Salutations fellow readers! As many of you know, I try to do very detailed book reviews. Even with my manga, graphic novels, poetry, etc… I try to be as detailed and thorough as I possibly can. During the beginning of 2020, I was asked by two friends about my reviewing process, items I use, and how I manage everything.
I’ll be honest, this process (and this article) has been a work in process for two years and I’m very excited to finally talk about my process. I didn’t start tweaking and critically reviewing/reading till the end of 2018. So this is an article that feels very personal and feels like one of the goals/achievements I’ve been striving towards. And even then this process has been adapting and changing as I adapt and change. This isn’t a perfect system, I don’t have this fully flushed out, and this is something that’s growing as I grow.
After all this time, I’m finally in a place where I feel confident to share this with all of you. And maybe what works for me, it may also help your own reading and reviewing process. So I hope you enjoy!
🍁 Why I take Reading Notes 🍁
Let me be frank, note taking isn’t for everyone. And if you’ve already tried note taking, but it didn’t work out, that’s completely fine. You’re not alone in feeling like that and you don’t have to push yourself. In fact, when I started being more active in the book community, I didn’t take notes while reading or reviewing either. I think the reason may be from my time spent in elementary school and being taught at such a young age to take notes in our textbooks, reading books, etc… For me, reading has always been an escape and over time it felt like pieces of my love for reading was being chipped away.
So taking the notes that I do now, it’s due to finding a love and enjoyment within note taking, and seeing all that work bloom into something I’m proud of. I got a little off topic, but the point is it took me a long time to get where I’m at now with reading and note taking. As I said, this process has taken me a long time to build and as I built this, there’s been healing, growth, and rediscovery. I’ve grown this into something positive to enhance my reading and fortify my own love for reading.
➳ It helps me keep track of important details such as content/trigger warnings, representation, character names and povs, settings, etc… This is incredibly important especially when you have genres like high fantasy.
➳ Sometimes I get pent up thoughts and energy about scenes, moments, and I need a space that allows me to word vomit, freak out, gush, etc… This spares my friends and family from me babbling like a brook and it’s a more private space for my thoughts, and feelings.
➳ It keeps a physical record of my thoughts and reading process. This becomes very useful for rereads and series. It allows me to see the growth, decline, and development of my feelings which play a large role in the way I write my reviews.
➳ These notes allow me to structure a coherent review. This comes in really handy especially during times when I’m really sick or don’t have a lot of energy (which is usually often), have burnout, my schedule is full, or if I’m traveling.
These are just a few of the reasons why note taking has been so beneficial to my reading especially when it comes to the reviews that I usually write. However, this is just how it makes things more helpful for me and it’s a different experience for everyone.
🍁 Items I Frequently Use for Note Taking 🍁
➳ 100 Sheet sketch book (or anything that’s styled like this)
These are just a few of the items I use. Of course I have bookmarks, but these are the main items I use for all my note taking. The notebook itself can be spiral notebook. I use two different ones for note taking, but I always make sure one flips up and behind.
🍁 How I take Reading Notes 🍁
➳ Kindle Notes & Highlights
I feel like this should explain itself. I think everyone I know either has a Kindle Unlimited or are avid ebook readers. I’ll be honest, this is all a new process for myself because I prefer physical books over digital, but many people in my life have convinced to be more open to it.
For most user, I believe your highlighted quotes and details get uploaded to your GoodReads. However, I have my account separate. I usually use the highlighter to highlight specific passages, quotes, content/trigger warning areas in my ebooks so I don’t lose my place while writing the information down.
➳ Physical Notebook
This is where all the magic happens! I usually write everything down. I have two notebooks that I use while I read. These first notebook is my main notebook where all my notes for physical books are placed. I used this while I read, jot things down as I go along, etc… I usually break it down by the title at the top (with details of buddy read, arc & publishing date, etc…), content/trigger warnings at the next line, followed by setting, then characters and povs, and then comes all the details. The only time the detail section is different is when the book is a bind up or broken down into parts/sections. My second notebook is used for noting when I finished books and when I aim to post a review. Which usually goes hand-in-hand with how a lot of reviews get posted on here and in what order. I tend to add a little comment, as well. Most of the time the comment states whether or not the review needs to be posted sooner rather than later due to a blog tour, release date, or any other reason.
These help with keeping things organized and separate from one another. In the photo at the beginning of this article, you can actually see the second notebook I use for scheduling and organizing posts before they make it onto my blog. It may seem a bit chaotic and at times it can be, but it works for me and how I need to categorize things.
➳ Google Keep
I think this is the most underrated note taking system I have seen so far. I rarely hear anyone talk about the benefits of G. Keep and how useful it is when it comes to audiobooks.
I’m not much of an audiobook listener, but when I do listen to audiobooks, I find it incredibly hard to take notes especially if I’m working with a busy schedule on that day. This is where G. Keep comes in. G. Keep can be used from any mobile device and it’s great for jotting down quick notes. I find this has become a game changer for my audiobook reviews. If I hadn’t started using G. Keep more often, I probably wouldn’t have all the notes I usually do like my physical book reviews or ebooks. Plus, it’s been really helpful with brainstorming and jotting down any quotes that may pop up, that I may want to include in my reviews.
Another thing I don’t often talk about is the set template I have for GoodReads. We all know GoodReads, WordPress, etc… uses coding or html formatting for making our reviews unique. Quite frankly, it can be a bit overwhelming. So in Microsoft Word, I’ve crafted a designated template for how I structure my reviews to make sure everything I want to include gets included in the post. Things such as my content and trigger warnings, and my rating details.
This is a process that can take a bit of time. I find WordPress is easier to draft reviews compared to GoodReads. However, if you don’t mind taking 30 minutes to an hour to creating you own template, I swear it’s worth it. Plus, having that template stored in a place like Microsoft Word or Google Docs will allow you to just copy and paste that template onto a new file to type out that review for whatever specific book you need a review for.
As a side note, if you’re looking to just take notes and you don’t want all the extra bits. A new document, a new page in Microsoft Word, Good Docs, or whatever office system you may use will work just fine. This another great way to take notes especially if you don’t want to invest in notebooks.
As I’ve mentioned, this has been a process that’s been growing at the same pace I grow. So it’s only natural that I mention the recent addition to my note taking, organizing, etc…
Notion has been taking the book community by storm and I’ve jumped on the bandwagon as well. I haven’t heard about this anywhere outside of the book community so far. So far, Notion seems to be an all encompassing site that has elements of Google Docs, Google Keep, elements similar to WordPress, and so much more! As I’ve been exploring, I’ve been having a fun time tinkering with the different templates and I’m finding this is taking my organization to a new level. I now have a bookish calendar to keep track of scheduled posts, I’ve crafted a bookish schedule, and this has even been allowing me to prep for arcs. This has been such a fantastic source for note taking too!
If you haven’t checked out Notion yet, definitely give it a chance! I feel like I’ve leveled up in some way and I’ve really been having a great time with it. Truly, there’s so much you can do on this site and I think so many people in the book community are going to benefit from using it.
I hope you all enjoyed this deeper look into how I take my reading notes! This isn’t a perfect system, it keeps growing and building every day, but this has been working for me so far. I think my biggest recommendation out of all of this is to just experiment and see what works for you. Not everyone is going to like note taking and some may need a more creative way to take their notes. It truly is a process of experimentation and the best way to do that it to play around with a plethora of things. You have to choose what’s comfortable for you. I truly hope I was able to help some of you, you give you an idea of my own process. And please, don’t hesitate to share your own note taking tips or some of the ways that help you when you write your own reviews. Until next time, happy reading and reviewing! I love you! 🧡