reading journal

June 6, 2008 | 3 Comments

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.

  • I’ve been keeping a log of books and rating, author, etc. for a while now, as well as some thoughts from the book that I thought were worthwhile, but this post encouraged me to do it a little more organizedly. Thanks.

  • Pat

    This is a great idea. I tend to skip right on to the next book, bt when I can force myself to recap a book, or especially to pick through all the highlighter marks and the sections taht I wanted to blog quotes from, good things happen. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Great points! Creativity often spawns out of an intentional discipline rather than just being random in nature.

    As for book reading, this made me think about my past reads and how I’ve since long forgotten many of the “takeaways” from them (guess they’re not true takeaways then…oops!). Anyhow, keeping a system like that does sound helpful…think I’m gonna try it out.