon Basics Classic Lined Notebook

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Rite In The Rain All-Weather Side-Spiral Notebook

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Random House Q&A a Day: 5-Year Journal

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McKenzie Jean-Philippe is the editorial assistant at OprahMag.com covering pop culture, TV, movies, celebrity, and lifestyle. She loves a great Oprah viral moment and all things Netflix—but come summertime, Big Brother has her heart. On a day off you'll find her curled up with a new juicy romance novel.

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keeping a daily journal is the first step in writing a memoir

How to turn your journals into a book

If you want to use your diaries or journals to start a book-length memoir, I’m going to give you three simple steps to turning diaries into a book.

Many wannabe authors get book deals from writing memoir essays for places such as Narratively, and then use the essay as a bounce-off point to work on a book.

I’ve used journal entries to form scenes, chapters and more for both my published memoirs as well as essays I published before each book was written, and this is how I started at the very beginning of the process of writing those memoirs.

1: Find your transformation or ‘challenge’

The first thing you need to do is find in your journals where you’ve chronicled the challenge or transformation you’re exploring in the book, or areas where you wrote about a specific experience you want to draw upon.

This challenge or transformation will be the main theme of your book or essay. It could be a health crisis, or emigration, or grief, or wild romance, or a meeting with a mentor or another key relationship that has changed you such as a love affair, a big creative venture, or major career feat (maybe you landed a dream job on the opposite side of the world and had to learn a new language to take it up?)… or a family discovery that set you out on a quest.

This isn’t your personal opinion on something (this might come later), but this is the overarching theme or topic that will appeal to the widest amount of readers as possible. You need to find the beginning and end of that transformation.

Once you’ve found the theme or challenge you want to write about, you’re going to start mining your diaries for gold.

TIP: Once you’ve decided on your transformational journey / topic / challenge you’re going to explore in your book-length work, look for the journal entries you made at the beginning of that process.

writing book journal

2: Find your ‘point of view’ at the beginning of the transformation

Next, you’re going to look at who you were at the beginning of the ‘quest’ of the story. This is where you’re going to re-read your journals to see how your point of view has shifted and changed.

Your point of view is really important, because this is who you were when you began the journey. This is what will make up the beginning of the story.

Where were you living, what was your position in life, what was your relationship / career status, how were you feeling about life, what did you want, back then? What did you struggle with? What was ‘normal’ that then had to shift?

For example, if you are a Canadian woman who up and moved to Italy at age 25, who were you before you left Canada? What came before that huge decision? And what were your first impressions of Italy (could you even speak the language)?

Point of view is what draws the reader in.

The phrases and words you repeat around the subject is your ‘voice’ on the matter.

TIP: Find your journal entries around the time of the ‘beginning’ and highlight certain passages or phrases to use them to outline the first chapters of your memoir (or first paragraphs, if it’s an essay).

3: Mine your diaries for anecdotes, dialogue and details

Now that you’ve found the journal entries around the time of the challenge or quest, go through and highlight details that happened during key parts of the story, such as conflict, pain points or highlights. Details pull the reader into story.

For example, if you were the woman who emigrated to Italy from Canada, did you record any dialogue or first impressions of your new country during those first few weeks and months? What did your new country smell like, look like, feel like, in those early days? We’re incredibly perceptive when things are new. Similarly, first impressions of people, jobs, or the details we notice when shocking things have changed, can really be amazing in stories and scenes. I remember visiting a friend’s house just after she’d had a serious accident. Overnight, she’d gone from life to death, but the milk in her fridge was still fresh.

Use those key words, phrases and dialogue to prompt writing certain scenes and plot out how you dealt with the key ‘conflict’ of the story.

4: Outline your story using the Map Your Memoir method I teach

Now that you have some material to begin with, you’ll need to do some further work to deepen the outline so that it can form the backbone of your daily or weekly draft routine.

I teach a 5-step process called Map Your Memoir that takes you through the 5 fundamentals to a compelling book-length narrative: You can learn more about the process here. It’s just one of the lessons within my larger programme, The Art of Memoir, and it’s the perfect place to start if you are right at the beginning of your writing journey. It works for any style of narrative nonfiction.

Inside Map Your Memoir you’ll learn storytelling basics including:

The Story Hook The Two Desires The 3 Act Structure Your Universal Themes Your Basic Premise (& crafting a ‘focus sentence’) from that

You can learn more about Map Your Memoir and sign up for the course here.

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These are very simple black and white guides to begin. Thank you! Ive been writing for awhile but it is all just so disorganized and some of it is journaling memoirs but includes some fantastical dreaming to make the journey more full. These steps will help me to get a better handle on my draft.

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Good! I try to break it down into the simplest steps to start, because overwhelm is one of the most common feelings with memoir writing…

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I want to do this, but I have 132 journals and counting and there so many stories I could tell. I just really don’t know where to start.

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Thank you immensely for sharing this valuable information! I will attempt to take the ball and run with it; of course with God’s strength and many Graces!

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I have been journalling my days and thoughts since 1987, all labeled by year. Also writing memoir, but have yet to go back and read them all, yet they are full of experiences, thoughts, stories. Sometimes I feel I should just write daily using them as a prompt. My monkey mind has a hard time organizing. Love the transformation story as a way of going through them. Have not articulated that on my website. Still feeling the transformation- does it end?

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Amazing information! Thank you. I have a hundred plus journals and have wanted to create a book but have made stop/start attempts because it just seems so overwhelming. Your three steps will get me started.

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Thanks so much for sharing. This has help me get started…I have about 10+ years of journalling I wanted to find a way to share the information to help others over come challenges… Thanks again

Thanks so much for sharing. This has help me get started…I have about 10+ years of journalling I wanted to find a way to share the information to help others over come challenges…

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writing book journal

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The 13 Best Journals and Notebooks for Writers

Go ahead, put pen to paper.

