Another year, another reading journal – it is time!
Last year, I did a post looking at how I planned to track my reading in a bullet journal. This year, I’m doing something similar but trying a simplified version. As much as I had so much fun putting together all the spreads, I found it a lot to update and frequently fell behind. So a lot of my statistics (i.e. how long I took to read it, formats, pages, etc.) I’m tracking in my spreadsheet – something I might talk about in the future!
As a quick look at my reading ambitions for the year, in 2023 I’m not setting a Goodreads challenge and overall want to remove pressure from reading this year. Last year I hit 100 books, which was a great achievement for me. So it’s a recovery year now! Recovery for me means reading at my own pace, but still enjoying ticking off themed challenges. The pace you have to keep up to hit 100 books is pretty unforgiving, especially when you’re working full time – again, this is something I’ll have a post about soon.
This year, I’m including some drawing tips about how I drew all these things, in case they help you in the process. I did everything in pencil first, then went over in pen, waited a day, then erased the pencil underneath the pen and coloured in. I still smudged a few things though, oh well!
Let’s take a look at the challenges I am doing and the things I like tracking that are easy to keep up with!
All the Books I Read
Naturally, I’ll be doing this again. I made it a bit neater than last year, because if I can’t make my physical bookshelves line up so perfectly then gosh darn I’ll do it with this fake one. I have enough room in this to read 125 books, which is obviously not going to happen. However nothing irks me more than when you put in the effort to draw up a spread and run out of room! So if I only fill in 12 of these, great! If I fill in more, also great!
I will colour coordinate by rating, but I haven’t decided on the colours yet so there’s no guide at the moment. However, I think we’re all pretty savvy with that side of journaling so you can imagine how it’ll look. I know I often end up with a majority of 4- and 5-star ratings, so I’ll aim to pick something pretty colour-wise for those two in particular.
Drawing tips: Get a ruler out for this one if you want it to be nice and straight. I counted this out so that I could fit 5 shelves of the same-height book illustrations per shelf. I then picked out handful of ‘things’ to draw on the shelves that weren’t books (2 plants and a photo) and began with drawing a few piles of stacked books.
Then I lined up the ruler and drew straight lines around all of these, drawing one line (the sides of the books) on each shelf and moving vertically across the page, so that they all lined up. I drew the curved tops next, then the extra curved top and bottom lines on a random selection last.
Books by Month
I’ve done this upside-down tree tracker for a few years now. I find it really easy to draw and it looks epic by the end of the year, but it’s usually my DNF tracker. I did a bit of brainstorming with my parents (who I rope into my creative processes all the time, to their delight I’m sure) and we decided that I could do the same but track how many books per month I read. So each branch represents a month, as you can see labelled.
So for each book in January I read I’ll add a green leaf, and so on. And DNFs will become orange/brown leaves falling off the tree. I might number them to correspond with my previous spread, but I may just be lazy and wing it.
Drawing tips: To draw this, just go for it. Think about how many branches you want, maybe draw some lines (I started with 12 lines coming down and outward from the top-middle, then free-hand drew in the branches). Trust the process, it’s a tree – it’s a supposed to be lumpy, bumpy and wriggly. I always finds this looks better if you outline the tree in a slightly darker colour to whatever you coloured it in with.
Birthday Presents Challenge
Each year I set myself two challenges regarding presents: read what I got for my birthday last year, and the same for Christmas. We’ll look at my Christmas spread a few pages down.
I just wanted to keep it simple this year and have a visual representation of this (as I do, naturally, have a specific spreadsheet that tracks this in depth). But I thought it would be a good reminder to pick up these books and get them read before my birthday this year in May. I will colour in the relevant book (maybe green?) once it’s read, and I do actually have all of them to read still at this stage, ah! These are the books below on my list for 2023 challenge:
Drawing tip: I count out how many mini books I want per line. I think these were about 8 dots across. I draw the curved tops first, all the way across (so 5 books), curving them between dot 1 and 4, then again from 4 to 8 (for example), before doing the bottoms and finally the straight sides.
To avoid smudging and help consistency, I drew the curves with the book orientated sideways, but the lines with it orientated as you would normally write. I didn’t use a ruler for these, I quite like it when they’re not perfectly straight. The last touches were to do an outline that is almost identical to the main shape, and then after I’d written in the title I added ‘spine lines’ for the internal crease as if the book were open.
This is my main goal for the year! Woo! I have alllll my series tracked (in a super cool way) on my spreadsheet (and I’m going to do a post about some series to finish!) and to make this little spread I selected 35 series to try and SLAY this year. Why 35? Doesn’t that break my rule to take it easy? Well I actually just drew the table and however many rows that had was however many series I wrote in. It’s not a particularly serious goal (I worked out I need to read over 70 books to finish all these off) but I think it’s fun to hand pick a few. Spoiler: I have many, many more incomplete series than this.
I’ll be colouring in a box for each book in the relevant series that I read. I focused on series I’m one book away from finishing, with some special exceptions like How to Train Your Dragon and The Famous Five (those big ones at the top).
Drawing tip: I drew the perimeter first, then the horizontal lines, then worked out how many books each series had and did all the vertical lines in one go (so that they’re all exactly the same, e.g. lined the ruler up from top to bottom and drew a line for every row that had a book at whichever interval I was up to). Then you fill in your series, shaded in where I’m at in all of them, and bob’s your uncle.
