Using templates to keep a reading journal

If I have a spare five minutes you’ll probably find me reading a book - usually in the Kindle or Scribd app however I also love the luxury of reading an actual physical hardback or paperback.

I’ve nearly finished a book called “I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life” by Anne Bogel. It has caused me to rethink keeping a journal of the books I read.

Whilst there are many apps designed specifically for this, I prefer to use plain text for data which I plan on maintaining for years to come. beorg and Org mode give you a plain text file format with the structure needed to keep a journal.

beorg templates are a great way to make keeping track of what I’ve read super simple. Using a template will remove any friction for quickly adding to my journal.

My template allows me to add books I’ve finished to a file called reading, organised by year and month. Here is my template:

To take note of:

When I’ve finished a book I can now do a quick swipe up on the add button in beorg and fill in the book title and the author.

Often book titles can be long, and authors’ names difficult to type properly on an iPhone keyboard. A Shortcut can help.

Google shows a link to Goodreads at the top of search results. I’ve created a Shortcut to add to my reading journal. This utilises my template so I don’t need to interact with beorg at all.

Here’s the Shortcut:

Get this Shortcut

This Shortcut downloads the Goodreads web page and extracts the title - which is good enough for adding to the reading log. I then URL encode the title, and the name of the template (this is a step which converts spaces and any other characters in the template name into something which can be included in a URL). A URL is then created which kicks off the beorg capture process. You can’t see the full beorg URL in the screenshot, so here it is

beorg://x-callback-url/capture?title=TITLE_VARIABLE&template=TEMPLATE_VARIABLE

I’ve used magic variables to insert the title and template name into the URL.

If you do download my Shortcut make sure you’ve got a beorg template set up before trying it out. If the name of your beorg template differs from mine update the Shortcut to use your template name.

Happy reading everyone!

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