Monday, November 1, 2021

The Book Journal Verdict: Ruled, Squared, or Dot?


My retired Nava Notes book journal

Book journals are like madeleines:  they can recall your reading history.  How much you loved Wuthering Heights, and how much you disliked Nikolai Leskov's The Enchanted Wanderer: Selected Tales

In recent years, I have kept my book journal in an oversized Nava Notes paperback notebook. Now it is grimy, with bubble-shaped cysts on the back (from outer space; I can't account for them otherwise), and a peeling binding.  

Paperback journals are frail.  If you write in them often, they take on the look of a tattered hiker who has braved a 10-mile hike with a park ranger. On such a trip - but never mind, I stopped at Mile 3 - Nava Notes turned (briefly) into a travel journal:   "July 28:  Saw a possum" and "Shoe got stuck in mud." 

It has been mainly a book journal, though.  I make a list of books.  I tried mini-reviews, but they seemed pointless, also illegible. Of Rachel Cusk's  Outline:  "A beautifully-written nonfiction novel about (indecipherable) writer in Greece at a writers' conference." 

Some bibliophiles have a very involved connection with their book journals.  Anne Bogel, the author of The Modern Mrs. Darcy blog,  has published an elaborate  journal for book lovers.  The ad says: "This stylish journal created exclusively for book lovers includes custom reading lists, charming literary quotes, and plenty of room to record what you’ve read and what you’d love to read next." 

Bogel's journal is cute and complicated. In addition to space for what I can only admire as MLA-style bibliographical information, it includes a "reading habits tracker" (but do we want to "track"?), TBR lists, and questionnaires to "determine what kind of reader you are."
It is reminiscent of Goodreads, transferred to paper. 

Many bloggers have written accounts of their intricate book journals. I am impressed by a woman who describes her tools:  brand of notebook, pens, markers,  something called "book" tape, and so on. Her journal categories include:  Title, Author, Star rating (the highlighted ratings are 5 stars), Format (audio, hardcover, paperback, library borrow, or publisher-gifted), Reviewed on Instagram and/or Goodreads, Genre, and Dates read.  She also keeps lists of series to finish, mystery series to try out, books not finished, TBR, and backlist.  

She is artistic. Half the fun is in the coloring, I swear.  

Well, what next for me then?  A simple 50-cent composition book, or a fancy notebook?  Should the journal be ruled, dot, or squared?


  1. Hiya. Thanks for sharing this. Glad it's not just me. I guess mine are more commonplace books. Am on my ninth. Each has over three hundred pages. They're lined. I write in black ink. When I start a new one, I number the pages first then, working backwards based on the total number of pages, I add an index at the back. Each entry has a title/subject and/or author source. I don't date any of them. I mirror all the books indexes in Excel so I can search and find stuff fast. Must get out more. Best, Guy

    1. A commonplace book sounds good to me! I plan to copy your pagination practice: why don't the notebook manufacturers do that? I'm not sure I'll ever get around to an index, but I do know what you mean by wanting Excel or some spreadsheet to look them up. I try not to get TOO fussy, because I could all too easily devote all my time to cataloguing. A very good thing I didn't go to library school, because it would have brought out my OCD side.