For Readers

8 Unique Ways Readers Can Fill Their Empty Notebooks

The sister blog post, “8 Unique Ways Writers Can Fill Their Empty Notebooks,” can be found on Writer’s Atelier.

How many empty notebooks do you have around your house or apartment? It’s okay, I can wait while you count them. Is it five? Ten? More?

We bookish types are notorious for our love of paper. We love the feel of paper between our fingers, tag images of massive home libraries with #goals, and even try to capture the smell of old books in candles and soap! It’s only natural that such a love would extend to notebooks, journals, and stationery as well.

Since I’ve been spending so much time at home, I’ve really gotten comfortable with just how many empty notebooks I’ve acquired over the years. Now, I’m itching to put them to use, and if you’re reading this, you probably are, too. Below are eight ways to do just that, tailored to the book lover’s mind.

1. Take notes while reading.

Don’t have flashbacks to middle school just yet. I’m not talking about copying down important ideas from a textbook. Unless you’re into nonfiction, then have at it!

Do you like police procedurals, cozies, or thrillers? Keep track of the clues and red herrings to see if you can solve the mysteries before the main character.

Do you prefer fantasy, science fiction, and tales of epic proportions? Draw maps and jot down terms and character names to make your own atlas-cum-glossary.

There are so many ways you could interact with the story you love, no matter the genre. I don’t know about you, but doing so definitely helps me connect with the text.

2. Keep a book diary.

This is a little more touchy-feely than the last idea. Sometimes books leave us feeling some kinda way, and if none of our friends have gotten around to reading it yet, there’s no one to talk to about all the feelings.

While reading or even after, write out your thoughts about what transpired within the text, or note which characters have pulled at your heartstrings while overcoming their struggles. Get as shallow or as deep as you like.

Maybe after, you can use those feelings to write a review of the book on Goodreads or Amazon. You have no idea how much that can help out not just the author, but your fellow readers—people who often like to know what they’re getting themselves into before they make a purchase.

3. Track TBR lists for you and your loved ones.

I’m sure you’ve seen the highly creative book trackers that bullet journalists post on Instagram and Pinterest—neatly-drawn shelves with cute potted plants or even a kitty dozing, with spines blank to write in titles of the books read.

You can do something equally elaborate or just make a simple list of books you hear about through the grapevine. Organize them by genre, author, or where you’ll find it—your favorite indie bookstore, the library, or the Mighty Zon.

Then, when you’ve made plenty of lists for yourself, make a few for others. Maybe you want to have a list of books you’ll let your kid read once they hit ten years old. Maybe you’re as bad at picking out gifts for people as I am, and want a list of books they’ve been wanting to pull from.

If you’re looking for book recommendations, I have quite a few of them for you at the very end of my “Supporting Indie Creators During Coronavirus” blog post.

4. Keep a list of tropes you like.

You’ve heard it said that there are no new ideas. I don’t entirely agree with that, but there are no books absent of motifs we’ve seen again and again.

Have you ever browsed TVTropes? It has pages dedicated to all the media that contain a particular trope, and it also breaks down popular media into their tropes. For example, if you loved the contrast between Scarlett and Melanie in Gone With the Wind as well as the contrast between Fanny and Mary in Mansfield Park, you probably should look for literature that contains what TVTropes calls the Betty and Veronica trope. Write it down, then browse the massive list of books with the same idea. (Don’t worry—spoilers are always blocked out!)

Or you can do what I do sometimes and click on the random trope button just for fun. Maybe I’m just weird…

5. Jot down questions and facts you want to look up later.

Ever come across a stated fact in the book you’re reading and wondered if it was real, or if the scenario the author describes is plausible? You either give in to temptation and look it up then, or you don’t and forget. And when you do look it up, the Internet just sucks you write in, doesn’t it?

So don’t look it up! Use a small, thin notebook as a bookmark and write down everything you mean to look up later. Before you shut the book for the night, flip through the notebook and open a new tab or window for Google. Problem solved!

6. Glue some old pages in and start a blackout poetry collection.

A ruined book is a true tragedy, no matter how it happens—whether your furry friend got a hold of it, your kid scribbled over pages with marker, or a large amount of liquid has rendered it unreadable.

But that doesn’t mean you need to throw those books away! Instead, lovingly tear out unaffected pages and paste them into one of those empty notebooks. Now you have plenty of canvases to start a nice collection of blackout poetry, which you make by blacking out all but a few words on a page with Sharpies, paint, or whatever you like.

You don’t have to limit yourself to just books, either! You can try this with newspapers, old letters or junk mail, or whatever written materials you have lying around.

7. Continue (or make a change to) the stories you love.

We’ve all read a book we couldn’t bring ourselves to finish. If you consider yourself something of a writer, you could try your hand at rewriting the ending yourself, or just write what should’ve happened, plain and simple.

Or maybe you absolutely loved the story, and never wanted it to end. Try your hand at writing fanfiction, or writing yourself into the world of your book. If you’ve read the Harry Potter series, I’ll bet you know whether you’re a Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin. I’ll bet you might even know which family you’d belong to in the Song of Ice and Fire series.

8. Make bookish collages.

I thought about having this last one be just a collection of quotes you like from books and want to remember, but why not do something a little more fun and creative if you have the time on your hands?

If you have a bunch of magazines lying around that you’ve been meaning to toss, break those out, cut up the funky-looking text, and document your favorite sentences from your favorite books in a silly way. You could even add celebrity faces to represent the character who spoke, the cover of the book, or any other image you think fits.

No magazines or similar media? Open up your favorite word processor and type out the quote in your favorite fonts, then pull images from the Internet to accompany it.

So, how do you plan to use your empty notebooks?

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