Monday, September 17, 2007

How do you keep track of the books you read?

Or (shocking to me as it might be to me) maybe you don't bother keeping track at all?

I had a notebook where I used to write down books that I read, starting back in 1988 (if that was before you were born, gentle reader, there is no need to mention that little fact :-D) . I later found a list I made that dated from 1980 (yes, being retentive starts early I suppose), so I added that, too. But as my notebook filled up, and my list grew longer and longer, I found it more and more difficult to find titles I was trying to locate (especially to see which book I was supposed to read next in a series).

So one day I sat down and transferred everything into a Word document. Now if I want to see all the books I've read by an author, I can just do "edit, find" by the author's name, and it takes me right down the list. It would be kind of fun to make a database out of it, but right now I just don't have the time (although the geek in me is delighted at the prospect). I also have a very complex system I use so I know if the book was a winner: I put a little happy face next to it. Yes, bleeding edge technology, I know - but I can still do a search and see what my favorite books are - which comes in very handy when I don't know what I feel like reading next, because I can bring up favorites and then head over to Amazon to see if the authors have published anything recently.

One unexpected benefit to being a retentive list maker is that, when I look through the list of books I've read, it brings back that time in my life quite forcefully. I remember reading this book while I was stuck in an airport in Denver, that book on the beach in Hawaii, this one when I was nursing my first child, etc. Kind of a cool time portal.

What about you? How do you keep track, if you do at all? If you don't, why not? Have you ever wished you did? Here is an interesting article about someone creating a virtual library through Google's new virtual library service. This service is similar to Library Thing, but includes book searches via Google's Book Search capabilities.

That whole idea is very appealing to me. I've noticed that since I began blogging about the books I read, they remain fresher in my mind, and I think that taking time to really think about them and write a short review about them enhances my reading experience. It makes me read more attentively. I don't know that I have the time right now to invest in taking advantage of putting together a virtual library. But I'd sure like to!


  1. Hi there!
    Yes, I suppose if you don't keep track, you might get the storylines mixed up...
    I've done that, especially with mysteries & thrillers.
    Thanks for this.

  2. As I have the books I own catalogued on my local computer, I use Library Thing as a reading list, which I find really useful. It only goes back about 3 years though, to when I started recording my reading on the computer.

    However, you've reminded me of those notebooks I have safely stored somewhere of my reading in the '80s. The covers have got tattered and I'm not even sure if I have all of them, but I feel the need to go and find them now and relive that part of my life.

  3. Amazingly, I didn't start keeping track until three or four years ago. After experimenting with different things, I now keep an html text file on my computer for each year, and periodically post it the updated list on my blog. Before I had a blog, I had a word file, but I like the html better.

  4. Hey, Julian - thanks for stopping by! You are right - it is easy to get plots and characters mixed up. The worst is when I pick up a book and get about halfway through, and then I realize I've read it before. Bummer when it's a mystery! I enjoyed visiting your blog, btw - my kids are going to go nuts over that morphing cats thing!

    Kerry - good to see you! I hope you can find those notebooks, and I wonder if you'll have the same reaction I did to reading through book lists from the old days. I hope so - it's lots of fun!

    And Jen - that is interesting that you keep your list in HTML. Do you put all those picture books you read on it? That's one thing I haven't done, although I'm sort of wishing I did, because it would come in handy at work when I do children's programs at the library. It's something to think about, at any rate.

  5. This is a great post Darla :) I've never kept track of my books before, and learned the hard way that I should! I've always bought my books, so my way of keeping track of what I've read was to put them on the shelf after I read them! Unfortunately, Katrina took the majority of my books, so it's hard for me to recall every book I read. Of course, I recall them when they're brought up or when I see a copy and there are those books that I'll never forget or that have already been replaced, but I sure do wish I would've kept a written account of them.

    Now, I blog about my books, so I do indeed have a written account of them, and even have a separate blog dedicated just to books read. And a LibraryThing...I think I may start a notebook too just to have a hard copy!

  6. It's comforting to know I'm not alone in my obsessiveness! Just the other day I was thinking that it was a good thing to have the books I'm reading on my blog, because it's an additional backup to my computer and backup at home. That is so sad about losing your books during Katrina. It's one thing to give them away because you're moving or something, but having them destroyed is just harsh. :-(

  7. I've been keeping a reading journal for several years now--it's basically a Word document where I jot down my thoughts about a particular book I've read. I also keep a table of contents that is basically a quick glance at my reading during any given year. My table of contents is basically an Excel document. I call if a table of contents because it's the basic information regarding the books I journaled about for the year.