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Also, as we live through hopefully once-in-a-lifetime moments like the easing of lockdowns, vaccination appoints, the start of a new normal, and the return of leisure travel , a journal can make for a historical artifact, and a family heirloom. (No pressure!) With all that in mind, here are our favorite journals to use as you wish: for chronicling emotions, documenting your day, or simply jotting out a list for the grocery store.

Adam J. Kurtz 1 Page at a Time: A Daily Creative Companion

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If you enjoy doodling just as much as writing down words, take a look at Adam J. Kurtz's 1 Page at a Time,  which comes 365 creative prompts to encourage journaling, drawing, and more. 

Rifle Paper Co. Five Year Keepsake Journal Set

Five Year Keepsake Journal Set

Ready to fully commit to the journaling lifestyle? This set of volumes has room to chronicle five years of time, and will look quite impressive up on the bookshelf.

Flatiron Books The Wisdom Journal: The Companion to The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey

The Wisdom Journal: The Companion to The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey

“Sixteen years ago I started a gratitude journal, and I believe it was the single most important thing I’ve ever done,” Oprah Winfrey  once said . “Every day, for years now, I’ve written down five things to be grateful for.”

Sound advice from the Queen of American TV.

Intelligent Change The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day

The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day

Don't have much time in your schedule for journaling? Consider investing in The Five-Minute Journal, which requires just a few precious moments to create a healthy daily habit.

Potter Style Q&A a Day for Kids: A Three-Year Journal

Q&A a Day for Kids: A Three-Year Journal

Make journaling a family affair with this kid-friendly notebook with questions and prompts to document your memories.

Travels and Experiences Panama Notebook

Travels and Experiences Panama Notebook

Your first vacation post-vaccination is going to be a major moment. Remember it by documenting the trip in the pages of a handcrafted periwinkle blue notebook.

Rite in the Rain Weatherproof Notepad

Rite in the Rain Weatherproof Notepad

If your best ideas come to you in the shower, you want want to invest in a waterproof notepad, à la this one from Rite in the Rain. 

Anthropologie Gratitude Journal

Gratitude Journal

After a year like 2020, many of us have so much to be thankful for. Make gratitude a part of your daily routine, by documenting blessings in a graphic journal like this black and blue notebook. 

Rifle Paper Co. Pocket Notebook Set

Pocket Notebook Set

Perfect for taking notes on-the-go, this sweet style tucks perfectly into a purse, carry-on bag, or, as the name implies, a pocket. 

Moleskine Classic Notebook, Hard Cover

Moleskine Classic Notebook, Hard Cover

The classics are classics for a reason, and more than 12,000 five star Amazon reviews are a great indicator that this simple gridded notebook is a good place to start on your journaling journey.

Chambray Blue Lined Notebook

Chambray Blue Lined Notebook

A monogrammed notebook like this chambray style makes for a perfect personalized gift for the writer in your life. 

Antique Blue Dream Journal

Antique Blue Dream Journal

Ensure no dream slips away to day break by leaving a gorgeous blue dream journal on your bedside table. When you wake, jot down what you remember for a look at your inner psyche. 

Kate Spade New York Take Note Notebook

Take Note Notebook

Transform yourself from a lover of reading to a lover of writing with a notebook covered with classics like  Romeo and Juliet ,  Pride and Prejudice , and  Through the Looking Glass . 

Headshot of Caroline Hallemann

As the digital director for Town & Country, Caroline Hallemann covers culture, entertainment, and a range of other subjects 

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Simone and Her Books

My digital reading journal

My Reading Journal and How I Write Reviews

writing book journal

This is going to be a two-for-one post because my reading journal is also where I keep my notes for book reviews. I’ll first share how I keep my reading journal and then I’ll share how I write my reviews.

There’s a billion ways I’ve seen people take notes. Some folks keep it all in their heads. Other folks write in margins of the book and tag pages with book darts or tabs. Even further, other people just take notes on their phone. The first step is to find the best way for you to organize your thoughts.

I love having the book journal because I like having all my notes in one place. I also love being able to go back and see all the books I’ve read. Granted, I also have a spreadsheet to keep track of all the books I read, but I also love reading how I felt and what the books were about.

First off, the tools:

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  • Notebook: Leuchtturm 1917 dotted notebook . They come in various colors!
  • Pens : I’ve tested so many pens in my life, but my favorite have to be the Uni-Ball Signo 0.38mm and Zebra Sarasa 0.5mm in Vintage colors . I also love the gel pens from Muji.
  • Markers: I use a combo of the Mildliner and Crayola Supertips
  • Stickers : all my stickers are either from Etsy sellers or mochithings.com . You can also buy sticker subscriptions from Sticky Kit.

My philosophy when it comes to journaling is use whatever materials you like. Journals are made for you, so design them however you want to design them. Make them feel good for you because you’re the one archiving your thoughts into a physical place.

I write my notes in two separate columns; a plot side and a thoughts side. The plot side is riddled with spoilers and points from the book. This side is mostly for me so I’m reminded of what happened in the book and can reference that in my reviews. I don’t include the spoiler parts and if the plot would spoil the book, then I try to avoid adding them to my reviews.

The thoughts side is where I put down…well, my thoughts. Characters I like, how I think the book is going, and some dislikes. Glaringly obvious issues that made me cringe or questions I asked myself. I really love writing this stuff down so when it comes to review time, I can easily recall those points. I hate it when I write a review and forget something I wanted to add, then have to go back and add it in. Usually I forget to add it in.

I also like to start each page with a few notes to myself. For example, I note if the book is a reread or if I’m doing a buddy read with someone or how I came across the book. I really like making my reviews more personal by adding a little about why I started reading this book or if I’m doing a specific challenge. I just think it gives my reviews a little more of a personal touch than facts.