Friend Recommendation Challenge
A little bonus challenge I wanted to do this year was have my family and friends pick out a book off my TBR that they think I should read soon. I’ve collected most of these as you can see and intend to colour them in when I read them. This is such a fun challenge, and it’s nice to have the people around you engage in your hobbies!
I simply gave everyone my Goodreads want to read list and they went through (all 500 books, sheesh) and selected their pick based on whatever criteria they outlined for themselves. It’s super fun, I highly recommend this. Some of these double up with books on other challenges, so double priority to those! Here are the books so far:
Christmas Presents Challenge
Much the same as my Birthday challenge, these are all the (many) books I was so delighted to get for Christmas 2022. I always hand out this stupidly long wishlist of books for Christmas, from which all my friends and family pick out a book for me at Christmastime. I love getting books for Christmas, so it’s pretty much the only thing I get – and just look at this beautiful haul:
I got the whole set of How To Train Your Dragon Books, too. And so the challenge here will be to try and read all of these before Christmas 2023 comes around. I actually wanted to fully shift my challenge from reading the previous year’s haul the month of the current year’s celebrations, to doing it immediately after. Which means I’m focussing on Christmas books in January 2023, instead of December 2023.
Drawing tips: I do the same thing here at for the birthday challenge. I usually have a google and look at different Christmas (or other relevant theme) graphics/vectors I can draw in the white space. I tend to open up these images and then free-hand copy them from my laptop screen.
Once challenge I did last year and really liked was reading First Nations books around NAIDOC week. That’s usually the first week in July in Australia where we celebrate the First Nations people in Australia (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders). Last year I just did it for the week, which was really quite ambitious. This year I’m being more reasonable and expanding it to the full month.
So in July I plan to read all four of these First Nations books on my TBR:
I’ve read some really amazing First Nations literature over the last few years and have found it to be rewarding and educating to make the effort to include them on my lists. It was a couple of years ago I tried to get more on my TBR and did a big First Nations book haul. I think once I’ve read these I’ll be due to do another one next year!
After attempting classics challenges for nearly 10 years straight (the determination was strong) I finally made progress last year and totally fell in love with the genre. I read a healthy chunk of classics last year (admittedly not all the ones on my challenge, but I’m not mad) and so this year I’m doing it again!
I’ve picked out just 4 classic books to tackle: Dracula, Little Women, Great Expectations and Rebecca. And I really hope I love them all. Dracula I’ll do via audiobook, but the rest I have physical copies of. I’m also planning to reread (via audiobook) Pride & Prejudice and Frankenstein, so it should be a good year for classics.
Drawing tips: This is a nice and easy one. Draw yourself a book-shaped box, add an extra line to the right and voila, you get quite a satisfying little book silhouette. For the font, it’s a bit harder, and particularly for longer titles, which took a few attempts. I don’t know how you’re supposed to do it, but I wrote the cursive version first, then did capital letters top and bottom and squished them up to fit.
Top Genres Tracker
I was particularly pleased with this tracker – it’s a new one for me this year! I was sifting through the internet trying to find something a little different to usual, when I found all these people tracking things with a Harry Potter house hourglass set up. And I knew I had to include it.
I actually wasn’t going to track genres again this year, just because I read so much fantasy and it never fits on a page and then it just feels like a moot point. But I figured I could do a different tracker that allowed for more items and just streamline it to my top-read genres. For me, that’s fantasy, historical fiction, sci-fi and non-fiction.
The plan is to draw a bead for each book I finish that is in that genre and then colour them in house colours. It’s hard to tell in this picture, but I’ve gone from left to right: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. And I totally get that HP isn’t everyone’s cup of tea right now, but for me, this is a really fun and unique way to track it. I can’t wait to see the final result.
Drawing tips: I started by drawing the tops of the hourglasses to see how they would fit spaced out. Once I had that sussed, I grabbed a ruler and drew all the vertical lines. I did this in pencil first, as mentioned, so I just drew the lines then drew over the top for details like the notches and the arrowheads. Once you’ve got the basics there, it’s up to you how you fancy embellishing it. There are loads of versions online for this, so if this doesn’t quite work, google it and I bet you’ll find something that does. I mashed together a couple of ideas I saw on pinterest.
Favourites of 2023
I felt the need to deviate from just drawing mini books. As fun as they are, I had mini-booked myself out at this point. So I was searching and searching for inspiration and couldn’t find anything. So this is what I came up with out of my own head – I’m pretty pleased with it.
I call it my herb ladder. I drew 12 different kinds of herbs (somewhat poorly, but eh) and then labelled their shelf with the month. I’ll fill in the little signs sticking out of all of them with my favourite book from each month as I go along. I’m not really one for making that family tree thing where you narrow it down to your top for the year, so this works for me.
Drawing tips: Start with the background and basically get messy and draw over everything in pencil, that way it ends up lining up better. Once I had the ladder/lattice done, I drew the shelves, estimated the height between them I’d need to have a pot + plant, then drew all the pots and the stakes.
Once I had those, I googled what the different herbs looked like (I think I ended up with sage, lavender, parsley, mint, chives, dill, basil, thyme, lemon verbena, fennel, oregano and stevia) and had fun doodling. Once you go over in pen, let it dry, erase the pencil, you’re on your way with colouring.
And that’s everything for 2023. I’m looking forward to filling it out and hoping it’s a bit easier than last year. I hope my spreads give you some inspiration for your own journals, and happy reading!