WSIRN Ep 305: Read yourself like a book

WSIRN Ep 305: Read yourself like a book

Readers, one of the best ways I know to enhance your reading life is to first understand it – what you love, what’s not for you, and what you want to change as you select your future reads.

That’s why I’m so excited to share with you today’s special episode, where I’ll be diving deep into my thoughtfully created reading journal, My Reading Life—a tool to help you bring clarity and comprehension to your reading life, so you can become an even more satisfied reader.

I created this journal after years of exploring techniques and strategies to better understand my own reading habits and helping others discover more about their own. Over the past few years, so many of you have asked for a reading journal, and I’m thrilled that I’m finally able to point to My Reading Life as a great way to help bring a little more joy into your reading experience.

So this week on the podcast, I’ll take you though a deep dive of My Reading Life—sharing the reasons I made the design choices I did, giving you a peek at some of the bonuses contained in the book, and encouraging you to adopt the reading journal habit.

If you don’t have a copy of My Reading Life, you can order one here, or ask your local independent bookstore to order it for you.

I had so much fun sharing all of the details about my reading journal today, and I can’t wait for you to listen.

Find What Should I Read Next? on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast app—or scroll down to press play and listen right in your web browser.


What Should I Read Next #305: Read yourself like a book

Are you using My Reading Life already? I’d love to see your snapshots! Tag @whatshouldireadnext in your Instagram posts and let us know what you’re loving about your reading journal. And stay tuned over at my account @annebogel for some short videos I’ll be sharing about how I use my journal.

ANNE: Hey readers. I’m Anne Bogel, and this is What Should I Read Next? Episode 305.

Welcome to the show that’s dedicated to answering the question that plagues every reader: What should I read next?

We don’t get bossy on this show: What we WILL do here is give you the information you need to choose your next read. This week we have a special episode for you. We’re gonna go behind the scenes of the reading life in a way that every reader can apply. I’m so excited to bring you along on a deep dive of my new reading journal, My Reading Life.

Here at What Should I Read Next Headquarters we take joy in helping you understand your own reading life. It’s easy to be overwhelmed when it comes to choosing your next read, because you have SO MUCH to choose from these days—from the never-ending tower of new releases to unexplored genres you may not even know you’re missing out on. That’s why understanding what you love about reading, and why you love it (and also, what’s not quite right for you, and why) is a winning strategy for finding readerly satisfaction.

If you’ve got a copy in hand, turn the pages of the new book journal along with me as we take a close look (although if you’re driving or walking the dog or making dinner right now, no worries, you will be just fine listening now). If you haven’t ordered your copy yet, grab one through the links at modernmrsdarcy.com or at your local independent bookstore.

Let’s get to it.

[00:01:34]

Readers, my new book journal called My Reading Life: A Book Journal is finally here! You've been asking for a book journal like this for years, and I'm so excited to get it in your hands. I had a lot of fun creating this journal for book lovers, inspired by my conversations with literally thousands of readers over the years about what makes their reading lives better—and also, importantly, what doesn't. And, of course, by my own hands-on experience as a book lover and book journaler.

This new journal is meant to capture the history of what you’ve read, to help you reflect on the books you are currently reading, and to help you decide on and plan for the books you want to read—all while infusing more fun into your reading life. I so enjoyed curating seasonal reading lists, creating a beautiful habit tracker, and choosing my favorite bookish quotes, all with the goal of helping you draw more satisfaction from the books you choose to read.

Tracking the books you read is one of the best ways I know to improve your reading life. My hope is that this journal will help you both articulate your reading taste and broaden your literary horizons, and help you enjoy the process. The journal has been out for a little over a month now and hearing your feedback has been a joy: I have to say my favorite review might be from Michigan bookseller McLean & Eakins, who said, “STOP what you are doing and pay attention. We have found the perfect book journal!” I was thrilled when I read that. Thank you, bookstore.

I’ve loved hearing from so many of you about how you’re using the journal, plus getting your questions about the journaling process—and so today, we’re going to do a journaling deep dive.

