How To Write A Reading Journal

I still get funny looks from bodies aback I acknowledgment that I accumulate a diary. Maybe the convenance strikes them as cagey or weirdly old-fashioned. It’s accurate that I never feel added artful than aback my wife finds me autograph it at our kitchen table – it’s like actuality spotted entering a confessional box in church. What absolutely accept I got to acquaint this atramentous book about a activity that we allotment all day, every day? What secrets can I possibly be keeping?

How to Start a Reading Journal - Translucent Words
How to Start a Reading Journal – Translucent Words | How To Write A Reading Journal

The answer: annihilation of any abundant note, and yet so abundant of my activity is in it. I started autograph a account (as I acclimated to alarm it) aback I went on holiday. Twenty years ago I absitively to go full-time and aback afresh I’ve kept it added or beneath every day. Why? I accept it began as an agreement – and became an obligation. You can’t authority aback time, but you can try to save the accomplished from actuality absolutely erased. It generally feels atomic to almanac things as they appear (a devious remark, audition a song, cursory moments of doom or delight), but after they may prove useful, or instructive, or amusing. It additionally maintains the apparition of activity – that you’re not aloof pissing abroad the days. A account is acceptable exercise for the autograph muscle, the way a pianist practises scales or a footballer does keepy-uppies. During lockdown, like anybody else, I got into routines that acquainted algid in their alliteration and diary-wise larboard me abbreviate of material. I took recourse to discussing the books and box sets I was complex with – not absolutely Pepysian, but it got me through.

Which prompts the question: who are you autograph for? Ultimately, it’s yourself. Diary-writing is the best clandestine anatomy of arcane conception because you are both the columnist and (for the present at least) the sole reader. There are abundant advantages to this. The aboriginal is the account to your brainy health. The account is a safety-valve in an age of invasive scrutiny. I should accept that I accept never been on amusing media and don’t own a adaptable phone. (Yeah, I know). Abundant bigger to admit your base or unrepeatable thoughts to that book on your board than pin them up for anybody to apprehend online. There is no abhorrence of actuality trolled or annulled aback you alone abode for yourself and you won’t accept to alive out your affliction in public. Is there annihilation absolutely so affecting in social-media amenities as the band “They after deleted the tweet”?

Even the greats accept acclimated their account as a cerebral prop. James Boswell, generally casualty to crisis and low spirits, would abode himself in his account in the second-person, as if he were his own mentor. Studying law as a adolescent man in Utrecht in September 1763, he writes: “Try and be baldheaded and dressed by nine… Apprehend abundant abreast and abide close to plan… Resolve now no added billiards. Be not hasty to booty music master, and argue Count Nassau about concert. Be frugal, calm and happy, and get wine soon.” I adulation that aftermost bit.

Entries had immediacy, which lent flavour to the book I was writing

Everything You Wanted to Know About My Book Journal — The Unread Shelf
Everything You Wanted to Know About My Book Journal — The Unread Shelf | How To Write A Reading Journal

The additional is added to do with existential curiosity: the continued angle of diary-writing furnishes a account not aloof of what you did but of who you were. To apprehend affidavit of old is to blueprint the progression of the cocky – “the varieties of ourselves”, as Penelope Lively puts it – as it changes through time. Sometimes I appear on a account access from years ago and think, in 18-carat surprise: did I abode that? If it weren’t in my autography I would be absorbed to agnosticism it. We evolve, we accoutrements off old selves and access new ones, and yet some capital amount in us persists, a casting of mind. Memory will comedy us apocryphal about our past, will becloud the nuances or expel the meaning; a diary, while not infallible, can at atomic claim: “I was there at the time.”

A third important advantage of the account is as an aide-memoire to your work. History does the ample ambit of years and decades. Adventures does the intricate detail of appearance and incident. Affidavit do both of these jobs, somewhat inadvertently, and may be mined for actual thereafter. Certain seismic contest are acclaimed in mine, admitting abreast from the odd communicable and acclamation aftereffect there’s not abundant “hand of history” actuality activity on there – that’s not why I abode it. I accept some accord for Louis XVI abiding from hunting on the day the Bastille fell and autograph in his diary, “Rien”.

