A pile of book journals on a table

How to start a beautiful book journal

As an avid reader, I’ve kept a book journal since I was a kid. Whether it was scribbled notes in an exercise book about something I’d read, to my more formal adult journals, I take a lot of pleasure in keeping track of the books I read. While it’s great to have a Goodreads account, there’s something special about a tangible record that you can hold in your hands and look back on all the books you’ve read.

Having said that, I’ve experimented with a lot of different book journal formats over the years, and I’ll run you through the types I’ve used and what I prefer.

Pre-made book journal

Moleskine book journal discussing All the Pretty Horses and The Ask and The Answer

There are several different pre-made book journals out there, but I used the Moleskine book journal for many years, filling it up with books as I went along. What I liked was that there are separate sections for quotes, and you can customise sections if you want to keep track of books and short stories to read. There’s also an index, and who doesn’t like filling out an index? 😉 Since this journal came out, they’ve updated the design of the Moleskine book journal, but I haven’t been able to compare them.

Advantage: You don’t have to think about what you want in it as it has pre-made pages for you to fill out.

Disadvantage: Pre-printed pages mean you’re limited to a certain number of books per alphabetical letter. I’m still trying to fill out my X section, despite exhausting the T section years ago.

Bullet Journal

Bullet journal used to document the best books of 2018
One of the more decorative book pages in my bullet journal

I use a bullet journal more for jotting down research notes from books, but I’ve seen quite a few people make beautiful book journals out of bullet journals. The best ones I’ve seen draw up a series of rectangles and illustrate the covers with a star rating underneath. I quite like this, especially if you don’t want to write lots of notes on your book.

I prefer the Leuchtturm dotted grid journals and have a couple of these for different projects. I find the paper doesn’t bleed which is a big thing for me, although colour can sometimes come through.

Advantage: The dots in a bullet journal help provide structure to the page if you feel overwhelmed by a blank page

Disadvantage: There are dots on your page if you want to do more free-form illustration. Paper can sometimes be a bit thin depending on what you use.

Blank Journal

Hand illustrated book journal with two pages on the Last Days of Night and The Last Wish
My latest entries in my hand-drawn book journal

Since the start of the year, I decided to start a new book journal. I missed filling out my old book journal but it was time to start fresh (especially because I can’t find any more books to read beginning with X). I tossed up between a bullet journal and a blank journal for ages, but settled on the blank journal as I wanted to doodle in the pages.

Book journal entry on Science Fiction a Literary History

I bought this beautiful Paperblanks journal at the start of the year with the idea of making my book journal a real treasure. I love Paperblanks; I find the paper weight perfect for my pens and the covers are quite extraordinary. While I started being quite structured and formal with my pages, I’ve recently tried a more illustration style of book page and found it quite therapeutic to do. I still use my bullet journal stencils to help me draw.

Journal with an ornate blue and gold cover

Advantage: You’re free to make the pages whatever you want!

Disadvantage: There aren’t any lines, so if you can’t write in a straight line you might want a ruled page underneath. Sometimes you don’t want to think too much about what to put on a page, and a blank page can be intimidating.

What to put in your book journal

My pages usually have something along the lines of:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Review
  • Star Rating
  • A couple of doodles about key themes
  • When I read the book
  • Why I read it (eg book club, research, fun)
  • Any quotes I loved

But don’t let this limit you – you can put whatever you like in your journal!

My top tips for book journalling

  • Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. The worst thing is not doing a book journal because you think it needs to be perfect. I muck up pages all the time. My doodles are pretty terrible. But it’s fun.
  • Get a selection of coloured pens to decorate the pages. I’ve recently got into adding colour to my book journal and it’s a lot of fun. I recommend these pens, plus a gold and silver one for accents.
  • Your book journal can be secret. You don’t need to put it on Instagram if you don’t want to.
  • Add doodles, coloured paper, washi tape. Colour is good!
  • Get a bullet journal stencil pack, which will make it easier to add nice headlines and star ratings if you’re not into illustration.

Do you keep a book journal? Let me know in the comments below.