Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How Do You Keep Track of What You Read?

I hated reading logs as a child. Passionately. They were silly, childish, and a waste of my time. Invariably, my teachers wanted to know exactly what time I started reading and what time I stopped.

via Morgan Paradis
I haven’t changed much as a reader since childhood. I’m willing to read anywhere except a moving vehicle—in between classes, at the end of lunch, while I’m making toast or brushing my teeth, during the last half hour before bed. All of those instances may be interrupted by bathroom breaks, snack breaks, fascination-with-my-own-brain’s-thoughts breaks, and boredom breaks.

My approach to reading is very stoppy-starty. Trying to keep track of time like that? Disastrous.

I still refuse to keep track of my quantitative reading times, but I have grown to realize there’s value in keeping track of the titles I have read. After all, after a few years you’re bound to forget at least something, and as a rereader, it’s nice to know how many times I’ve entered a particular storyworld.

Lots of people agree with me on this one, and there are a lot of methods out there. I have a “Book-Lover’s Journal” that allows for in-depth responses to books I’ve finished (not that I’ve used it in the last four years…) and Goodreads is also a popular place to track and rate the books you’ve read.

As for me, I am a spreadsheet kind of girl. No fanciness for me! I want to know four things when it comes to the book I’ve read:

  • Title
  • Author’s Name
  • Date Finished
  • Would I Reread It?

Simple as that. Of course, sometimes I make notes about when or where I finished a book; for example, I finished Desert Blood 10pm/9c at 1:15 AM in my Barcelona hotel’s bathroom, because my dad begged to go to sleep in the bedroom. That was a good night. In the end, though, those four items are my primary concerns.


These things are not particularly unique, with the exception of two things. Firstly, my rating system: where the five-star system is most prevalent, I use one defining criterion: Is this something I would read again? As a writer, I can’t think of higher praise. If you’re willing to put time and effort and soul into a book multiple times, that indicates you’re reading something you love—after all, you don’t get paid to read.

The other thing is that I don’t have any “review” section, or a place to put my thoughts. This, again, ties back to rereading. If I love a book I’m going to reread it and I will know exactly why it is worth that effort. If I like a book then I can trust my judgment that it will be enjoyable, even if I can’t remember the specifics of good or bad. And that’s enough for my purposes as a reader.

There are also two tabs that don’t record what I’ve read. One is a TBR list, which tracks authors, titles, and the recommender, that I can keep track of everything I want to read in an organized place.


The other is a monthly and yearly comparison of how much I’ve read. Though I’ve only kept rigorous track of what I’ve read the last two years, it turns out I’ve saved my reading logs since sixth grade, so I have incomplete data stretching a little farther back. It’s fascinating to see what and how much I read before, and I’m interested to see what other patterns emerge in my reading schedule as time goes on.


And, if you were curious, I’ve read 63 books this year—I’m a little behind if I want to beat last year’s record! Back to the books for me…


How do you keep track of what you read? And, for fun, how many books have you read this year?

29 comments :

  1. Ahh, I love seeing people's spreadsheets. Mine's somewhat similar to yours:

    Title of book.Author [4/5 stars] - And then I put a shot description of what I liked or what it was about so I can remember. No more than two sentences.

    Ha! That's actually hilarious, cause I've read 63 books as well. (Though goodreads will say differently cause of rereads. *growls*)

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    1. * short description. Remind me to never comment on a phone again. :p

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    2. I like that system! Keeping your thoughts down to two sentences must make it quick and easy to review your thoughts for later!

      And silly Goodreads. IT KNOWS NOTHING. You have totally read 63 books.

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  2. I also have a master list on google docs to track all the books I read. I also try to use goodreads a little, but I am not enamored with their design and structure. This year I have read 40 or so books so far.

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    1. Nice! It's good that you're keeping track. And yeah, GR doesn't have the best design. And forty books? Keep up the good work! Thanks for reading, Susanna!

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  3. This is such a nifty way to keep track of what you've read! I don't think I've ever seen a spreadsheet used for a reading list before, but it's a cool idea.