Much of what we’ll discuss in this episode isn’t specific to my new journal. I’ve said a million times that tracking your reading is one of the very best things you can do for your reading life, and these tips are universally applicable to help you increase your bookish delight. But before we talk about how journaling can work for you, I want to share a little more about my own book journal journey and share what I love most about that new journal.

You may be surprised to hear it, because you likely know what an indispensable part of my reading experience my book journal is at this point in my life, but I haven’t always logged the books I read. I’m a latecomer actually. I haven’t always understood the value of this simple practice. In fact, the closing essay in my book I’d Rather Be Reading is about book journaling. The title of the book itself comes from this final essay. In it, I write about how I didn’t always grasp the value of keeping a reading journal. At one time in my life, the opportunity cost of spending time writing down the books I’ve read seemed too high. Why would I bother laboring over a reading journal when I could spend that time actually reading?

[00:04:17]

Well, because now I know the little bit of time I spend with my reading journal pays me back in spades—my reading life wouldn’t be as rich without it. And my recommendations on the podcast wouldn't be nearly as good either. I may have something like the zeal of the convert on this point.

Had you told me back in, say, 2003, what changes simply jotting down the titles of the books I read would make in my life I wouldn’t have believed you.

But I’ve come to see it’s true: keeping a book journal will transform your reading life.

Some of this is likely due to the Hawthorne effect, which captures the idea that the very act of being observed changes the thing being observed. The idea that “you get what you measure” may also be at play here; if you’re tracking the quantity and subjective “quality” (I say that with reluctance but I hope you get what I mean) then you’re likely to make better choices simply because you know you’ll be writing those choices down.

But I think the real magic of book journaling is the way the process makes us smarter about knowing our own minds. We are readers: we know the power of the written word. Well, when you capture the details of your reading life in writing, you get the opportunity to reflect on your own reading habits—to, in effect, read yourself like a book. A very interesting book, I hope, and how can that not change you as a reader?

I’ve said for years that the better part of the magic is in the process of tracking itself. It doesn’t particularly matter HOW you go about it, as long as that method suits you and your personality.

Analog is the method that suits me best (and what I mean is, that’s opposed to a spreadsheet or other digital method. I’ll touch on those reasons later.) I’ve tried many different methods of analog tracking: before My Reading Life came out, I’d been logging my books in a plain dotted Leuchtterm, and that was working well enough for me. (Although now I’ve been using the My Reading Life book journal for nearly three months and it’s so much more fun and useful than my previous method! But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

I want to take you back to when I first started book journaling: I well remember my initial struggles when I was first getting started years ago. Back at the beginning, I experimented with creating my own system because the total flexibility of a self-designed journal appealed to me, but I quickly learned I was much more likely to consistently track my reading if I relied on a guided reading journal (as opposed to a blank book, that is). I needed an intelligently designed, book-specific journal with prompts just waiting for me to fill in.

[00:06:45]

I also think there’s something unique about a hand-written paper journal: now more than ever, it’s incredibly valuable to be able to jot notes about what you’re reading without having to keep an electronic device nearby. I imagine you know all too well how easy it is to pick up a device for a noble purpose, like recording the book you’re reading, and then find yourself looking up twenty minutes later in a daze from instagram, shaking your head thinking, I know I picked up my phone for a reason … What was it? With a paper journal you sidestep that issue entirely. That’s something I really need. I also value the ability to browse actual physical pages to see what I’ve been reading lately at a glance, and of being able to jot freehand notes in the margins.

These combined experiences—my fervent belief in the value of journaling, my own fumbling experiences as a newbie book journaler—that’s why I was interested in creating this journal in the first place! I wanted to offer a journal with structure to support your reading endeavors, and also plenty of flexibility to make it your own. And I really [LAUGHS] wanted it to be ENJOYABLE to use. I hope it’s not too soon to say I think I succeeded on that last point because a few weeks ago, I was writing in my journal on a Sunday afternoon and commented to my husband, you know Will, that I love using my reading journal. He said, hm, what do you like about it? Of course, he was living with me the whole time I was obsessing over the journal’s design—he is plenty familiar with its finer points—but that day what I told him was, I like the way it nudges how I read.