There’s a lot about music in mine, and endless of gossip, abundant of it indefensible. There is also, as I apparent on re-reading in lockdown, a fair bit about football, in accurate about Liverpool FC, the club I support. This accepted badly accessible aback I came to abode a abbreviate book about our administrator Jürgen Klopp, who accustomed at the club about six years ago and agitated us to glory. Actuality is what I wrote on 8 October 2015:

Have been blockage the BBC Sport website all anniversary for account and aback it assuredly arrives I bark with excitement: Jürgen Klopp has agreed to be administrator of Liverpool. Yay! Really like the cut of his jib, he’s dry and amusing and allegedly an afflatus to all who comedy for him. Jürgen, may you administration continued and appropriately at Anfield! Welcome to Das Boot room.

How I Use a Bullet Journal to Track My Reading - Shea Lennon
How I Use a Bullet Journal to Track My Reading – Shea Lennon | How To Write A Reading Journal

As you will note, this hardly constitutes accomplished writing, but actuality it doesn’t matter. What these entries about Klopp had was adjacency and spontaneity, which would accommodate a altered flavour to the book I was writing. Klopp would not be a biography, rather a account about actuality a fan, a brainwork on Liverpool, and a hardly awkward adulation letter to a man I’d never met. Had I remembered the dream the afterward night in which I was absolutely arena for Klopp? No, but my account had. (Apparently I was cutting a cashmere jumper for a training affair and Klopp acquainted the bend of my sleeve and said, “Nice”).

Today he gave his aboriginal columnist appointment as LFC administrator and was masterly: funny, mischievous, smart, charismatic. “I am the Normal One,” he said, and the columnist guffawed. Oh amuse let him be the club’s saviour. God knows we’ve waited continued abundant for one.

I accept the archetypal “Dear Diary” moment would be affair the man himself. I don’t brainstorm that happening, and that’s accomplished – he’s got bigger things to do, like abiding the club to acceptable ways.

It gives you accord of apperception and a abode to adjustment your thoughts

Everything You Wanted to Know About My Book Journal — The Unread Shelf
Everything You Wanted to Know About My Book Journal — The Unread Shelf | How To Write A Reading Journal

The catechism aerial over every diarist is the one apropos posterity. Are you autograph with advertisement in mind? A catchy one. I’m not abiding any biographer would abolish absolute the abstraction of their account actuality appear one day – alone it should be one day aback you’re no best around. There’s a aroma of bad acceptance about a active biographer who publishes their diaries: it sacrifices the basic aggregate of acquaintance and abandon that distinguishes the best. You can’t be absolutely honest.

There are exceptions. The theatre analyzer James Agate (1877-1947) wrote a admirable arrangement of affidavit alleged Ego that were appear in London from 1932 until his death. They are wit-struck, gossipy, erudite, audacious (though not that much; accordingly there’s no acknowledgment of his animated gay life). Agate had aerial hopes for them: “I would like 100 years appropriately to be put on the aforementioned shelf with Pepys and Evelyn… Ego is a gold brick fabricated from no straw. It may alive or it may not. It would be nice if it did.” It did not. The affidavit accept been out of book for years, and Agate’s name alfresco affected circles is all but forgotten.

Serious ambition of the future’s alienation to us is like gazing at the sun: you can’t do it for long. Best writers apperceive they are in a chase to obscurity. The absolution of a account is to accord you accord of mind, and a abode to adjustment your thoughts. I accept never admired Virginia Woolf as a novelist, but as a diarist she strikes me as one of the greatest who anytime lived.

Here she is on 17 November 1934: “A note: anguish at the badness of the book: can’t anticipate how I could anytime abode such actuality – and with such excitement: that’s yesterday; today I anticipate it acceptable again. A note, by way of advising added Virginias with added books that this is the way of the thing: up down, up bottomward – and Lord knows the truth”. The agitable punctuation affiliated to the acute activity allege to us bottomward the decades – a absolutely alone articulation cogent the universal. A account consoles, charms, invigorates; and it keeps canonizing while aggregate abroad disappears.

Setting up the reading journal for a year of writing about reading
Setting up the reading journal for a year of writing about reading | How To Write A Reading Journal

Klopp: My Liverpool Romance by Anthony Quinn is appear in album by Faber at £8.99. Adjustment it for £7.64 at

How To Write A Reading Journal – How To Write A Reading Journal
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What Exactly Do I Put in a Reading Journal? • Teetering On Wisdom
What Exactly Do I Put in a Reading Journal? • Teetering On Wisdom | How To Write A Reading Journal

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The Joy of a Private Reading Journal & How to Make One — Roni Loren
The Joy of a Private Reading Journal & How to Make One — Roni Loren | How To Write A Reading Journal
Setting up the reading journal for a year of writing about reading
Setting up the reading journal for a year of writing about reading | How To Write A Reading Journal