Starting a Reading Journal for 2021

A little while back I asked for advice on what I should do to streamline my reading tracking for 2021. After posting that, I spent some time thinking about why I track reading metrics, and what metrics, if any, were most important to me. My hope was that, if I could reduce the amount of data I want to keep track of, maybe I could eliminate the spreadsheet, at least.

Then, because I knew that journaling about what I was reading was important to me and something I definitely wanted to add, I watched a bunch of YouTube videos where folks showed off how they set up their reading journals. Turns out that there are a LOT of really inspiring reading journals out there.

Many of these reading journals have extensive artistic collage layouts with lots of washi and stickers, and most include some sort of tracker for “days read.” I’m not sure how artsy I’m going to get with my reading journal, but I did decide to incorporate a few of the more popular spreads, with my own personal twist, of course.

My plan is to use Goodreads as my book database since I’ve already got all my shelves set up so I know what I own and haven’t read yet and if it’s on my Kindle or on my bookshelf. I also use it to keep track of what books I have on hold at the library, and what’s on my TBR. Plus, it’s easy to sort things by number of pages or title or author or whatever. But… I don’t review stuff there.

That’s where the reading journal is going to come in.

Step one: I took a plain (not dotted) Leuchtturm that I had in my stash of blank notebooks, and started covering it with bookish stickers.

Next I took my list of ideas from the YouTube videos I watched and started laying them out in pencil. Once I was happy with what I had, I started inking things in and adding color.

I started with a title page that also serves as a key for my “year in review” bookshelf on the next pages.

I divided the two pages into three “shelves.” My plan is to draw books on these shelves in clumps that correspond to the months of the year, starting in the upper left where you can see that I wrote “January” on the black strip that serves as the top of the shelf. If you look closely, you can see that I’ve penciled in some books on the shelf as placeholders.

Once January is over, I’ll go draw in the appropriate number of book spines in some combination of horizontal and vertical, leaving space for February on the same half of the page. Depending on how many books I read in January, I may just hold off on drawing these in until after February. I’ll add the titles to the spines and then color them in according to genre, adding a little red heart on the spine if the book is also a romance.

Once that was set up, I spent some time drawing a grid to track my reading stats, and making a page for my 2021 reading goals.

My plan is to capture my reading stats each month and then enter the data here. In general, I decided that I wanted to track the following things:

  • Total books read (goal is at least 52, or one per week on average)
  • How many books I read that were published in 2021
  • How many Indie published books I read
  • How many books I read in each format (audio, ebook, and paper)
  • How many books I read that I own vs. that are from the library
  • How many books I read that are written by Black authors and/or other non-white (goal is 12 by Black authors and 12 by other non-white authors)
  • How many books I read with LGBTQ+ main character(s) and/or written by an LGBTQ+ author (goal is 12 books) — Note: I decided not to just make this about the author demographics because, while I strive to prioritize Own Voices books, an author’s sexuality is none of my business.
  • And finally… how many books I read that are YA vs. Adult

I know, it’s still a lot to keep track of and maybe in 2022 I’ll decide to streamline it more. I tried to only keep the metrics I wanted to set goals for, but a couple more (like YA vs. Adult and Indie pub books) snuck in there. I couldn’t help it. I like data.

Underneath my very short list of goals, I added a “21 in 2021” book cover collage. These are the books that I’ve been meaning to get to for way too long. They either get buried on my Kindle, or I’ve walked past them on my bookshelf so many times that I’ve forgotten they’re there. I tried to pick only the ones that I am most excited to read and not focus on stuff that I feel guilty for not reading.

You may also notice that there are only twenty covers pasted in right now. I’m still debating on what book gets that final slot. It somewhat depends on what book(s) I manage to finish before the end of 2020. If you have a book you want to make a strong case for, let me know in the comments.

Finally, I added one more spread for the year before diving into my monthly pages.

I couldn’t resist adding the 2021 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge tasks. I am not going to be actively participating in that challenge this year, but I wanted to add the prompts just for fun. If I do happen to read a book or two that check any of those boxes, I’m planning to write in the page number that corresponds to my notes on that book.

I left the opposite page blank to be filled in with books that I buy in 2021. I’m not sure if I’ll do another cover collage or if I’ll just make a list of titles and authors. I may start off by writing a list in pencil and then going back and adding covers in batches, once I have enough that it makes sense to print them out.

After that, I started a spread for January.

This one is still in-progress. I got a little crafty and used bits of a cute wrapping paper to dress it up a bit. I’m still working on my TBR. Again, it kind of depends on what book(s) I manage to finish before the New Year. I’m thinking of this like a bullet journal, but for reading. So that would make this my month cover page and goals page.

The two pages after this will include a list of what I read in January, plus my January book stats (kind of like a “month at a glance” spread if this were a bullet journal). That will be followed by entries for each book I read with at least a page of notes (and favorite quotes, etc.) from each (sort of like “daily pages” in a bullet journal).

Is this a lot more work than keeping track of my reading in a spreadsheet? Maybe…. But it’s also more fun. Plus, I am attempting to move to using a “regular planner” in 2021, so this will fill the bullet journalling hole in my life.

What do you think? Do you keep a reading journal? If you do, is it artsy? Or do you keep it pretty minimalist? Let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas for me in the comments.

Happy reading!