Did you catch that? A guided journal like this one nudges how you read. And that carries us straight into the design process for this journal—something you all have A LOT of questions about!

So let’s talk about design.

Designing this journal was so much fun—and also so much harder than I expected! It’s not overstating things to say I obsessed over every detail, because I was very aware that design will always nudge you, the reader, in a certain direction. That’s a big responsibility, and sometimes a scary one, for a creator!

Let’s start with the exterior aesthetics and work our way inside. At every step of the way I was concerned with how you would actually use the journal. I knew we wanted it plenty big for writing, but small enough to be portable, so it’s about 5 x 7 inches: it’s a pleasure to write in but right-sized for your purse or bookbag or whatever you use to take your stuff on the go. I knew we wanted it to be beautiful, so you would want to keep it on your nightstand or coffee table and feel compelled to pick it up. And we wanted a spine that would look wonderful on your bookshelf.

[00:09:26]

I was ever-cognizant of the fact that we were making an analog, printed journal—a physical book! We really leaned into the features that printed books, by their nature, do really well.

This journal is highly visual, designed in such a way that you can SEE many things about your reading AT A GLANCE. This was a high priority, because for this journal to help you learn more about yourself and your reading life, it has to be easy for you to take in and review everything you’re recording. At a glance! Whether you want to scan to see how much fiction vs nonfiction you’re reading, how often you’re reading, how much you’ve been enjoying your recent reads—whatever you’re looking for, I wanted it to be easy for you to SEE it.

This is also why we designed the table of contents the way we did. Here’s how that table of contents works: at the very front of the journal there’s a fill-in-the-blank table of contents, with numbers 1-100. When you get your new journal, it’s blank. 1, blank. 2, blank. 3, blank. Now, this journal holds space to log 100 titles. Every title gets its own page and book number, 1 to 100, so as you read and log your books throughout the year, you fill in the table of content yourself. That means you see AT A GLANCE what you’ve been reading, how many books you’ve read since you began the journal, and where in your journal, what page number, to find every book review. This makes it a cinch to find all your book reviews without flipping through every single page of the journal trying to remember when you read that book club selection that you need to talk about on Tuesday.

This journal is also a cinch to use because [WHISPERS] it lays flat! (I’ve easily received a hundred questions from readers asking if it’s a lay-flat journal, so I know you value this feature as much as I do!)

Now, moving more to the real heart of the journal: I obsessed the most over those 100 reading log pages, 100 logs to capture 100 titles you have read. I’m going to share the layout of this page with you. What I want you to know first is that this page is really compact and not-at-all cluttered, and most of these items take just seconds to log, even though the list is kinda long, as you will hear.

[00:11:30]

So here’s what you’ve got: * The title and author, of course. If you track nothing else about the books you read, please note these things.

* The date you began the book, and the date you finished it.

* A place to bubble in your ratings using my three tier system.

* Whether the book is nonfiction or fiction. This is one of those highly visual elements: you have two diamonds to choose from; you bubble in the one that fits.

* You note the genre, which you can define as narrowly or broadly as you’d like.

* The length or the page count (A note for audiophiles: you do you, but for my own audiobooks I like to write in how long it was to listen to in hours and minutes.)

* The publisher, because publishers have personalities, and including this simple scrap of info here provides an easy opportunity for you to get to know some of them.

* The year the book was published, so it’s easy to see if you’re reading new, old, or a mix.

* Themes: this small blank is where I jot down quick notes to help me remember what the book was about, like an exploration of identity, or a portrait of a midlife crisis, or—as I noted for the most recent Gabriel Allon novel—a tale of revenge.

* There’s a place to note “How I discovered this book” so you can remember which friend recommended it, or that you heard about it on What Should I Read Next, or to relive the thrilling bookish serendipity of a randomly chosen 5-star read.

I know that sounds like a long list that I just gave you, but it’s so quick and easy to record all that information: your payoff on your minimal time investment is enormous here.