The best part about this is that it fosters more thinking and thoughts. For example, if I write a note saying I read a book for a reading challenge, then I might be inspired to write about the challenge later on. Inspiration comes from anywhere, so writing down my inspiration inspires more!

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For decorating my book journal, it’s really all over the place. I love working on my handlettering skills by writing out the title of the book with marker. Sometimes I decorate the page and sometimes there’s too many thoughts for me to sacrifice that space. I like using colorful pens to match the book cover colors. This is really just me doing what I like and you should be inspired to do the same!

As for writing reviews, I like to think of readers when I’m writing a review. What information will make it easy for the reader to read and understand if the book will be for them? For me, that’s writing style, characters/plot, and overall feelings.

How is the writing style? I always think of this one first. How was the overall reading experience and did the writing get in the way of that? Think about the pacing, the perspective, and other little attributes of the author’s writing. Does it read quickly? Does it drag in the middle? Is there representation and did it do it properly?

How are the characters/plot? Is it riddled with tropes? Is it based on actual events? Providing some plot or points in the plot that you loved or hated will help. Which characters did you love? Which characters made you seethe with hatred?

What are your overall feelings? Would you recommend this book? I feel like everyone has an overall feeling about a book even if it’s short or just the rating. If you were to elevator pitch this book to a friend, what would you say?

I also like to get inside the author’s head. What were they thinking when they wrote a specific section or why they wrote a character a certain way. I like to figure out where the author was when they were writing the book to help better understand what I read. Here’s some more things I like to keep in mind:

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Only include a summary if the synopsis doesn’t do a good job explaining the book. I hate being in the dark about a story and I most definitely dislike vague synopses. I like sharing a little bit of the story I read so that other readers can get a good idea of it too. I get wanting to create buzz about a book, but it doesn’t help readers make the crucial decision on whether to actually read it. However, I avoid including synopsis if it will spoil the book or if the book is so long I can’t condense its plot into a few sentences.

Avoid bashing a book. I don’t know what it is about the Internet and opinions, but people love expressing them online especially if they’re a negative opinion. I don’t have any problems with negative reviews. I don’t mind if books didn’t work for someone or it made someone feel uncomfortable. I don’t mind if the book did have a great plot or you didn’t resonate with the characters, but please don’t continuously talk about how terrible a book is. These kinds of reviews really help no one with understanding if the book is worth their time. It’s also really unproductive to just hear someone complaining without resolve or reason. Usually if I see a Goodreads review riddled with eye-rolling gifs, I just scroll past it. Bashing a book means you’re going through special means to make sure the author feels terrible for writing their book. I never know if I should read a book when the review just stomps it into the dirt.

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Include content warnings for sensitive readers. In 2020, we all have our thing. I don’t think there’s a human in the world that isn’t going through something at this very moment. I have my thing and because we all have our thing, we should be mindful that some subjects may warrant bad feelings. When I’m reading reviews, I want to know if there are certain triggers included in the story. This allows me to either prepare myself for the content of the book or make me reconsider reading the book all together.

There is a belief that including content warnings are a spoiler. I don’t believe that. I don’t think you’re spoiling a book if you note there’s a rape scene or the content deals with suicide. If anything, it makes the reader more aware and prepare for the scene if they choose to read the book. I would much rather know what I’m getting myself into than blindly go into it and trigger myself.

You don’t need to be a cunning writer to write reviews. I see a lot of folks go through a lot of work to sound like a professional book critic in their reviews. I love the eloquent writing, but I don’t think it’s a per-requisite to writing good reviews. Good reviews allow the readers to understand the book better. What did you like and what you didn’t like will help make up the minds of other readers. You can write it in a very professional style, but I love reviews that read like I’m talking to my friend. And of course I take friend’s suggestions over a professional reviewer.

But generally, just share your thoughts! They don’t have to be the most erudite things. Honestly, reviews should be written not only for the reader but for yourself. If you have thoughts and need to share them or write them down, go for it! There’s no hard and fast rules, but I do hope that the points I mentioned help give you some sense of what goes into writing a review. Be honest. If you didn’t like the book, share why you didn’t like it. If you loved the book, share that too. No one should find fault in either of these kinds of reviews and if people disagree, then people disagree.

The big takeaway in all of this is that books aren’t made for everyone. It’ll either be a hit or a miss and that’s just human nature. Make the reviews for you and what you’ll find is that others felt the same way.

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14 thoughts on “ My Reading Journal and How I Write Reviews ”

Such a lovely post! ❤ I so enjoyed a little peek into your book journal and how you write your reviews.

Wow! 😍 This is such a beautiful journal.

Hey Simone! I really love that you have a side for Plot and Thoughts. I am going to give this a try with my journal, I just kind of mix everything together and i don’t feel like it’s been productive! Thank you for sharing your journal with us

Thanks for giving us an insight to your way of writing reviews ! It’s really interesting to read 🙂

Thank you so much for posting this! I was beginning to feel discouraged because I stopped using my bullet journal after January and then I lost my stencils. Because of your post I decided to use my bullet journal for my thoughts and such on the books I’m reading ❤

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Beautiful! Thank you for sharing! I am always looking for a way to make more minimalist spreads that will still look nice and I think you have accomplished that perfectly!

