10 Must-read books to enhance your journaling experience

I’ve always seen journaling as opening a window into your soul. It’s a space where you can let your thoughts roam free, no judgements, no restrictions. It’s like having a conversation with your inner self, getting to know the person you are a little better each day.

In this post, I want to share with you some of the books that have helped me in my own practice of journaling. Books that have taught me not just the ‘how’ of journaling, but also the ‘why’. 

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The power of journaling

Journaling is one of those things that’s so simple, yet so powerful. I’ve been journaling for a few years now and I can tell you firsthand about the amazing benefits it has brought into my life.

Scientists have found that journaling can have incredible psychological benefits. It’s like doing a workout, but for your brain! It helps reduce stress, improve mood, and even boost memory.

HabitStrong’s self-paced Journaling Program teaches 8 powerful journaling techniques for profound self awareness and growth.

I’ve noticed that on days when I’m feeling down or overwhelmed, writing in my journal helps me vent out my feelings and makes me feel lighter, almost like magic.

I remember once writing about a minor disagreement I had with a friend. As I was writing, I realized that my reaction to the situation was rooted in an old childhood memory that I’d totally forgotten about. It was like stumbling upon a treasure chest of self-understanding. 

And that’s the beauty of journaling – it’s a mirror that reflects our deepest selves.

With the right books to guide you, it can become an enriching journey of self-discovery. Let’s dive into those books.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

This book is like a best friend who always knows how to bring out your creative side. 

It was the first book I read about journaling and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s not just about writing; it’s about unlocking your creativity and freeing your mind. 

Cameron calls it ‘Morning Pages’, a practice of writing three pages every morning, and trust me, it can change the way you approach your day.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Now, this book pushes you out of your comfort zone. It’s more of a handbook for writers than just about journaling. Goldberg shakes up traditional writing norms and encourages you to dig deeper. 

I remember when I first tried her technique of continuous writing, it felt like a floodgate of thoughts had opened. 

It’s a great book if you want to bring some spontaneity to your journaling. If you identify as a writer or aspire to write better, this is one book you must get for yourself.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Lamott’s take on writing and life is a breath of fresh air. She’s honest, she’s funny, and she gives some solid advice on how to integrate writing into your everyday life. Her idea of breaking down tasks into manageable ‘bird by bird’ pieces has helped me deal with overwhelming days.

This book is more about the art of writing than just about journaling, and it goes deep into the daily struggles of anyone who wants to write.

The New Diary by Tristine Rainer 

This book is a treasure trove of insights about personal writing. Rainer does not hold rigid views about journaling in a particular way or using prompts. Her style is more fluid and organic, and it can be helpful to those who are unable to start because they feel overwhelmed.

“Write fast, write everything, include everything, write from your feelings, write from your body, accept whatever comes.” This is her basic advice, especially to those who are just starting on the journey.

Rainer takes you beyond the basic ‘dear diary’ format and introduces you to different styles and techniques. I was particularly taken by her emphasis on non-linear entries – they’ve added a whole new dimension to my journaling.

Let It Out: A Journey Through Journaling by Katie Dalebout

Dalebout’s modern approach to journaling is refreshing. She includes practical exercises and prompts that make you think and reflect deeply. One of my favorites is the ‘Future Self’ exercise where you write a letter to your future self. It’s both fun and insightful.

Dalebout says your journal is the most non-judgmental friend you could ever have and she is not wrong. She herself journaled her way through her struggles with body image and other deep-seated insecurities.

If you’re looking for a sort of radical “solo-therapy” as she calls it, this book may be worth checking out.

The Journal Writer’s Companion by Alyss Thomas

This book is like a Swiss army knife for journaling – it has a solution for everything. It’s packed with tips, techniques, and exercises that can make your journaling more effective.

Thomas is a psychotherapist and writing coach, so her insights are deep and practical.

Journalution: Journaling to Awaken Your Inner Voice, Heal Your Life and Manifest Your Dreams by Sandy Grason 

Grason’s book is really about harnessing the power of journaling for personal growth and healing. She believes that journaling can help you manifest your dreams. While I’m personally not a huge fan of the idea of manifesting, many people find the technique useful in their lives.

A Life of One’s Own by Marion Milner 

This book is a real gem. Milner shares her seven-year journey of self-discovery through journaling. I remember feeling so inspired by her honesty and determination to understand herself better. 

Milner was a top-notch psychoanalyst in Britain, so she really knew how to think about things in a thoughtful and scientific way, and she shares a lot of insights. 

Her book isn’t really a step-by-step guide, but it’s packed with knowledge about happiness and understanding oneself.

Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma & Emotional Upheaval by James W. Pennebaker

Pennebaker’s book is about the therapeutic power of writing. It’s a guided journey to healing and it’s full of prompts that help you explore your emotions. One thing I learned from this book is the importance of writing about emotional events – it’s like therapy but on paper.

Pennebaker’s process of expressive writing is underpinned by robust clinical evidence, demonstrating its efficacy in fostering psychological healing and recovery.

The Year of You: 365 Journal Writing Prompts for Creative Self-Discovery by Hannah Braime

Finally, Braime’s book is literally a year’s worth of journaling prompts. It’s fantastic because you get a new topic to explore every day. It keeps your journaling practice fresh and exciting.

If you love journaling to prompts, this is the book to get. I love prompts and here are a few of my favorites from this book. They’ve really made me think and understand myself better.

  • What are your top 5 core values?
  • What do you consider to be your biggest challenge in life?
  • What is one thing you would like to change about your present self?
  • What is one quality you embody today, you hope to keep for the rest of your life?

How to utilize these books to improve your journaling

Now that we have our reading list, let’s talk about how to make the most out of these books for your journaling.

Adopting new techniques:

Every author we’ve talked about brings their own unique perspective and techniques to journaling. This means there’s a wealth of ideas for you to try out. 

For instance, you might want to give Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages’ a whirl, or experiment with Goldberg’s continuous writing. 

Don’t be afraid to mix and match techniques from different books. Remember, there’s no one ‘right’ way to journal. It’s all about what works for you.

Creating a journaling schedule

Consistency is key in journaling. 

I found this out the hard way when I started journaling sporadically and then wondered why I wasn’t seeing any benefits. It’s like working out – you can’t just do it once in a while and expect to see results. 

Whether it’s first thing in the morning, like in ‘The Artist’s Way’, or a quiet moment before bed, find a time that works for you and stick to it. Trust me, it makes a world of difference.

To build a consistent daily journaling habit, HabitStrong’s self-paced Journaling Program can help.


Using prompts effectively

Prompts are a great way to kickstart your writing, especially on days when you’re feeling stuck. Books like “The Year of You” and “Let It Out” are packed with excellent prompts that can get your creative juices flowing. 

Remember, prompts are just a starting point. Let your thoughts flow freely and see where they take you. It’s like setting off on a journey without a map – you never know what exciting places you’ll discover.

The journey of journaling

The path of journaling, like any great journey, is one of discovery, growth, and transformation.

These 10 books are more than just guides to better journaling. They’re your companions on a journey of self-discovery. They’re the friends who challenge you, inspire you, and support you as you delve deeper into your thoughts, your dreams, your fears, and your hopes. They’ve certainly been that for me.

Remember, journaling is not a task to be checked off your to-do list. It’s a tool for self-reflection, a safe space for self-expression, and, if you let it, a catalyst for self-growth. It’s like having a conversation with your inner self, and let me tell you, that’s a conversation worth having.

Until next time, happy journaling, my friends!

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This article was written by Nisha Salim.


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