    I tried merging my table of contents lists once, but it got to be too much for me. I do catolog all of my books on Library Thing, something I just started doing this past December.

  8. My grandpa suggested keeping track about five years ago and I'm so glad he did, because you really do start to forget titles or authors and sometimes I only remember the story, but when I look at the list it all comes back to me.

    I write it down, pen and paper, the old fashion way.

  9. I have not one but several spreadsheets that I use to keep track of things.

    One is a list of what I have read this year and includes analysis of publishers, settings, genre etc.

    Another is just a list of all the books I have read and bought (but not yet read), another lists all the books I want to read, another all the books I have out from the library and when they are due back and another yet is which series I am in the middle of reading or waiting for books in!

    Of course, then there Library Thing, but I am a bit behind in that one!

  10. It never even occurred to me to keep a list. Of course, seeing as I can never stick with anything for very long, I doubt I could manage it...

  11. Wow, Literary Feline - you sure are organized! I'd long been meaning to put annotations next to the books on my list, but somehow never got around to it. This blog works much better, since I get feedback and other book recommendations, too!

    VA Gal - does your grandfather write down his books, too? I bet that would be an interesting list to look at!

    Marg - It is amazing that you manage to keep track of all that! I also have a list of books I want to read. I started that one on the computer, and now I'm embarrassed when I see how very long it is. A few years ago I had the depressing realization that I could probably never get to them all in my lifetime - not to mention all the books to be published that I'll end up putting on there, too!

    And Heather - maybe your blogs are your lists? One look there, and you can see the tons of books you've read!

  12. I have also noticed that the books stay fresh for me once I started blogging about them.

    I have kept lists at different points in my life about what I'm reading but for the past two years I've kept a record on my computer that I've found very useful. True, I have read books before that aren't on the list but it doesn't bother me that badly.

  13. It bothers me when I forget to add a book - inevitably I need to know the author or something, and I know I've read it, but it's not there!

  14. I keep a notebook of books I've read. My records go back to 1978, although I started keeping lists around 1973 - but I lost those because they were on index cards in a little file box. My system for noting whether or not I liked the book is to write beside the title "G" (good), "VG" (very good), "B" (bad), or "VB" (very bad). If I don't write anything, then the book was okay. Some I don't write down at all, if I really hated them, but I need to stop doing that. It's extremely low-tech (and I do love LibraryThing for keeping track of the books I have) but it's a system that has worked well for me for over 30 years, so I feel no need to change it.

    Like you, I remember what I was reading when a particular child of mine was born, or when I was dating my soon-to-be-husband, or when I went on a trip with a friend, etc. I loved seeing that you do that, too.

    And I agree with you that blogging reviews of books I read has helped me remember what I read better.

    My dad was the one who got me started making a list of what I've read. Starting at about age 10, I used to pester him to take me to the library at the university. I'd check out armloads of books, then want to go back for more sooner than he believed I could have read what I had. When I was 12 he told me he wanted me to use index cards to record the title and a brief summary of each book I read, and show it to him. I did that for a couple of years and he finally believed that I was actually reading the books I borrowed from the library. It was good discipline for me. Unfortunately, I stopped the summaries when I was around 14, and didn't start doing it again until I started blogging a little over a year ago.

    But I don't blog a review of every book I read. That would seriously cut into my reading time!

    (I had to copy and paste this comment from my husband's computer to mine - sorry if it looks odd!)

  15. Wow, Laura - I love that story about your father having you write the index cards!

    I had a similar experience as a child (although it didn't result in anything nearly as productive as your father's suggestion). My beloved children's librarian was absent one day, and a librarian from upstairs (the adult section) was subbing for her. It was summertime, and they had given all the children charts for their books, and we got a star sticker for every one we read. Well, she did not believe that I'd read the huge stack of books I'd brought back (MY librarian would have, though!) and so I just started telling her about each one. I got to the sixth or seventh and she sort of rolled her eyes and said, "All right, all right," and gave me my stickers. It kind of hurt my feelings, but I felt vindicated. I take special care not to ever do that to any of the kids who come into my library with their list of summer books!

    Thanks for the insight into your methods. I like your rating scale - much higher tech than my happy face/frownie face one!


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