Tracking Your Reading Life
I started tracking my books read in 2013, and I love looking back at those lists. I missed one year, the year after we moved to Belize, when overwhelm with life drowned out the extras.
Why Do I Keep Track of the Books I Read?
Tracking my books inspires me to read more. For the past several years, I’ve had the goal to read 50 books annually, and keeping that goal in focus can help me to pick up a book instead of mindlessly scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram when I have a few minutes. (If you’re not convinced that reading books is a worthwhile use of time, you can find my reasons for reading in “How I Read 50 Books Last Year”).
Book lists are invaluable for giving recommendations to others. What’s a good fiction book? Try The Help. My teenage brother wants an adventure book to listen to while on a road trip? Try Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (with a warning about some language). My children need a new audio book to listen to while folding laundry? Tumtum and Nutmeg would be a great choice.
Tracking your books helps you to see if your reading life is well-rounded. Only reading non-fiction? Try a classic—maybe one of Gene Stratton Porter’s books. Only reading books about motherhood? Branch out to another subject like home décor with The Nesting Place. Or home management—Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.
Keeping track of what you read is especially helpful if you’re proofreading books for your children or the school or church library.
Ways to track books read
There are as many ways to track books read as there are readers.
When I asked my reading friends how they keep track of their books, I got many responses. Quite a few said they don’t track their books at all. Sheila said she doesn’t officially record her book lists but has record of most of the books read in the form of letters to friends.
Marlene keeps a Word document for each year where she records the books’ titles and the authors’ names.
Krista uses OneNote. She says, “Keeping track of the books I read is something I tried for the first time this past year. I started out tracking in Memmo on my phone, which turned into a disaster when I got a new phone and found that they didn't copy over. After that I downloaded OneNote onto my phone and laptop. I can access my account from either device, and it’s easy to transfer to new devices.”
She continues, “You can create folders such as ‘Audio Books’ or ‘Books I Read in 2018.’ Inside those folders I made a folder for each month and entered each book there in the correct month. You can type in the title and whatever you want to remember, or you can take a picture of the book cover and save it that way.
“Keeping track of the books I read brought a new challenge--to see how many books I can read in a year. It also seems to help me remember more specifically the books I have read.”
Gina records her titles read in the back of her Time Keeper.
Natalie keeps her list in a journal.
Flo says, “My book record is about as simple and old-fashioned as could be without using a quill and parchment. I have a small pretty notebook dedicated to book lists that I keep in my top desk drawer. The top of the page says ‘2018’ or ‘2019’ and below that, on every other line, is the title and author’s name, recorded after I finish the book. At the end of the year I count the titles and put stars by the ten books I enjoyed the most. So simple. And so much fun to look over the accumulation of titles.”
I’ve heard of other who make a Pinterest board for each year’s reads and pin a picture of the books they finish to the board. Others use Excel or Microsoft Sheets. I saw a What I Read journal that looks interesting.
Good Reads is an site that many readers use, but I never was able to get into it. Jennifer says this about Good Reads: “I like it because you can sort through your books in so many ways, and it also offers recommendations based on current reads and your general reading taste. They also keep track of reading stats for each year. (Within each year you can see shortest and longest reads, which of your reads were most and least popular with other readers, interesting stuff like that.) I also like reading the reviews of books I’m considering reading, as it can help me decide whether or not to take the time.” She has me convinced to give it a try again!
How I Track my Books
I use the app OneNote to keep track of my book lists. I have all my book lists in a folder called “Book Lists” and each year add a new page. This makes it very easy to flip through my book lists from each year.
When I finish a book, I record the book’s title and author. I usually record whether it was fiction, nonfiction, children’s, or young adult. Then I record a brief summary of the book, noting any objectionable themes, language, or content. I also record whether I enjoyed the book, maybe something I learned or took away from it (especially nonfiction books), and any quotes I may have highlighted while reading.
Writing a brief summary of the books I read has helped me to pay attention as I read and get more out of the books. Here are examples of my book summaries from this year: 3/20/19 You Need a Budget by Jesse Mecham. Nonfiction. An excellent read on all things budgeting. Some things I need to work on: giving myself a little more wiggle room, allowing the categories to be flexible, and letting our money age.
4/8/19 Roots and Sky: a journey home in four seasons. By Christie Purifoy. Nonfiction. Beautiful and profound, although slow moving. Connected some deep notes even though it wasn't anything earth shattering. Did I like it more because it's based in Lancaster PA? Maybe. Maybe more because I could relate to her feelings of misplaced homesickness and trying to make the ancient house they bought into a home.
3/8/19 Educated by Tara Westover. Nonfiction. *Spoiler Alert* Tara was raised in a fundamentalist Mormon home by a father who was mentally ill and a mother who enabled his actions. She never had any formal education until she went to college, not even knowing what things like the Holocaust were. She studied hard and got good grades, allowing her to go to Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard, where she earned her PhD, all while struggling to break free from the mental grip her family still had on her. It's an incredible story, but I was disappointed that in the end, education was her god. Her view of Christianity was forever warped by her dad.
Next time you finish a book, try jotting it down in your planner, journal, or phone. Don’t think you read enough books to make it worthwhile? Even ten books at the end of the year would feel like an accomplishment, wouldn’t it? Try it for yourself and see.
I’d love to know… do you track your books, and if so, how? Let me know in the comments!
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