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Curious as to if you limit yourself to one page per book or if the examples you showed just turned out this way? Do you also write about more than one book at a time? (i see the stick note on Ten Thousand Doors of January and wonder if you used a sticky note because your journal wasn’t close enough or you use the next page with out realizing you needed it for this book?) ..Sorry for all the questions, this is just my analytical brain trying to find some logic. Loved this post and catching a glimpse inside your journal 🙂

I usually assign one page per book, but sometimes my thoughts go way beyond the page. That’s where the sticky notes come in. What I can’t fit on the page, I go ahead and add to the notes. And yeah, because my journal is both a reading journal and my personal journal, a lot of pages are used despite me not finishing my thoughts

Thank you for sharing and taking the time to answer my questions. 🙂

I love this post! Your IG and your blog are such happy places on the internet. I love journaling my thoughts about books as well, and I was wondering: do you read and journal at the same time? Or do you wait until you’ve finished reading to write about a book? 🙂

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Art journal blog

20 of the best books on journaling.

writing book journal

Get Messy is an online art journaling school that teaches you to cultivate your creativity. Without perfection.

We’d love for you to join us .

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writing book journal

How to start art journaling

Ready to consistently cultivate your creativity with art journaling?

Yes please!

20 of the best books on journaling

I’ve been art journaling for eight years, but it was only two years ago that I’ve fallen for written journaling. And man, have I fallen hard.

My journaling journey

For a long time, art journaling helped me say everything that I couldn’t say with words. As Georgia O’Keeffe said, “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way… things I had no words for.”.

I’ve now found the words. And they can’t stop pouring out of me.

I use a Stalogy B6 wrapped badly in fabric. I love the soft paper, and the perfect size (right between A5 and A6). I’m on my third one now.

writing book journal

Going into any new journal is the absolute best , but when it’s purely written, those crinkly pages hit differently.

writing book journal

I wanted to level up my journaling

In an effort to dig even deeper into myself, I started reading books on journaling. It was so difficult to find a great list of recommended books, and so I’m creating this one myself.

I read 22 journaling books so that you don’t have to

I also tracked them meticulously. I photographed them, illustrated each, extracted the prompts, and put them into Notion. This part wasn’t for you, but for my own documenter heart.

writing book journal

22 books about journaling

Here’s the simple list:

(these books link to Amazon and are affiliate links)

  • 49 Ways to Write Yourself Well by Jackee Holder

At a Journal Workshop by Ira Progoff

Creative journal writing by stephanie dowrick, the creative journal by lucia capacchione, expressive writing: words that heal by james w. pennebaker and john frank evans, heart, sass & soul by greta solomon, journal to the self by kathleen adams, journaling for joy by joyce chapman, journalution by sandy grason, the joy of writing things down by megan c hayes, keeping a journal you love by sheila bender, leaving a trace: on keeping a journal by alexandra johnson, a life of one’s own by joanna field, life’s companion by christina baldwin, the new diary by tristine rainer, one to one by christina baldwin, therapeutic journal writing by kate thompson, writing alone and with others by pat schneider, writing alone together by wendy judith cutler, ahava shira, lynda monk, writing alone. writing together. by judy reeves, writing down your soul by janet conner.

Here’s a slightly more detailed list. All ratings are my own, very personal opinion. Each book is still worth reading.

49 Ways to Write Yourself Well by Jackee Holder

writing book journal

The Science and Wisdom of Writing and journaling

With the rise of the digital age, writing as a form of inquiry and reflection is fast becoming a forgotten art. Written by an experienced executive coach and writer, this book is full of information and exercises to build and maintain a regular writing practice for enhancing well-being, as well as set up and maintain a journal. Contents include: Establishing a writing practice; Why writing by hand with pen and paper works; How to write for emotional balance; Using writing to manage difficult feelings and emotions; Therapeutic models and writing practices to challenge your thoughts and beliefs; How to gain new perspectives and solutions to work or personal challenges; Reframing relationships with self and others; Resources, references, and glossary.

Rating: ✍️✍️  (unreadable on a Kindle or in the app, find a second hand copy)

Buy on Amazon:

writing book journal

The basic text and guide for using the Intensive Journal process

What would you like your life to be? Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal Process combines one of the oldest methods of self-exploration and expression–keeping a journal–with a structured format that enables you to get to know the inner core of your life on ever-deeper levels and gain a fuller perspective on where you are. The Intensive Journal Process also empowers you to take the action necessary to change the course of your life and unlock your hidden creative potential. This rich, insightful work is a treasure for all those involved in self-inquiry, artistic creation, and spiritual renewal.

Rating: ✍️✍️ ( A difficult read, but all encompassing. This is known as the Bible of therapeutic journaling )

writing book journal

The Art and Heart of Reflection

‘We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.’ – C. Day Lewis Journal writing is one of the most powerful and easily accessible tools we have to heal, expand and transform our lives. In this exceptionally positive and encouraging book, Stephanie Dowrick frees the journal writer she believes is in virtually everyone, showing through stories and examples that a genuine sense of possibility can be revived on every page. Creative journal writing goes way beyond recording events. It can be the companion that supports but doesn’t judge, a place of unparalleled discovery and a creative playground where the everyday rules no longer count. Combining a rich choice of ideas with wonderful stories, quotes and her refreshingly intimate thoughts gained through a lifetime of writing, Stephanie’s insights and confidence make journal writing irresistible – and your own life more enchanting.

Rating: ✍️✍️

writing book journal

The Art of Finding Yourself

Originally released in 1980, Lucia Capacchione’s The Creative Journal has become a classic in the fields of art therapy, memoir and creative writing, art journaling, and creativity development. Using more than fifty prompts and vibrantly illustrated examples, Capacchione guides readers through drawing and writing exercises to release feelings, explore dreams, and solve problems creatively. Topics include emotional expression, healing the past, exploring relationships, self-inventory, health, life goals, and more. The Creative Journal introduced the world to Capacchione’s groundbreaking technique of writing with the nondominant hand for brain balancing, finding innate wisdom, and developing creative potential.