If you linger over your journal, if you spend more time on the pages, it will be over these next two items I’m going to share. They’re definitely the ones I spend the most time on, and they occupy the most space on the page. Those are places to write your

Memorable quotes, which is self-explanatory. Sometimes I write down quotes just because they strike me, like this one from Salt Houses: “The kitchen is a mess, gloriously so, the kind of mess that implies something happened. Stacks of dishes, platters of uneaten rice, a large bowl of tabbouleh.” Sometimes I record a quote because it perfectly captures a key theme, like this one from Greenwood: “What are families other than fictions? Stories told about a particular cluster of people for a particular reason? And like all stories, families are not born, they’re invented, pieced together from love and lies and nothing else.”

[00:14:00]

Next we have: Thoughts & impressions. I record a potpourri of information under “thoughts and impressions.” I’ll give you some examples. When I read No Cure for Being Human, I jotted a few lines about the similarities between this book and Four Thousand Weeks. When I read November Road, I captured why I thought the ending was absolutely perfect. When I read The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, I noticed some interesting things about the Point of View decisions Maggie O’Farrell made, and wrote those down. When I read Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption, I noted I was struck by the many similarities to The Count of Monte Cristo. Really, you can write down ANYTHING that strikes you about the book or your reading experience here.

Finally, there’s a small space with the prompt “I’d recommend this to” with a few blanks, meant to jot down who you think is perfect for. I’ll confess this is a sneaky prompt. Of course, if you think the book is perfect for your book club, or your mom; for fans of Tayari Jones or historical fiction aficionados, I want you to write that down; that’s useful information. You may not actually know a reader who you’d recommend this book to, and that’s okay! This is a way to get you thinking, not merely a tool to build out next year’s gift list. But what I’m really inviting you to do here, with this prompt, is to reflect on what kind of reader would enjoy this book? (And even more than that, what does your answer to that question tell you about your own taste as a reader?)

That sounds like a lot of info in these 100 book logs, but it’s not packed in tight—there’s even room to write notes about format or source or anything else you’d like in the margins.

Let’s talk about some of the journal’s other content. I was very aware that each feature I just told you about—and all the ones I haven’t yet—would occupy valuable real estate. So in this journal, it had to earn its keep! With that in mind, some other features I think you’ll want to know about are: The “Books I’d Like to Read” section: This includes space to log 32 titles you’d like to read next, which is compact yet allows room for important information like the date you added the title to the list, and WHY you added it: this is crucial because not only does that mean you won’t forget why you requested that title from the library, but the very act of jotting this down helps you stay focused on your own reading goals and priorities, thus helping to keep to be read list overwhelm in check.

[00:16:19]

Some readers ask, why 32? Is there special significance to this number? Well, it’s not the answer to life, the universe, and everything if that’s what you mean, but I do love that number. It’s enough to keep you busy for a while, but not too many. It’s not more than enough, which is kinda the point, friends. With just 32, you’re required to be discerning, as opposed to jotting down every remotely interesting title you come across. That is a good thing.

Now, we talked about how keeping a book journal of any sort will help you know yourself better as a reader. But that focus is explicitly built in to this particular book journal.

Like, right at the beginning there’s a spread called “a snapshot of my reading life right now,” to help you identify what kind of reading season you’re in.

That’s followed by a section called “diagnose your reading taste,” that walks you through thinking about what you especially enjoy—and don’t—as a reader.

And there are sections to capture favorite books, authors, and quotes, a guided reflection on your reading year, plus some practical logs, like books you’ve borrowed or loaned, and books you’ve given or received as gifts.

You’ll also see that the My Reading Life journal is packed with tiny touches that make a big difference, like …

* The unique ratings system

* The diamond motif you’ll see repeated throughout

* Handy reference material put right where you need it (like a book club starter guide and “10 questions that work for any book discussion” placed adjacent to a book list featuring wonderfully discussable books, which is exactly the kind of book you want for a great book club discussion)

* There’s an index that lets you easily find the lists and logs you’re looking for

* And there are more book lists and various reading logs throughout, and I can’t wait to hear your favorites from these features after you’ve had more time to live with your journal.

