Book Review Journal Tips

Before Goodreads.com stole my heart and made my book reviews easy to search and find, yours truly would write book reviews in a paper journal.

I realized that my book reviews are more frequently written when I think I’m helping people, so they needed an audience. Goodreads provided that audience.

The problem with writing book reviews online on someone else’s website is that they can shut it down and your reviews no longer are available to you. Before that day comes, I plan to retrieve them from online and print them in a book.

Of course, when I would review a book in a paper journal, there was no need to worry about someone shutting it down, nor plugging in a machine, nor checking for battery life on a mobile device. One could just open the journal and write.

Whatever your reason for reviewing a book, whether for yourself, or for others, or a bit of both, the following tips might prove useful.

While Reading the Book…

  • While reading the book, enjoy yourself. Let it wash over you. Note the parts that excite you, surprise you, bore you, etc.
  • Depending on how thorough you want to be in your review of the book, if you don’t mind writing in the margins, you can keep some notes there. Yours truly is known to argue with the author in the margins. I tend to remember those parts of the book when I do.
  • You can also deploy a variety of bookmarks to return to a page to recall a quote you want to include in the review. If you don’t mind slight residue, sticky notes might help you return to the various pages of interest for the review.
  • Once you’ve reviewed books for a while, you start to recognize the highlights that you usually discuss in your reviews. Review notes might become unnecessary to recall what you want to say.
  • Caution: When reading books becomes all about the review you’re going to write later, reading can become a chore that is all about “getting it right,” whatever that means. Under such circumstances, one might stop having fun when reading. If this happens, take a break from reviewing and just have fun.

Organizing the Book Review Journal

  • The headings for your book reviews can be as simple as Today’s Date, Title, Author, and Review. Keep space in between each heading, leaving the most space for the Review.
  • However, if one is inclined to greater detail, one can include quotes that stand out to you, publisher, date of publication, ISBN, date you started reading, date you finished reading, etc.
  • As with any of the list journals, writing the same subject headings down every time might prove tedious. Consider printing out the subject headings and pasting them onto the journal pages ahead of time.
  • There are any number of ready-made book review journals on Amazon, Etsy, your local bookstore, etc. They save time on the subject headings.
  • You can create different sections in your book review journal and seperate the reviews by genre or other differences. E.g. Reviews of fiction can be written in the latter half of the journal and nonfiction in the front.
  • Another way to organize is to alphabetize the journal to write book reviews in order of book title or author’s last name. E.g. Space your journal into sections such as A through D, and only write about novels from Lynn Aaron to John Duke in that section.
  • You might create different journals for different genres and save yourself the time of sectioning off your genres in one book.

Reviewing Audiobooks

  • Reviewing audiobooks can be a difficulty for those of us who listen to them while doing something else, like washing dishes. We might not always recall what we liked about it in detail. However, if you can pause the audiobook when a thought intrigues you, and ruminate over it for a while, you might find that the most important parts of the audiobook will be readily accessible to your conscious mind when you are ready to review it in your journal later.
  • Consider an audio journal for reviewing audiobooks. For instance, if you are listening to an audiobook on your phone and have an intriguing thought, switch over to the voice recorder on your phone and record what you think. Push pause on the voice recorder and resume listening. Rinse and repeat until you are satisfied.

However you choose to organize your book review journal, have fun with it.

Peace,

Deborah

Essentials for Writing in a Journal

Author Bonnie Morris shares in the book Writers and Their Notebooks a few essentials for writing.

The author is speaking from a place of journaling while on the go, but this list can work for many in general. Let’s take a look at it.


Essentials for writing:

  • “Pens for every coat and knapsack and handbag that you own.”
  • “A…loyalty to your brand of instrument: Bic, Biro… fine-point, crayon. And mechanical pencil, too, for the creative engineers among you.”
  • “Ink. Choose colors that won’t fade; this is your stab at immortality, if you can handle the thought of great-grandchildren or grad students reading [your diaries].”
  • “Real paper, creamy, heavyweight, spiral-later, if you wish, you may certainly transfer journal entries to a cold and blinking screen. But the paper in your lap permits your moving hand to caress both pen and surface, a workmanship format centuries old, irreplaceably intimate….”
  • “A writing place and time, a favorite nook or bench, a willingness to create writing space in chaos, solitude in crowds—the ability to write in jail, on subways, during revolutions, at rock concerts, in bed.”
  • “If you like, a tape recorder and a camera rounding out the sounds and sights, interviews and images that collectively inspire you to capture or describe your life.”

This list is of Morris’ essentials. As with anything, take what works for you and toss the rest. There is not usually a one-size-fits-all situation.

Peace,

Deborah

Cruise Ship Journaling

Cruise ship journaling is a special type of experience. Your hotel is traveling for you. There is no need to pack and unpack at each new place. Your journal is right there.

