reading journal

June 6, 2008

I’m an avid reader. I set a goal each year to read an average of a book a week. I enjoy reading, but it is also a discipline of creative work. Ideas rarely initiate out of nowhere. Some of my most creative thoughts cascade out of other ideas, and reading provides me with a torrent of ideas to fuel creative thinking.

In order to help capture some of my favorite ideas and quotes out of the reading that I do, I keep a book journal. A friend of mine had an actual journal a few years ago that was designed for readers. It had two pages for each book with some spaces to fill in: when the book was read, what you agreed with, what you didn’t, etc.

I had never seen something like this, but it was perfect. I quickly developed a system to keep a digital journal, with an entry for each book I read. I keep the journal in Yojimbo. When I start a new book, I create an entry. The title of the entry is the title of the book. Then I capture some basic information about the book by filling in this simple form:

Recommended by:
Date Began:
Date Finished:

As I work through a book, I underline, make notes in margins, and dog-ear pages. After I have finished reading the book, I sit down with the book in front of my computer and work back through the pages, reviewing my markings. Ideas and quotes that I want to hold on to are captured in the journal by indicating the page number, followed by the quote or thoughts.

The process of working through the book a second time is helpful to get an overall feel for the book, and the notes I take can be helpful for years to come. I’m sure there are some book notes I have never returned to. But there have been many times where I have been able to search for a word or phrase that was no more than a vague memory.

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