[00:18:04]

Now I want to answer some very specific questions I’ve got from readers about the journal. The first one is actually more of a comment. It’s from Suzanne. She said: At first I thought the TBR section (that's to be read, the books I can't wait to read section) might not be long enough, but I’m starting to think that it could be a good place to just add books that I know I want to read in my next 100 books. Maybe that will help keep me from passing them by for the next new release.

Yes, Suzanne, I love that comment! We know that so many readers have hundreds of books on their to be read list, and I've shared my priority TBR trick, but this is such a great way to think about what goes in this 32 book to be read list. Also, I just want to put it out there for readers everywhere, if you're not sure if your book that you want to read, if you're so excited about it that you want to read it in your next 100 books, or that it deserves one of those 32 spots, I applaud you for thinking carefully about what you do really want to spend your precious reading time on.

I don't want you to overthink it and not put pen to paper but post it notes are such a great in-term solution. If you're not sure that you want to add a book to the TBR, just grab a post-it note, or you can even tuck an index card into the pages of the book and write it there and then if in a week you still feel like yes, this book belongs here, you can write it down then. But I use post-it notes in all my journaling, reading and otherwise, all the time for purposes exactly like this.

Now here's a comment we got from Paula. She said, I am in a few book clubs and I have decided to use the journal exclusively for books I read with these clubs. I can easily bring it along to our discussion nights with my notes, add titles to the TBR with my book clubbers' names attached, and to have a history of my life in book clubs all in one place. Thank you!

I love this idea as a way to journal for people who feel overwhelmed at tracking everything. This is definitely a way in. An example of how you can use the journal to suit your unique reading life purposes.

Emily has a good question. She asks, Were there any features you wanted to add to the journal but didn't? For example, something specific about how you track your books that you decided would be too niche for a wider audience?

[00:20:17]

Oh, yes! Some of them were very small things. Things like format, did I read it on audio? Did I read it on Kindle? Paperback? Hardcover? The source I got the book, like library, borrowed, I bought it and from where. My purpose for reading the book, the place I read the book, the mood I was in, why I wanted to read that book right then.

Actually, I am tracking a couple of those things in my journal. I just make a little note about the format in the margin of each book log page. There's absolutely room. I tend to remember where I was when I read the book and what kinda mood I was in when I read it. If I am reading a book and there's something extra I want to record, I usually just put that in thoughts and impressions.

We'll talk about other ways you can use the journal and really utilize its flexibility in a moment.

Now Caylee asks, How did you decide on the books to include in the suggested reading lists? I love this question. In addition to the tracking pages, I’ve included more than 20 book lists that feature titles from a wide assortment of authors, genres, themes, and more, as well as seasonal reading suggestions.

There are so many book lists in this book journal. I think there's actually precisely 25, and they're divided by genre, by season, and other fun categories like we have inspiring and practical books to help you keep your New Year's resolutions, children's books for grown ups, compulsively readable literary fiction, of course. My favorite because I put together this journal and I got to do that. Books to take you around the world. Books about books in bookstores. Riveting mysteries where every book shared is the first book in a really great series that could keep you busy for a long time.

And we've shared a peek at a few of these already, like back in September we shared the list from the book journal of the 20 wonderfully discussable books that would be wonderful for any book club discussion. You can go see that right now to get a sampling of what you might find in these pages.

Amanda wants to know: Do you record everything you read? How often and why do you look back at older journals?

This is a great question. I don't record everything I read. Let me give you my best example of that. When it's time to read for the summer reading guide, I read at least ten pages of 300 different novels, and I used to write down every book I started, but then I found myself overthinking whether or not I wanted to start a book because then I knew I was going to have to write it down, so I don't write a book down if I don't read at least like 25 to 40 pages, unless I really want to remember that I gave that book a try. You can probably hear from my fudging here that I don't have hard and fast rules around here, but I do have a very firm idea of why I would want to write a book down and if I want to remember it, I put it in my journal, and most of the books I pick up I want to remember.