    I used to keep track in a notebook, from the time I was 12(?) until I was 18, when I misplaced it for almost a year. In it, I also kept track of how many times I read the same book that year. In recent years, I've kept track on Pinterest boards. The downside, though, is having older editions of books and not being able to find a picture of the cover online, but otherwise I think it's a pretty easy way to keep track.

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    1. I am borne of an accountant; spreadsheets run through my blood. They're good for everything!

      Wow, you committed to that notebook for a long time! I've never heard of anyone using Pinterest boards for reading logs before. That's such a cool idea! Thanks for sharing that idea with me. :)

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  4. I keep a list at the back of my journal where I write the book's title, the author, and the date I finished it. I also rate books on Goodreads. It's really interesting that you use a spreadsheet--I've never though of that!

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    1. That's cool! Journals are a nice way, and everything stays in one place. Goodreads is also okay. And yes, spreadsheets are awesome! I'd highly recommend it. :)

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  5. This is super cool! This year one of my resolutions was to keep track of what I read, so I did, but basically only the title and the month I finished it in on my calendar. I don't have goodreads, because I have enough distraction in my life, but this is really cool. (Also read the Drangonfly pool or any of Eva Ibbotson's adult novel's because they're quite wonderful, last time I read them. Now you can add my name to the recommending list!) This is a helpful post, Heather :D

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    1. Well, one step at a time, right? I like that you use your calendar in that way. Also, it's okay if you don't have Goodreads—it is a little distracting! (And you were already on the recommending list, but thanks for the recommendation!)

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  6. I hated reading logs, too. Keeping track of all the time I spent reading was really annoying and I hated when they would rattle off a list of things I had to take notes on and then gave me this teeny tiny box to write all those notes in. First of all, writing notes on specific criteria ruins my reading flow and second of all, if I must take notes, then why can't I at least be given enough space? Hmph. Then, in 8th grade, my English teacher decided that we were allowed to use Goodreads. Now I use Goodreads all the time to track what I read and what I want to read. I love it so much, although I do wish that it was friendlier towards rereads. Still, I love your spreadsheet format, and especially how you note down who recommended the book to you.

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    1. Right? It's like they weren't designed by real book lovers. Although, I will say that annotating is a great way to take notes while reading! But, it's nice that you're permitted to use Goodreads, but forgive me for liking my spreadsheet a little better. :)

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  7. Ha, I see you have The Pawn on your recommendations list. *laughs evilly*

    I like your system--neat, simple, and to the point. I'm not sure I could do the "would I reread" portion, mainly because I can't decide that for sure on any given books. Some stories I've read and hated, but then later I had the random urge to reread them. So I can't really predict what's going to happen, but I guess putting down that I know I'd want to reread is still a way of saying that the book was great.

    When I was younger, I kept a notebook of titles I'd read from the library, and I rated them on a scale of nine stars--no clue why. And I'm so glad I did that, because you're right, some books are bound to slip through the cracks of memory, so it's nice that I have at least partial data. Nowadays I just mark a book as read on Goodreads, and then I keep a secondary list on my ipod. Mainly, I don't keep too much track of the books I own, other than the fact that I read them, but I will add a borrowed book to my to-buy list if I think or know I'd like to reread it.

    But yeah, a reading log that includes times (aside from the random sentimental note, like the time I read Tarzan at my favorite camp) would be such a pain in the neck. Like you, I snatch two minute or five minute little bites whenever I can, because otherwise I'd get only half as much read. If I had to keep track of every single time I opened my book, I'd start going crazy. I don't have the time for that--I need that time to actually reading the stinkin' novel.

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    1. *shrinks away* Oh dear...

      Hm, yeah, I suppose there is that element of wanting to reread previously disliked books. Sometimes it's interesting to see why you disliked them and other times your opinion changes with age and experience.

      I think it's definitely a good idea to keep a reading list in two places, though; it helps to know in case one system backfires. It's cool that you have data stretch back so far! And yes, especially when you don't own a book it is good to know when you read it it.