Rating: ✍️✍️✍️

writing book journal

Using expressive writing to overcome traumas and emotional upheavals, resolve issues, improve health, and build resilience

Expressive Writing: Words that Heal provides research results, in layman’s terms, which demonstrate how and when expressive writing can improve health. It explains why writing can often be more helpful than talking when dealing with trauma, and it prepares the reader for their writing experience. The book looks at the most serious issues and helps the reader process them. From the instructions: “Write about what keeps you awake at night. The emotional upheaval bothering you the most and keeping you awake at night is a good place to start writing.”

writing book journal

Journal Your Way to Inspiration and Happiness

Discover the Life-Changing Power of Freewriting and Journaling Discover who you are: Writing for yourself is an incredible way to heal your heart, find happiness, and reconnect with the things that matter most. Journaling and freewriting can bring you a deeper level of self-awareness, allowing you to truly know who you are. Heart, Sass & Soul will show you how to develop a writing practice that nurtures inner strength and promotes a rich, fulfilled life. Recover the joy of creative self-expression: As kids, many of us had vibrant imaginations and our lives were full of creativity. Over time, that self-expression gets lost in the busy routine of everyday life. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The tips, techniques, and exercises for freewriting in this book will help you tap into that creativity deep in your soul. Writing can be your best self-care therapy: Most of us, at some point in our lives, will lose something we truly love. That time in-between jobs, friends, relationships, homes, or whatever else, is the “great unknown.” Contrary to what some may tell you, this is not the time to make major, life-changing decisions. In the midst of loss and grief, you need self-care more than ever. In fact, the best thing to do in these times is write. A new approach to finding happiness: If you love self-help books for women like Start Where You Are, Practice You, and 52 Lists for Happiness, you’ll love this new approach. Heart, Sass, & Soul is not a journal. It’s a method for writing freely that will change the way you live. With this essential guide, you will learn how to: • Overcome self-doubt and develop a new creative identity • Transform dark times into something beautiful • Find moments for healing yourself without judgement • Become empowered with uninhibited self-expression

writing book journal

Twenty-Two Paths to Personal Growth – Open the Door to Self-Understanding by Writing, Reading, and Creating a Journal of Your Life

A nationally known therapist provides a powerful tool for better living–a step-by-step method to personal growth, creative expression, and career enhancement through journal writing.

Rating: ✍️✍️✍️✍️ (loved this)

writing book journal

Writing Your Way to Personal Growth and Freedom

Journaling for Joy enables you to take a close look at who you are and what you want. In an original approach to journaling, Joyce Chapman guides you to write from your heart and soul with the aim of arriving at joy – the joy that comes from knowing yourself as an intimate friend and living the life you have created out of conscious choice. Journaling for Joy is filled with over 200 dynamic journaling techniques

Rating: ✍️ (may be more suited for a beginner)

writing book journal

Journal Writing to Awaken Your Inner Voice, Heal Your Life, and Manifest Your Dreams

Studies confirm what avid journalers have always known: that writing about difficult experiences helps the writer move forward. Many self-help books recommend journaling as a way to express emotions and explore past hurts – as well as to simply get organized, make plans, and set goals – yet few of the books show how to do it. In Journalution, Sandy Grason combines the writing guidance of Julia Cameron with the emotional nurturing of Shakti Gawain. With chapters including “Completing Your Incompletions,” “Masterminding Your Destiny,” and “Communicating with a Higher Power,” the book balances basic instruction in the art of journaling with intimate entries from the author and her workshop participants. Activities, such as timed and stream-of-consciousness writing exercises and keeping a dream log, follow each chapter. Throughout, Grason offers guidelines and prompts, encouraging readers to pick up the pen and journal their way to greater self-awareness.

writing book journal

The Everyday Zen of Putting Pen to Paper

Whether it’s a speedy note-to-self, a simple shopping list or a carefully penned thank-you note, putting words on paper is a daily habit – and can also bring us great joy and calm. In this book you’ll discover practical ways to turn the ordinary ritual of jotting things down into a remarkable source of peace, focus and confidence. Learn to take pleasure in your correspondence, find fresh delight in your diary writing and put renewed heart in your humble to-do list. Dr Megan C Hayes has spent her academic career exploring the links between writing, identity and happiness – and she is on a mission to encourage us all to pick up a pen and reap the wellbeing benefits in writing.

Rating: ✍️✍️✍️✍️ (an all-encompassing guide to writing things down)

writing book journal

The Art of Transforming Life into Stories

Leaving A Trace is a practical guide to keeping a journal successfully and transforming it into future projects. Each chapter features both narrative and tailored exercises for beginning and committed diarists. Beginners will turn first to quick ways to overcome inhibitions, get started and stay on course. Seasoned chroniclers will start diaries with a new slant: they will learn how to trigger inspiration with creative brainstorming exercises; how to note patterns in diaries they already have and how to shape their material.

Rating: ✍️✍️✍️✍️ (loved this one)

writing book journal

How often do we ask ourselves, ‘What will make me happy? What do I really want from life?’ In A Life of One’s Own Marion Milner explores these questions and embarks on a seven year personal journey to discover what it is that makes her happy. On its first publication, W. H. Auden found the book ‘as exciting as a detective story’ and, as Milner searches out clues, the reader quickly becomes involved in the chase. Using her own personal diaries, kept over many years, she analyses moments of everyday life and discovers ways of being, of looking, of moving, that bring surprising joy – ways which can be embraced by anyone. With a new introduction by Rachel Bowlby this classic remains a great adventure in thinking and living and will be essential reading for all those interested in reflecting on the nature of their own happiness – whether readers from a literary, an artistic, a historical, an educational or a psychoanalytic/psychotherapeutic background.

writing book journal

Journal writing as a spiritual quest

In this classic book you will discover the intimate journey of personal and spiritual development that is possible through the practice of journal writing. In Life’s Companion, acclaimed author Christina Baldwin offers readers guidance and inspiration to this powerful way of expanding our inner horizons and opening our minds and spirits to a deeper relationship with the world and the people around us. Complete with enlightening quotations, exercises, sample journal entries, and techniques to nurture and encourage the writer and seeker within you, Life’s Companion will help you transform journaling into a powerful tool for self-growth, heightened awareness, and personal fulfillment.