[00:23:00]

With that kinda exception, like reading for a major project where I know I'm just sampling widely, yes I record everything I read because I hope you can hear how well it has served me to do so.

I look back at older journals all the time. But that is largely because of my job. When I'm preparing to record an episode of What Should I Read Next, I would say at least half the time I just want to remember how many great books there are out in the world that I have read, that I have experienced myself, and that I can speak to with the lens of experience and I just sit down on the floor and I pull out my journals—they're in my desk drawer. Right where I'm sitting right now—and I just flip through and you know, you would think that the older books were fuzzier in my mind and the more recent reads were less so, but that is actually not the case. I might not remember a book that I read last month if it wasn't in my journal. As soon as I see the title in writing, I think oh, of course! But if you said, Anne, what did you read in August? I wouldn't necessarily be able to rattle off the titles and that is the beauty of a book journal.

I also really liked to look back seasonally, like when we're starting a new season, like going into winter, I want to see what I was reading last winter and reviewing my journals is really great for that as well.

Erika says, So I often start a journal at the beginning of the year when all the new year reading challenges get released. I don't want to wait till January to start using this beautiful journal. Would you start right away, and then just fill it in out of order or buy another one to start in January?

Erika, I love this question, and I would tell you I would start right now! I actually started mine as soon as it arrived, in the middle of August, and if you want to wait until a significant day to begin I’m not going to talk you out of it (I mean, unless you want me to) but I do want to encourage anyone who needs to hear it that this journal is meant to be USED, so when it’s time to start yours, pick up a pen and get going. Don’t let the blank page intimidate you.

In fact, that’s one reason that when you open the journal, the very first page you are greeted with says I begin this journal on ... with a place to fill in the month, the day, and the year. Can you hear me tapping my journal? I want you to get started right away and that's an easy place to put pen to paper and actually christian it with it your implement of choice.

[00:25:26]

Now I do want you to notice that I began this journal on ... does give you a month, day, and year place because I am not assuming you are going to use this journal for a calendar year. I don't read an even hundred books in a calendar year, and I don't expect you to, either.

Now if you use this journal over the course of a year, I think that's wonderful. Definitely don't feel bad about that, but even the features that are designed to be used in a year like the habit tracker, and then two features we have in this journal, there's a reflecting on my reading year spread and a favorite books of the year spread. You can very easily treat those things as reflecting on your reading time, however long it was that you spent with the journal, or the best books that you read that you captured in the specific volume, whether it took you six months to go through it or six years. You don't have to start that habit tracker in January. I started my journal in August, and I started using it in August, although in a slightly different way. We'll get to that in a second.

Debra has a great question because we have a lot of readers who read a ton, like she does. She says: I love the journal, and here is what I’m wondering. I read about 200 books a year and there are spaces for 100 books. What are some ideas on how I can make this work on a yearly basis? I have thought of either having 2 journals (I’d really rather not), or simply including my very favorite reads. Any other ideas?

Yes, Debra, I would say that I imagine not every book that you read is one where you want to jot down a lot of memorable quotes or thoughts and impressions. Maybe not ones that you want to linger over, and so while there's absolutely nothing wrong with using two journals, a journal for every 100 books. In fact, the booksellers who said stop what you're doing, we found the perfect book journal! They said that something they love about this is the spine is beautiful and so as you fill them up, 100 books at a time, and put them on your shelves, they will look so pretty just sitting there. So, if that floats your boat, then absolutely go for it.

But I can relate to wanting to have your reading year in one book as well. It's only one book to take to the bookstore or the library or book club or whenever you want to go with your book journal. My advice is to prioritize using those 100 reading logs for books that you want space to record your thoughts, impressions, quotes about, and then write the rest in the back of the journal. You could also do it on separate paper.

[00:27:44]

Now you're probably saying, Anne, but there's not another book log in the back of the journal! Well, you can make your own. There are pages in the back of the journal that are largely blank and you may be thinking, there's not blank pages, Anne, what are you talking about? But there are two two-page spreads. That's a total of four pages that are marked out for favorite quotes. These are dot-grid pages so they're flexible. They're not lined. What I would do is if I read a book that I want to remember, of course, I want an accurate record of my reading life, but I don't necessarily have a lot to say about it, then I would just keep a list in the back of books like that.