PAPER JOURNALING ON A CRUISE


Use paper schedules as headers.

A few years ago, cruise ships heavily transitioned away from paper schedules and maps, which were once waiting in stacks on every corner of the ship, it seemed. If you left your schedule in the stateroom, you can pick up another one and remember where the art lecture is held.

They now offer apps for your mobile devices to keep track of the events on board. However, they still have paper schedules at the information desk.

Use the paper schedule of events as headers. E.g. Did you salsa on the 10th floor? Cut out that event from the schedule, affix it to the journal page and write about how that went.

Excursions

It’s up to you if you want to bring more than one journal on your trip. Some keep a large scrapbook style journal on board the ship, and take a smaller, more portable journal on excursions.

It might be unusual to have time to journal when wandering around a port city for a day if one is the type to try to pack in as many events as possible.

If you don’t have a moment to journal during your time off the ship, either take photos to write about later, and/or use your senses to savor the moments to remember later (e.g. What do I smell? What do I taste?, etc.)

Places to journal on-board ship

~The ship’s library is rarely occupied. Gather your journal, your adhesive photos, your paper schedules, your scissors and spread out on one of the tables in the library to remember the trip so far. This is a great thing to do during those days at sea when there are no ports, no excursions.

~Another place to write on the ship is the back of the Lido deck during a day at sea. Why? Because it is so windy and chilly there, no one is nearby. However, you can people-watch from afar, or just be with your thoughts and fresh air. It’s difficult to write there because of the updraft, but not impossible.

~Strewn throughout the upper floors are banquettes with ocean views. Perfect for journaling, if you don’t mind the hubbub of people walking to and fro along the nearby pathway.

~At times, there are events in small rooms with small tables. Yours truly has stayed behind after everyone has left to journal a little and was never told to leave. Do this at your own discretion.

~Of course, there is always the stateroom for journaling. It’s nice to get up early, ring for room service, have a cup of tea on the balcony (if you have one) and write about your plans for the day.

DIGITAL JOURNALING ON A CRUISE


Phone app

Cruising might be the perfect time for digital journaling, especially the digital apps on your phone or other mobile device.

Whether onboard or on excursions, more than likely, your phone is there. Using the Day One journal for Apple devices, or the Journey app for Android, you can jot down your experience on the go while embedding images.

One of the best things about digital journaling is key word search options, finding specific words when reading it all later.

Another advantage to digital journaling is syncing more than one device. You can use your phone on excursions and use your tablet onboard and not need to retype or transfer your words.Whatever you’ve written is on the cloud and on both devices.

Digital journaling is also a great option should your device become damaged or lost on vacation.

Print your digital journal

You can also journal digitally for the purpose of printing later.

Create a concise photo journal on your phone or online and print it.

These days, printing photos into hardcover personal books is fairly easy. Take photos on the cruise, then upload them with brief caption underneath to, for example, Google Photos print store, or Shutterfly.

This professionally printed captioned photo album can become your succinct travel journal with minimal fuss. Your luggage is also slightly lighter from not carrying around a physical journal.

However you choose to journal and cruise, have fun.

Peace,

Deborah

Journaling When Your Life is “Boring”

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. – Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Writing in your journal regularly is not a waste of time because you are not a waste of time. Each person has intrinsic value.

Some people might protest, ” But my life is so boring. Why should I write about it?” Is it?

If our lives are boring then let’s challenge ourselves in our journals to go broad, or go deep, or both.

Go Broad

For instance, if you are tired of writing about your feelings, go broad and include something else. Write a movie review. Draw your best friend. Describe the couple at the next table and reverse engineer how they arrived there.[This is how screenwriter Aaron Sorkin practices creating characters.]

The point is to give yourself variety to write about.

Go Deep

Or go deep. You are bored of writing that you like flowers. Go deeper. Could you include a photo of a flower you saw today and write it’s botanical name and its common name? Could you read a book on flowers and discuss it? Could you join a botanical society and get even more ideas?

The point is that there are worlds beyond the surface. Explore them.

Your thoughts, goals, dreams, observations are assets to your life. Writing them down can provide focus, appreciation, perspective, or even entertainment. Journaling is not boring and neither are you. Dig deeper or embrace more of what is right in front of you.

Onward!

Deborah

The Journal Serves You (Not the Other Way Around)

There are those who are intimidated by a journal. Some people fear that they are not doing it “right,” that there is some prescribed method to which they should adhere because a famous person writes in that manner. Some are afraid of making mistakes in a journal.

Journals are your tools. They exist to help you reach whatever goal you have decided for your journal. You are not enslaved to the object, nor should you feel bound to a method used by a powerful or successful person if their method does not work for your goals.

It might be easier said than done for some, perhaps, but do not think of your journal as a master or slave driver. Think of your journal as a friend, a faithful assistant who stands ready and eager to enable your desires and goals for your writing.

Peace,

Deborah