      I use sentimental notes, too, as I mentioned, but those are no more than five words so it's not a big deal. But yeah, you can't read and keep track of your time. Seriously. That's just crazy. I'm glad you understand. :)

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  8. I keep track via Goodreads, mainly, and also a spreadsheet! :D I LOVE SPREADSHEETS SO MUCH. Mine is all colour coded and numbered and afjdsklad I adore it. It's such a reward for me to finish a book and then log it. :') And when I wasn't a blogger, I had STACKS of notebooks with my little "Reviews" in them. hehe.

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    1. SPREADSHEETS ARE GREAT, RIGHT? :D I don't color code, but I should probably do that. It would make organizing much easier! Also, I love logging books, too. It is just a feeling of "doneness" that is perfect. And that's awesome! It had you prepared for the future. :)

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  9. I just have a list on a document somewhere. *shrugs* I'm too lazy for something as fancy as a spreadsheet. Seriously, I'm impressed by your dedication. It's a great idea, though, and I might try to use it in the future... But then again, I'm a lazy individual. I totally agree with you with the keeping-track-of-reading-times thing. That is waaaaay too much work.

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    1. Well... I mean, when you program in the averages and stuff it only takes two minutes to maintain it and make new pages, max. The great thing about spreadsheets is that they do all the work for you! But yeah. No way am I keeping track of my reading times again.

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    2. Sorry, let me explain. I don't have a laptop so if I were to set up a spreadsheet I would have to search for years for the family one, clambering through tide pools, over frozen tundras, across shimmering deserts filled with snakes and scorpions. If I did find it, it would then be out of batteries and I would have to make a similar journey to find the charger, or, even worse, someone else would be using it and I would have to wait a million years for them to finish. It's much easier to just keep a document on my phone.

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    3. Ahhh. My family's computer is fairly organized (that's where my spreadsheet is) so I don't have problems with finding anything I need. But, at least you have a phone!

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  10. I use a spreadsheet like you do - mine consists of date finished, title, author's name, genre, and grade. I keep track of my TBRs and Reviews on my blog, and my reviews are too long to be kept on a spreadsheet anyway. I make a new one every year, and then at the end of each year I make charts of what genres I read, what grades I gave, etc. :)

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    1. Grade... Like what grade you're in when you read it? It's good that you can make your TBR and reviews can be social elements on your blog! I just make new pages within my spreadsheet, but I like that you make charts about them! That's awesome!

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  11. That's a pretty cool way of keeping track of the way you read. I track mine using Evernote. I have a new note for each of my books, and I add a book cover from Amazon (because I remember books so much better when I see their covers), the month I read it in, a synopsis, my personal thoughts on the book, and a star rating. It works rather well. Adding extra details like my thoughts helps me remember the book so much better and with my scatterbrained mind at the moment that's been quite important to me actually. I've managed 70 books so far this year. Not as many as I'd like to have, but more than I could have.

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    1. Huh. I've never used Evernote, although I think I've heard people say good things about it before. I like using that visual element to help remind you of the books you've read! And 70 books is more than me, so you are welcome to be proud of that accomplishment!

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  12. Wow, that looks like a very thorough (but fun) process. I use Goodreads to keep track of all the books I've read in the past two years, and it's super easy because all I have to do is type in the name of the book and it automatically enters the start and finsh date as long as you update it frequently.

    I've only read 23 books this year, which is poor I know, but hey, it could be worse.

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    1. That's nice! I don't think I would want to hassle with start dates, at least for myself, and I actually log all my reads at the same time, so I don't really have the stamina to update Goodreads that frequently.

      Hey, it is how many you have read, and that's great. Keep up the good work!

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  13. That's a cool way to keep track! I used to use reading logs (though I didn't have to record the amount of time I'd read) until I was in middle school. Then my mom introduced me to Goodreads, I signed up, and I've been using that ever since.
    I've also got a few review notebooks in which I write down my thoughts as I read the novel. I like to remember my experiences and reactions, just everything the book made me feel and think. :)

    And I've read 71 books this year, almost 72. :D


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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    1. Yeah, people seem to like using Goodreads. I'm glad it's a good system for you!

      And that sounds like an interesting alternative to annotation! It's good you're interacting while you're reading. And nice, great work so far!

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