Rating: ✍️✍️✍️✍️

writing book journal

How to use a journal for self-guidance and expanded creativity

The New Diary is about a completely modern concept of journal writing. It has little to do with the rigid daily calendar diary you may have kept as a child or the factual travelogue you wrote to recall the Grand Canyon. Instead, it is a tool for tapping the full power of your inner resources. The New Diary is as much for those who already keep a journal as it is for those who have never kept one. It does not tell you the “right” way to keep a diary; rather, it offers numerous possibilities for using the diary to achieve your own purposes. It is a place for you to clarify goals, visualize the future, and focus your engergies; a means of freeing your intuition and imagination; a workbook for exploring your dreams, your past, and your present life. It is for everyone seeking concrete methods for dealing with personal problems. It is for women and men interested in achieving self-reliance and inner liberation, for artists and writers seeking new techniques for overcoming blocks to creativity.

writing book journal

Self-Understanding Through Journal Writing

writing book journal

An Introduction for Professionals

Writing a journal is not just about keeping a record of daily events – journal writing provides a unique therapeutic opportunity for facilitating healing and growth. The author of this book guides the reader through developing journal writing to use as a therapeutic tool. Keeping a journal can help the writer to develop a better understanding of themselves, their relationships and the world around them, as well as improve skills of problem-solving, decision-making and planning. As such, journal writing can be a powerful complement to verbal therapy, offering an effective and affordable way of extending support to troubled clients. The book includes advice on working with individuals, facilitating a therapeutic writing group, proposed clinical applications, practical techniques, useful journal prompts, exercises and case vignettes. This clear guide to the basics of journaling and its development as a therapeutic medium will be a valuable handbook for therapists, health and social care practitioners, teachers, life coaches, writing facilitators and any professional seeking personal development in themselves or their clients.

writing book journal

The guide that will beat the block, banish fear, and help create lasting work

For more than a quarter of a century, Pat Schneider has helped writers find and liberate their true voices. She has taught all kinds–the award winning, the struggling, and those who have been silenced by poverty and hardship. Her innovative methods have worked in classrooms from elementary to graduate level, in jail cells and public housing projects, in convents and seminaries, in youth at-risk programs, and with groups of the terminally ill. Now, in Writing Alone and with Others, Schneider’s acclaimed methods are available in a single, well-organized, and highly readable volume. The first part of the book guides the reader through the perils of the solitary writing life: fear, writer’s block, and the bad habits of the internal critic. In the second section, Schneider describes the Amherst Writers and Artists workshop method, widely used across the U.S. and abroad. Chapters on fiction and poetry address matters of technique and point to further resources, while more than a hundred writing exercises offer specific ways to jumpstart the blocked and stretch the rut-stuck. Schneider’s innovative teaching method will refresh the experienced writer and encourage the beginner. Her book is the essential owner’s manual for the writer’s voice.

Rating: ✍️  (rather read Writing Alone. Writing Together by Judy Reeves)

writing book journal

Journalling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection

Part memoir, part writing practice, part inspiration, this book is a multi voiced creation of three passionate and committed journal writers. Writing Alone Together reveals the depth and complexity that emerges from going to the blank page, transforming the act of writing into a catalyst for meaningful conversation, storytelling, mindfulness, personal growth, creative self-expression and mutual support. Writing Alone Together is a practice of gathering with other women to write, read and create a sense of community through the transformational power of journal writing. This communal practice creates shifts in consciousness, in our lives and in the world. Each time we meet, we bring the intention of being fully present, listening to ourselves and to one another and sharing our words, thoughts, views, visions, dreams and intuition. While we may not always agree or feel resonance with one another’s ideas or experiences, through Writing Alone Together we cultivate acceptance and compassion. Through writing in journals, we discover and remember the stories and poetry of our lives. As we share and reveal these stories within these pages and within our journalling circle, we begin to see new perspectives, gain clarity, find solutions, celebrate accomplishments, notice and change patterns of behaviour and refine our understanding of our life experiences. In this process, we make meaning through our stories, constructing who we are and who we are becoming.

writing book journal

A Guide for Writers and Writing Groups

The lonely life of a writer need not be. There are ways to break that isolation and find encouragement and support within groups of like-minded people. Sections in Writing Alone, Writing Together include Writing Practice Groups, Creating Writing Prompts, Group Leadership, and even What to Do with the Bores, Whiners, Control Junkies, and Thugs. Whether the group is oriented toward writing the great American novel or a family memory book, this useful book offers an array of effective techniques to help writers achieve their goals.

Rating: ✍️✍️✍️✍️  (I found practical ideas, even having hosted an art journal community for 8 years)

writing book journal

How to activate and listen to the extraordinary voice within

“I am a writer. Today I write.” Those are the opening lines in the Writing Blessing that author Janet Conner has spoken daily since 2007. Divine dialogue. Janet Conner is a writer, poet, and spiritual field guide─but first and always a deep soul explorer. Since she discovered how to activate a divine Voice by slipping into the theta brain wave state (the intriguing border between the conscious and the subconscious) while writing, Janet has dedicated herself to exploring and sharing what it means to live at the vibrant intersection of the visible and the invisible. In Writing Down Your Soul, Janet transforms journal-writing from self-reflection in the alpha brainwave state into divine dialogue in theta. Life-changing power of writing. Of all the ways to get in touch with God, as you understand God, why take the time to write? One reason: it works. It works amazingly well. If you want to engage in a vibrant conversation with the wisdom that dwells just below your conscious awareness, write. Write every day, at approximately the same time, with passion, honesty, and the intention of speaking with and listening to the voice within. Your healing inner voice. After hitting rock bottom while escaping a terrible situation of domestic abuse, Janet’s inner voice told her to start writing. As she wrote, her inner voice gained clarity and strength, and she felt an incredible connection to the divine. Miracles began to happen. Today, research scientists are providing peeks into what consciousness is and how it works. Their findings give us intriguing clues as to what is actually happening in and through our bodies, minds, and spirits as we roll pen across paper. Writing Down Your Soul explores some of this research and instructs how to access the power and beauty of our own deepest selves.

