How to start a reading journal: 7 tips for beginners

Reading journals can help you get more out of the reading experience. Recall more, understand better, get motivated to read even more.

Craft Author: Tom Norman
Tom Norman

What is a Reading Journal?

A reading journal is a record of your thoughts, reflections, and insights as you read a book. It can be used to help you better understand the text, make connections between what you read and your own life, and even track your progress as you read. It can be as simple as a few notes written in a notebook or as complex as a multi-media project.

Below we explore how you can create a digital reading journal. These same lessons can also be applied for creating a physical journal. 

Benefits of Keeping a Reading Journal

Keeping a reading journal has many benefits.

  • Organization: A reading journal helps you organize your thoughts and notes on books you've read, making it easier to recall information.
  • Retention: Writing down your thoughts and reflections can help you remember and retain more of the book's content.
  • Creativity: Journaling encourages creative thinking, allowing you to explore ideas and make connections between different books.
  • Reflection: Taking the time to reflect on what you've read is a great way to gain insight and understanding of the book's content.
  • Growth: Keeping a reading journal helps you track your progress and growth as a reader.

How To Make Your Reading Journal More Effective

Reading journals are an effective way to reflect on the books you have read and to track your progress. Here are 7 tips to make your book journal even more effective:

1. Set Goals

Setting goals for your reading journal is a great way to stay organized and motivated. Be sure to make your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Here are some ideas for goals you can set:

  • Set a goal to read a certain number of books in a month or year
  • Set a goal to write a certain number of entries in your reading journal each week
  • Set a goal to write a book review for every book you read

2. Take Notes

Taking notes in your reading journal is an important way to make it more effective. Noting key lessons and insights can help you remember what you read and make connections to other books you’ve read. You can also:

  • Jot down questions you have while reading
  • Highlight passages that stand out to you
  • Write down any connections you make to other books or life experiences


💡 Use Readwise for your taking book highlights? FlohGro, from the Craft Community, built an Apple Shortcut that lets you import highlights directly from Readwise into Craft.

3. Reflect

Reflecting on what you've read is an important part of a reading journal. It helps you think more deeply about the text, and can provide insights you may have missed. Here are some ways to reflect:

  • Think critically: Consider the author's point of view, and question their assumptions.
  • Make connections: As mentioned in the previous section, connect the ideas in the book to your own life experience, or to other books you've read.
  • Look for patterns: Identify common themes, and explore how they are expressed in the text.
A preview of a Reading Journal Template
Craft's Reading Journal Template

4. Use Visuals

Visuals can be a great way to make your reading journal more effective. Varying the format of your notes can help you remember them better. For example:

  • Highlight important passages or quotes in color to make them stand out
  • Add relevant images and accompany them with helpful captions
  • Add backgrounds to give each book its own look/feel

5. Track Your Progress

Keeping track of your progress is an important part of making your reading journal more effective. You should record your thoughts and notes, analyze them, and evaluate your progress.

This could be done in a few ways:

  • Mark milestones, such as finishing a book or completing a chapter.
  • Keep a log of when you read, how long you read, and what topics you covered.
  • Set goals for yourself and track your progress towards them.
  • Rate the books that you're reading - and your level of understanding.
Reading Tracker Template
Craft's Reading Tracker can help you keep track of what you read.

6. Share Your Journal

Sharing your reading journal can be an incredibly rewarding experience. The popularity of sites such as GoodReads is a great example of how valuable discussions around books can be. Sharing your journal can allow you to:

  • Connect with other book lovers
  • Gain insight/comments from other readers
  • Inspire your own writing
  • Motivate you to keep reading
  • Expand your knowledge and understanding
  • Receive feedback on your thoughts and ideas

7. Make it Fun

Making your reading journal fun can help you stay motivated and keep track of your reading journey. Here are some ideas to make it more enjoyable:

  • Create a theme: Choose a theme for your journal and make it your own. Use colors, backgrounds and styles to make it stand out.
  • Include quotes: Add quotes from the books you read to your journal. You can also include your own thoughts and reflections.
  • Reward yourself: Set a goal and reward yourself when you reach it. This will help you stay motivated and make your journal more enjoyable.


Reading journals are a very useful tool for getting more out of the reading experience. It can help you retain knowledge better and improve recollection of information, it can boost motivation and help you read more, and it can even add a social dynamic to the reading experience if you decide to share your journal with others.

Want some inspiration to get started? Check out our Reading Tracker and Reading Journal templates to help get you started.

Interested?