How to Use Notion to Organize Your Reading (including a free template!)

Chelsea Pennington
6 min readDec 14, 2021

Even if you’ve never used Notion before, this guide will walk you through the easiest way to keep track of what you read

A new year is only a few weeks away, and if you’re anything like me, it means you’re in full “how do I better organize my whole life” mode! Or maybe you’re reading this later and just looking for some ideas of how to organize the books you read. Either way, I’ve got you covered!

Notion is an app that works on your phone, computer, or tablet, and is super customizable (this isn’t a sponsored post, but Notion, if you’re reading this, feel free to pay me!) I use to it to keep track of lots of things, including my work at my day job, personal life to-dos, and my writing (I’ll do a separate post on that later). And, of course, my reading log!

I love the customizability of Notion because there are lots of little things I want to keep track of in my reading that websites like GoodReads or even Story Graph don’t track. It’s much less unwieldy than having a million “shelves” on GoodReads, but still searchable, as opposed to keeping a journal log of everything.

As you can see, I mainly use this table format to record the books I read. I’ve got several different tables that I’ll explain, but the first is the most obvious: all the books I’ve read!

It starts with the basic info: title, author, series if applicable, age category, and genre. I find it’s helpful to have all these details so that I can easily find the romance or fantasy or middle grade books I read if I want to refer to it. Then the number of pages — it’s fun to add them up and see how many pages you read in a month or year, especially if you tend to read longer books that bring down your overall count of books. If you’re filling in this column after you’ve returned the book to the library, or used an ereader, or just don’t have it handy, I like to look up the book on StoryGraph to find out the number of pages. It’s also helpful to see when it was published, as I’ll fill in the year in a later column. Choose the date you finished the book from the calendar to finish out those details.

Get this reading log as a free template!

Next comes the part that I really love: tags!

This is the customizability I mentioned earlier. I like being able to tag a book with a certain characteristic, and I often use it when I’m making lists of books for this blog or for social media. So of course I have my best books of the year tag (which filters into a different table — more on that later!). And then I like to note if it has LGBT representation, if it was written by an author of color, if the characters are diverse (which I usually use to note books written by white people that have a diverse cast), and other general categories of representation. Then in the notes column, I give more details. So if I want to make a blog post about books that have bisexual main characters, I could sort the table to look for “Queer” and then read through my notes to find bi characters. Because if I’m being honest, I can love a book and my brain will still dump all the details of it after I finish it! Being able to easily sort and search my books like this is a super helpful resource to have on hand.

Finally, the year the book was published, like I mentioned earlier, and then I just use a checkbox to note if it’s a re-read. You could also just make that a tag if it works better for you.

Now that we’ve got the basic table, I’ll show you how to search and organize that table. You just click the blue “Filter” button at the top right corner, and then you can choose what you want to see. Typically, I just have it set up to filter the table by date, but you can organize it however you like. For example, if I wanted to write that blog post on books with bi characters, (which, btw, I did!) I’d change it to look through tags that contain “queer.” Voila!

This is also helpful when creating a different table — my Best of 2021 (or whatever year) list. This is what’s called a “linked database” in Notion, which basically means it’s pulling its contents from my general reading log. Then I filter it to only show the tag “Best of 2021,” allowing me to easily see my top books of the year. Again, you can change the filter if you’d rather see something else here!

I’ve got two other tables. One up top is my “anticipated releases,” because I can’t keep track in my head of all the new books coming out that I’m excited about, and to me those are different than a general TBR. So I note the title and author, plus the release date and how I plan to get it, aka if I’m going to buy it or check it out from the library. Then I have a column to make if it’s preordered or put on hold or otherwise “acquired.” Once I actually have the book in my hands, I’ll delete it from this list.

Then at the bottom, I have a running list of the books I actually own but haven’t read. I don’t keep my physical TBR in one spot on my shelves, so this is a helpful reference to have. And also sometimes just a way to guilt myself into reading some of it! I keep it more minimal, with just the title, author, and genre.

And that’s it! It’s set up so that Notion automatically calculates how many books you’ve read along the bottom of the screen when you’re on a table so you can still set reading goals, although I’ve enjoyed getting away from that this year. And again, it’s easy to customize, so you can swap out the photos and decorations to match whatever aesthetic you like!

Don’t worry–you don’t have to be Notion wizard to figure all that out! Just duplicate this template and add it to your Notion! And shout out to Joel aka Fictional Fates, whose great video got me started on Notion and his template formed the basis of mine!

Do you use Notion? How do you keep track of what you read? Let me know in the comments!

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Chelsea Pennington

I help readers and writers discover and create life-changing stories. Connect with me at ChelseaPenningtonAuthor.com