Rating: ✍️✍️✍️✍️✍️  (this changed  everything for me)

writing book journal

My favourite books on journaling

writing book journal

The books that changed my life and journaling practice the most are:

  • Writing Down Your Soul – to change your life
  • One to One – for an overview of techniques
  • The New Diary – another extensive overview of techniques
  • Writing Alone. Writing Together. – to dig into the community of journaling

If you wanted to get started reading a few books on journaling, those are the ones I’d recommend.

If you’re part of Get Messy, I’m in the process of distilling these books for action in the Resource Library .

writing book journal

Caylee Grey

Caylee Grey is a South African artist who fills her journals with loads of mediocre art. Imperfect, heart-led, gloriously mediocre art. Caylee's the Fairy Artmother of Get Messy Art, the kindest art journaling community on the internet, and author of the book by the same name.

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19 Notebooks That Will Motivate You to Journal in the New Year

writing book journal

By Malia Griggs

The 19 Best Notebooks For Journaling in 2021

In my apartment, I keep almost every journal I’ve ever written, from first grade on. I’m not an obsessive journaler ; actually, I’m consistently inconsistent about the frequency with which I write. But I’ve always maintained a notebook in some way, especially as I’ve grown older, and in 2019 I finally committed to a serious journaling practice . It is largely this reflective writing that kept me somewhat grounded amid the chaos that was 2020—and will hopefully continue to do so in 2021. I highly encourage you to consider starting a journaling practice this new year too, however big or small, as a reminder that each day was a whole, entire day that you lived, breathed, felt, grew, grieved, laughed, and loved, often in great emotional waves.

Of course, I totally understand that journaling can seem time-consuming, overwhelming, or like one of those things you always mean to do but never get to, like therapy or meditation. I felt that way for a long time too, because I hadn’t figured out the kind of journaler I was. Looking at my notebooks from my teens and 20s, there’s a progression from lined pink diaries that I used sporadically to small black unlined Moleskines, to even tinier, expensive, delicately papered ledgers that I ultimately never wrote in, since everything I wanted to write seemed too mundane (“Went to Trader Joe’s. Bought mochi. Went home”) or childish (“Does everyone hate me?!”) for its fancy pages.

At 28, after a diagnosis of stress-induced epilepsy , I experimented with different types of journals as a way of managing my anxiety and also to help improve my memory, which has grown spotty with the anti-epileptic medications I take (and with age). At 30, I landed on my magic combo: I now keep two journals.

The first is a page-a-day Moleskine planner in which I quickly note everything that transpired on that date, including the “boring” stuff. I also note my mood (on a fluctuating, subjective scale of 1 to 10 for anxiety), things I’m grateful for (a rare night of good sleep, my cat’s purr, a memorable meal, a new dress), and the weather.

My second journal is a larger, 9" x 12" Strathmore “visual journal.” It’s unlined, with thick paper that’s substantial enough that my markers and inks don’t bleed. In these pages I let myself really breathe. I doodle, paint, get mad, and write mad things in big, mad letters. I scribble down quotes, story ideas, lists, jokes, complaints, letters to myself, purposefully disregarding formal structure. This is my “feelings” journal. It’s less of a record and more of an imperfect unpacking of the chatter inside my head.

I like looking back at my journals periodically to see how much has changed, what the headlines were, how I was feeling. Certain themes and behaviors pop out over time, certain moments, conversations, exchanges with strangers on the street, that I’d forgotten and am thankful I saved for later reading. Even flipping back to January of last year, so much has changed (clearly), and carving time for reflection feels so important.

New journalers, try not to let a fear of writing or fatigue deter you. Your journal is a safe space, and it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Perhaps you just list bluntly what you did that day or draw an emoji. Perhaps you let yourself lose it over how uncertain the world is. Or maybe you start a novel.

Below, I share notebook options for those who want to begin a practice for 2021 or refresh their old notebook. Consider whether you want lines or no lines, whether you’ll be writing inside or on the go, or whether you prefer something large or portable. It’s up to you, but the important thing is, no matter whether it's this month or next: Just start.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Papier Minimal Photo Strip Notebook

This pretty, personalizable page-turner features a three-photo strip of your choice. In a year like this, maybe pictures of travels past or faces you miss most (or meals) is the inspiration you need to dive into writing. This makes for a lovely gift to yourself or to a loved one who will appreciate the thoughtful gesture. For the finicky among us, you can even decide whether this is a soft or hardcover notebook, as well as whether it comes with plain, lined, or dotted pages.

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Paper Source Donuts Custom Journal

Paper Source

Hopefully you (brace yourself) donut get too hungry looking at at this confection-covered notebook. You can stamp your name on the colorful cover to make it yours, and the journal is also handily spiral-bound, so that the pages will always lie flat. It's up to you whether those pages are plain, glazed (sorry, lined), or dedicated to dates .

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Let That Sh*t Go: A Journal for Leaving Your Bullsh*t Behind and Creating a Happy Life

If you need a journal that gets real with you like your best friend would without being wishy-washy, this notebook suffers no fools. Instead of intimidating, empty pages, Let That Sh*t Go varies its personable prompts, asking you to list out “Positive Procrastination" to-dos, as well as things that have got on your nerves recently (and belly-laugh moments, too).