Now if that's not enough pages for you that you can fit a lot in four blank pages, I could use the favorites books two-page spread, and the favorite authors two-page spread as well. But that favorites quotes place is where I would start. And I heard from other readers who said things like I want to track all the series I'm reading now, or the different reading challenges I'm participating in. That favorites quote page, I would use one of those pages for that purpose. It was designed to be flexible in that way.

Rebecca says: If you add books to the reading journal when you start reading them, how do you handle it if you don’t finish them? Especially if you think it’s potentially a book for you for the future, but you choose not to finish right now?

Well, Rebecca, I can tell you what I do. This is a method that I have developed overtime for myself that transfers really well to this My Reading Life book journal. Here's what I do: When I want to document a book I began but didn't finish, I simply put an empty circle next to the title in the table of contents. So I'm holding my journal in my hand. I've got my flexible, do-it-yourself table of contents that lists 1, 2, 3, 4 with titles of all the books just to the left of the numeral, I would put that empty circle. So I can see at a glance, ope, I didn't actually finish that one. So if I come back to this journal in three years and I open up the TOC to see what's in here, I can scan in a second and a half, and I can see what book I began in 2021 that I did not finish.

I'm not going to tell you the title in this episode, but there is one of those little bullets here in this journal for a book that I read 300 pages of and decided I didn't want to give anymore of my life to. Now I made notes about it. I shared actually in my journal why I decided to set it aside, as well as why I picked it up in the first place, but it does have that empty bullet to indicate I did not finish this book. And also if you care about these things, when I'm tallying up the books I read at the end of the year, that empty bullet will tell me, ope, subtract that one.

Suzanne asks: Would you clarify what the pages entitled "My Reading Habit Tracker" are for?

[00:30:38]

Yes! So the way that most readers are going to use this is to color in the little diamonds of all the days they read during the course of the year. Now the goal here is not perfection. It is to see what kind of pattern you create. And you may think, Anne, how many minutes do I have to read to count a day? Well, that is entirely up to you. It depends on your life, your goals. It also depends on your personality. Is this going to make you twitchy? Uncomfortable? Or is it going to fill you with joy to have a grid reveal a certain pattern that is totally up to you. If you look at the tracker you'll notice that January has 31 diamonds, and February has 28 diamonds, and March has 31. There is one for every day of the year broken down by month.

But I've already heard from some of you who are using this in interesting ways. For example, the Michigan booksellers McLean & Eakins said that they would use that spread to track not the number of days read because honestly, so many of us read every day. I always say that reading is my favorite habit, but also my decompression method of choice. My introvert coping strategy. I read 362 days a year, I'm sure, so they're saying that they're using this spread to track the number of books read per month, and that is what I am choosing to do as well.

I'm sure there are ways to use this spread that I have not even envisioned yet, and I can't wait to hear what they are over the course of the coming year.

Colleen says, I'm wondering for those of us that will fill up that journal up in less than a year will you be putting out another version or versions that will have the same space for 100 books, but maybe some different reading lists or something like that? Obviously that's a lot of work, but you know we're here for it.

Colleen was not alone with her question: We got soo many questions about if there will be follow-up editions! Leather, softcover, hardcover but with different updated lists, paperback, she wanted them for kids, she wanted them for teens, you wanted them for your grandparents.

I was so impressed by your creativity! Especially because I know nobody's filled out this journal yet. It just came out! You haven't read 100 books and journaled about it yet. The answer is I don't know! Tell me what you're interested in and we will see, but there aren't any plans for a follow up edition to this at this time except hold that thought for a moment.

Elizabeth says: What are your favorite writing tools for journals? I need fine-tip pens that won’t bleed through the paper….

