I’d love to keep a diary. There’s so much that appeals to me about it. The daily regularity of it. The ability to use a beautiful notebook. Seeing pages and pages of neat handwriting. The potential for a system of color-coding my moods of the day.
Endless Penelope joy, right?
But I just can’t do it. Not because I couldn’t keep up with it, more because I can’t stand the thought of the vulnerability of it. All those honest thoughts, spread out for all the world to read should something happen to me. Because you gotta believe my family, my daughter at least, would read it after I was gone. I know I would if I were her.
No, I can’t put myself out there like that. I’m too nutty in the head.
What I can do, and have done for 15 years now, is to keep a book journal. Every time I read a book, I write down the title and author’s name, the start and end dates of my reading, the source of the book recommendation (my sister, a review in the NY Times, a podcast etc.) and my star rating, 1-5. (Very, very few books get a 5-star rating.)
I then follow that info with a few sentences about what I thought of the book. I don’t get into a lot of plot detail, just whether I liked it or not and why. Since I read a lot of mysteries, I’ll add one line describing the victim in the book. Helps me recall the plot when I read it back later.
Finally, I’ll try to sneak in some small detail about what was going on in my life while I was reading it. This last little detail gives me my “diary” fix. Each entry takes me no more than 5 minutes, tops.
And you Penelopes will totally understand this: on the last page of the journal, I keep a tally of how many books I read each year. I love counting them up every Dec 31st and making that entry. The current journal I use, by the way, is one my daughter and I picked up at Target. I always use a spiral bound notebook because I hate to write on the left side of hard bound journals. Makes my writing all wonky and I get cranky.
The Book Journal serves two purposes for me:
1) People ask me for book recommendations all the time (which I love) and the journal helps me to be able to give them a line on books they might like. I couldn’t store all that data in my memory.
2) I can read back through my little sneaky notes and get a sense of what was going on for me at different times. That’s comforting and useful to me somehow.
And, someday, my kids might want to have these journals and maybe go back and read some of the books I read. I like that these “diaries” of mine would serve as a guide.
If you didn’t want to keep a handwritten Book Journal, you could use a website like Good Reads to keep track of what you’re reading. Lots of cool functionality there.
What about you? Do you keep a journal of any kind?