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Society6 Amber Dusk Notebook

Designed as an open platform for artists looking to showcase their work, everything on sale at Society6, from home décor to journals, features designs by creatives from around the world. This gorgeous, wraparound landscape was created by husband-and-wife team SpaceFrog Designs. All notebooks are printed on sturdy 70-lb paper, so your scribblings won't bleed, and the cover is made of soft, anti-scuff laminate. You can customize whether the notebook is lined or unlined and if you want one or a set of three, it's up to you.

Becoming A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice by Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama's Becoming : A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice

For fans of Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming , this inspirational journal is for you. Inside, you'll find morale-boosting quotes from the former first lady, as well as more than 150 reflective prompts tied to the stories in her book, such as: “List three people who contribute to your circle of strength" and “Write about a specific experience when someone dislodged a dream of yours… How did you try to overcome that obstacle?” It's like a little therapy session but far cheaper.

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Moleskine Classic

I’ve used Moleskines for over 15 years as my trusty, go-to journals. This is its classic notebook, which is high-quality for the price and a nice size (small enough to transport but not glaringly large). The paper doesn’t bleed, and you can choose whether you want lines, no lines, ruled, dotted, etc. The Classic also has a pocket in the back, which is handy for storing mementos.

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Strathmore Visual Bristol Journal Mixed Media

A friend sent me this visual journal for my birthday last year, and I immediately loved the idea of it. I use the 9" x12" and find its large, unlined pages freeing for scrawling all-caps rants and mantras. The paper is designed for mixed media, so I paint with watercolor in here as well, in between entries. I’ve gone through almost three of these in a little over a year.

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Panda Planner Pro

For the productive, project-oriented journalers, meet the Panda Planner Pro, which helps you home in on monthly focus/exercise goals (whether they’re physical or mental is up to you), daily habits you wish to take on, and that leaves space for reflection on your progress meeting those goals. Unlike most planners, the dates are not prefilled, so no page is wasted. Each planner lasts for six to nine months.

writing book journal

Fringe Assorted Slim Mini Journals (Two-Pack)

Fringe Studio

These pretty journals are small, ideal for sliding into a tote when you’re out, but bright enough that you’ll never lose them.

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Intelligent Change The Five-Minute Journal

If the idea of devoting chunks of your day to journaling makes your stomach churn, here’s a more approachable option. This slender hardcover journal has short, guided gratitude prompts meant to leave you feeling more positive and that don’t require unloading all of your feelings (not that I’m judging).

Editor's Note: This journal will be in stock on January 14.

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Day One App (Premium)

If you’re on the go and appreciate the idea of cataloguing your life into a digital archive, this app offers a modern approach to journaling. Its clean design allows you to capture memories and stray thoughts in your phone via typing, handwriting, drawing, photo, video, voice memo, and social. You can even dictate into the app for transcription. Day One Premium automatically backs up and offers end-to-end encryption and passcodes for privacy. There’s a free version, but if you want the bells and whistles, at $3 per month, you’re essentially paying the same price over the course of a year that you would for a nice-quality paper journal and get a wide range of features.

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Denik Threadless Lay Flat Notebook

This beautiful sewn notebook serves as a motivational reminder to be kind to yourself and others in tough times—that kindness is a strength. Maybe kindness means forgiving yourself for not writing every day, or perhaps praising yourself for writing even one sentence. The journal handily lies flat, and you can customize the style of inside paging to your preference.

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Rifle Paper Co. Memoir Journal

Rifle Paper Co.

This lovely linen notebook is foil-stamped and subtly lined with neon pink for neat writers. It lies flat and has vellum pages, which is the type of substantial paper you find in stationery and greeting cards.

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Moonster Leather Journal

If you’re craving an artisanal option that’s reminiscent of ships and sonnets, look no further than this romantic hand-stitched journal bound in water buffalo leather, with an antique strap. Its heavy, creamy paper is made of acid-free, recycled cotton and practically begs you to scrawl your revelations in its pages (with a quill or fountain pen, natch).

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Leuchtturm 1917 Medium A5

For more serious bullet journalers, the hardcover Leuchtturm is a cult favorite, lays flat, and has a gusseted pocket and elastic closure band. It helpfully includes page numbers, a blank table of contents for organization, as well as sticky archival labels, and comes in a wide range of punchy colors.

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Incredible Journals Daily Positivity Journal

If you want a journal that structures and inspires you, this highly rated, faux-leather journal includes motivational quotes and creates space for gratitude, sleep tracking, positive habit tracking, affirmations, monthly reflections, and more.

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Poluma Dotted Grid Journal Notebook

For beginner bullet journalers , this robin’s egg blue, gridded diary is an inexpensive option that won’t make you feel like “Why did I spend $50 on a journal I might not use?” Reviewers rave especially about the durability of the paper, if you’re inclined to doodle with inky pens.

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Insight Editions Self-Care: A Day & Night Reflection Journal

Urban Outfitters

This 90-day journal provides a space for recording daily goings-on with your mental health in mind. It dives into your mood, how your body felt, what you ate and drank, stressors you faced, and explores kindnesses you bestowed upon yourself. If you particularly struggle with finding time for self-care , consider writing in this journal one of those acts.

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YellowPaperHouse Junque Journal

For artists and doodlers, here’s a splashy, colorful sketchbook, in which every page is different for a variety of media (mixed media, watercolor, card stock, and more). Its spiral makes it easy to flip between pages and would be great for scrapbooking. Plus, this top-selling journal has the option of including six different pens, so you can practice your penmanship and brush strokes.

writing book journal

SELF does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.

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    ... books to spiral notebooks to bullet journals ... If you particularly struggle with finding time for self-care, consider writing in this journal