[00:33:03]

Oh, Elizabeth. I hear you on this. It seems wherever book lovers gather, the pen geeks are not far behind. There are some really good blog posts about this topic on Modern Mrs Darcy. If you Google bullet journaling tools, you will see a list of my favorite pens, but just three I love right off the top.

For this purpose, I love: the Pilot Juice, the Staedtler Fineliner. I especially love the one that comes in gray. It writes like a pen, but it looks more like a dark pencil. And then the Sanford Uni ball Micro. With that last one, it does ghost just a little bit if you have a heavy hand, but I have not found it to bleed. It's a great question. I'm sure you already have strong opinions about what pen you love to use in this journal.

We have a question from Megan: My 9-year-old daughter wants to know if you will ever make a reading journal specifically for kids.

The answer is YES! This project has actually been in the works for some time, since the day I began working on the adult journal. The kids’ journal is geared for 8-12 year olds, it comes out next year, and it’s called My Reading Adventures. I’m so excited to share more details with you, and it won’t be long before I can do just that.

[CHEERFUL OUTRO MUSIC]

Readers, we have not exhausted the features, but we have come to the end of our episode. I hope you enjoyed this peek between the pages of My Reading Life, and that you’re excited to use journaling as a technique to enhance your own reading life! Order your copy of the journal and see the notes from today’s episode at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/305.

I would love to see photos of your reading journal in action. Tag @whatshouldireadnext in your Instagram posts and let us know how My Reading Life is making a difference in yours! I’ve also been asked to make those videos about how I use my own journal, so if you’re not already, follow me there @annebogel. That’s Anne with an E, B as books, O-G-E-L that way you’ll see those videos when they come out.

Readers, we’re back next week with our regular podcast format. Subscribe in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, and more. You will always get the latest episodes as soon as we release them each week.

The best way to know what’s going on with What Should I Read Next is to get our newsletter! Subscribe at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/newsletter to stay in the loop.

[00:35:27]

If you love this show, we would love your help to spread the book love. Share this podcast with a friend or leave a review on Apple Podcasts, or join our Patreon community to support us in an even more tangible way - and unlock bonus content and other goodies, like our recent 2021 Fall Book Preview and our live book party to celebrate our 300th episode. Find us there at patreon.com/whatshouldireadnext.

Thanks to the people who make this show happen! What Should I Read Next is produced by Brenna Frederick, with sound design by Kellen Pechacek.

Readers, that’s it for this episode. Thanks so much for listening.

And as Rainer Maria Rilke said, “ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.” Happy reading, everyone.

Books mentioned:


I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler
Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
November Road by Lou Berney
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

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11 comments | Comment

11 comments

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  1. Marcia says:

    I was so excited to hear that in 2022 there will be a reading journal for kids. I have a 12-year-old granddaughter who is an avid reader, and I’ve been wondering if I should give her Anne’s reading journal as a gift. I guess I’ll wait until next year to purchase the kids journal for her.

  2. Megan Towles says:

    Anne, I was thrilled to hear my question (well, my daughter’s question) about a book journal for kids at the end of today’s podcast! Her love of reading grows by the day, so the journal will make for the perfect gift!

  3. This episode was great. I don’t know how, but I totally missed the table of contents and now I know what all those blank lines are for. I read so many great essays and stories online and in magazines. I think I’m going to use the pages in the back to keep track of them.

  4. Lisa L says:

    I absolutely love my journal! I am embarrassed to say I didn’t even realize that we were to write down the books in the table of contents! I’m glad you mentioned that! I love this! I also put my rating next to the title in the table of contents. I like to see that at a glance, too. Also, in the I’d recommend this to section, I have been writing down a list of books that I think people who like this book would like. I really like that. Thanks for an excellent journal, Anne! 🙂

  5. Julie Zeller says:

    I am so glad the quote section is in the journal. It makes me stop and reflect. I have purchased book darts, per your suggestion, to mark quotes as I read. It is then so easy to go back and find important quotes.

  6. Susan says:

    I’m not great at tracking my reading so I had been hesitant to purchase your journal but after reading the transcript I just ordered one. I’m going to use it to track the nonfiction books I read/want to read for my class.

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