How to Keep a Reading Log or Book Journal

A woman writing in a journal in the woods.

Hero Images/Getty Images

A reading log or book journal is a great place to note your reactions to what you're reading. Writing down your responses will allow you to discover how you feel about the characters. You'll also gain insight into the theme and plot, and it may enable you to deepen your overall enjoyment of reading literature. You can keep a hand-written reading journal using a notebook and a pen, or you can keep an electronic one on a computer or tablet. 

Below are a few idea starters to get your creative juices flowing. Feel free to build your list of questions. You may find yourself starting a life-long habit of keeping a reading log or book journal.

How to Keep a Reading Journal

First and foremost, start recording your immediate reactions to the text as you read it. Begin with the opening chapter of the book. How do your impressions change (if they do) after reading half the book? Do you feel any differently after finishing the book? Would you read the book again?

What emotions did the book invoke: laughter, tears, smiles, anger? Or did the book seem boring and meaningless you? If so, why? Record some of your reactions.

Sometimes books touch you, reminding you of your own life as part of the larger human experience. Are there connections between the text and your own experience? Or does the book remind you of an event (or events) that happened to someone you know? Does the book remind you of what happened in another book you've read?

Write about the characters, considering these questions:

  • Which one is your favorite? What do you like about that character?
  • Are there any personality traits that you'd like to have?
  • Conversely, is there a character you dislike? Why?
  • What traits could you change about that character? Do you think that any of the characters represent real people?
  • Does anything about a particular character seem to be related to the author's true personality?
  • Do any of the characters represent general personality types? Is the author commenting on these types of people?

Consider the Names Used in the Book

  • If you were the author, would you have changed the name of a character or altered the location of a scene?
  • What does the name mean to you?
  • Do you have a negative connotation associated with the name (or the place)?
  • What would you name the character instead?
  • What would you use as a setting?

Do You Have More Questions Than Answers?

  • Upon finishing the book, does it leave you with questions? What are they?
  • Would you like to direct your questions at a particular character?
  • What questions would you like to ask the author of the book?
  • Are they questions that you may be able to answer by reading more about the author's life and works? 

Being Confused is Okay

  • Are you confused about what happened (or didn't happen) in the book?
  • What events or characters do you not understand?
  • Does the use of language in the book confuse you?
  • How did your confusion affect how you liked the book?
  • Is there anything that the author could have done to clarify or answer any questions you were left with?

Taking Notes

Is there an idea in the book that makes you stop and think or prompts questions? Identify the idea and explain your responses.

What are your favorite lines or quotes? Copy them into your journal and explain why these passages caught your attention. 

How have you changed after reading the book? What did you learn that you never knew before?

Who else should read this book? Should anyone be discouraged from reading this book? Why? Would you recommend the book to a friend or classmate?

Would you like to read more books by this author? Have you already read other books by the author? Why or why not? What about other similar authors or authors of the same period?

Write a summary or review of the book. What happened? What didn't happen? Capture what stands out about the book for you (or what doesn't).

Tips on Keeping a Book Log

  • Keeping a reading log or book journal can work well for poetry, plays, and other works of literature as well, though you may want to adjust the questions accordingly. 
  • Consider reading the diaries, logs, or journals that great writers have kept about their reading experiences. You may even be able to compare notes. How do your reactions to books compare to the thoughts of famous writers?
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Lombardi, Esther. "How to Keep a Reading Log or Book Journal." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Lombardi, Esther. (2020, August 27). How to Keep a Reading Log or Book Journal. Retrieved from Lombardi, Esther. "How to Keep a Reading Log or Book Journal." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 31, 2023).