How Do You Track Your Reading?: Slice of Life 13/31 #sol20

When I was sixteen, I began keeping a record of the books I read. From 1988 to 2018, I wrote the title and author of every book I finished in a spiral notebook. Title and author only–no rating system or notes. Only books that were read to the end–no abandoned titles. Although my system isn’t very informative, I love having a written record of so many years of reading and often flip through the book to recall a particular title or track patterns in my reading life.

In 2012, I added a Goodreads account. I also began blogging about my reading, sharing short reviews every Monday of what I’d finished over the past week. Although I sometimes forgot to log a book in one of my tracking locations, having three ensured that I had an accurate picture of my reading life.

But in 2018, I started to struggle to keep my spiral notebook updated. It was never handy when I finished a book. I’d lose it somewhere in the house for a couple of weeks, and once I found it, I wouldn’t feel any motivation to catch up and fill in the titles I’d finished while it was missing. Eventually, it seemed like wasted time and effort to log essentially the same information in three places. By mid-year, I’d put the notebook away.

Then, in 2019, I started to struggle with weekly blogging. I had a lot going on. I needed to cut myself some slack somewhere. Enter: the blogging break. Taking one week off turned into two weeks, then three, then whole months with no posts.

Now I’m down to just Goodreads. When I can remember.

I did begin 2020 with good intentions. I bought a new notebook to replace the spiral I’d used for a decade.

But I only managed to log two books, which covered my reading life for roughly two days.

Inspired by a couple of teachers I follow on Twitter who compile a yearlong thread of their reading with photos of the books they’ve read and a microreview, I began photographing my finished reads and jotting notes in my notebook that could be crafted into microreviews.

This project seemed especially exciting once I realized I could use cats as props.

Skinny Oliver legs
If you’ve read this picture book, you know that each spread features
a black cat who looks like Smudge!
See the artsy cat shadow? Chipotle IS the meaning of life!

But I never wrote any microreviews or posted any photos. By February, I’d forgotten the whole thing.

It’s only March. There is time to get this particular train back on its tracks for 2020. But I’m no longer sure what works for me. Should I start blogging again? Microblog? Photograph each book (with or without cat props)? Log titles in a notebook? Or something else that I haven’t even thought of yet? How do you keep track of your reading life?






31 responses to “How Do You Track Your Reading?: Slice of Life 13/31 #sol20”

  1. Juliana Ellington Avatar
    Juliana Ellington

    I didn’t realize you were not keeping your notebook list anymore. You inspired me to keep my own little book of what I’ve read, but I do have a rating system (stars for good, half-stars for mediocre, down-pointed arrows for awful). I also list books that I abandon if I have read at least half the book, and I add ‘abandoned’ so that I know I didn’t finish. I miss your Monday blog posts–especially all those great picture book reviews, but I also understand how busy you are and how difficult it can be to restart a lost habit.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’d like to keep track of books I abandon, because there are a lot of those! Maybe I will try to get back to my Monday posts. I find I don’t finish a lot of books every week if I don’t have the pressure of needing something to write about on Monday!

  2. arjeha Avatar

    I have never kept a list of books I read and yet I should. I have often started reading a book and thinking that it sounds familiar only to realize I have read it before. Cats and books – they just go together.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Cats and books definitely go together! Even with tracking my reading, I occasionally find myself reading a book that seems familiar. Yep, there’s a reason for that!

  3. melaniewhite2014 Avatar

    Dogs and books are a practical and comforting combination; a built in bookrest and pillow combination 🙂
    And about your questions:
    Should I start blogging again? YES!
    Microblog? Photograph each book (with or without cat props)? A microblog with a photo is a great idea – take a picture as soon as you start to read, and then write three words that describe the book – words from your cat.

    How do you keep track of your reading life?
    Sigh…I don’t. But, I will now!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Brilliant idea to take a photo when I START to read the book. I got discouraged in my photo project when it had barely begun because I took a book back to the library before getting that photo. Then threw my hands up in despair and just quit, LOL.

  4. Terje Avatar

    I only track my reading on Goodreads. You should continue with cat and book photos and share these with the world. And you can ignore all suggestions from other people and do what you feel helps you the best to keep track of books or brings you the most joy.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      What brings the most joy…always a great way to decide what to do!

  5. Tim Gels Avatar

    The thing that comes to my mind as I read your post is that you never stopped reading! I’ve gone through a number of ways to keep track of different things, but usually give them up after I realize they don’t serve me or my interests–I was serving them. That said, if it’s an enjoyable way to augment an activity like reading, I’m all for it.

    Cats as props? Okay, that’s simply fantastic. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Any excuse to take a cat photo! Also, with six, they’re everywhere, so it’s not easy to find a willing prop!

  6. Leigh Anne Eck Avatar

    As my own reading life has ebbed and flowed, I think you should be celebrating that you have read all these years! Tracking, I think, is organic for each reader. Whatever works for you at that time in your life is the perfect record keeping system!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I like your thought that tracking is organic, all about what works at that time. That’s a helpful perspective.

  7. Kim K Avatar

    I never really kept track of my reading. Love the cat props by the way! I started about 3 years ago taking pics and posting them to Instagram with a quick non spoiling review. Some of my book reading friends do the same and I get some great recs that way. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Instagram could be a great place for mini reviews. Maybe a cats and books kind of Instagram! My two favorite things!

  8. Kristy L Avatar

    I track my reading with Goodreads. It connects with my Kindle and keeps track of all my books from the library without any effort on my part. I love to go back and see what I’ve read over the year.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I really like to look back over a year of reading and see what I’ve read too. Goodreads is definitely convenient.

  9. BeReal81 Avatar

    I especially like the photos of books with the cat props!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thank you! They were fun to take!

  10. Trina Avatar

    I love following you on Goodreads. You give me suggestions. And… I miss reading your blog posts. BUT – do what you need to do!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m going to try to get back to it. After all, I do have some unexpected time now!

  11. karpenglish Avatar

    Interesting. I find the reviewing part very difficult to keep up with, and rarely do that. As a kid, I always looked forward to the summer reading program and tracked my reading then. I continued to track my summer reading straight through graduate school. Then, for a few years before I started teaching, I did not have a summer break, so did not record my reading, which made me neurotic. I finally realized that I could write down ALL my reading, and started keeping a list in a notebook. (It has cats on it and cat quotes in it BTW.) I have an ongoing list of the author and title of every book I have read from July 1996 through the novella I finished at lunch today. I keep this book on the bookshelf in my bedroom (always, through half a dozen moves in that time), so I always know where it is. I find that I remember the books, so I am not worried about synopses or reviews. (And for the rare one that I don’t remember, I can look it up!) I started using Goodreads about five years ago when my nephew asked me to join, and I like recording books for the reading challenge and seeing what my friends read. This year, I started allowing myself to count audiobooks too. I rarely review books there either. I will stick my star rating on them for my own interest, but don’t have the time to craft meaningful reviews. (My theory is “who cares what I think? Did I like the book or not like the book.”) While I would love to take lots of arty photos (obviously with cat props!) and post them, or create beautiful book journal pages for each thing I read, I simply do not have the time. And for me to admit that I don’t have time for a challenge is very serious indeed! The one thing that I have never tracked is the books I read to my son, because I could not track the volume. Some days, I’d read twenty picture books, or one twenty times, and it was too much to keep up with. I suspect, given the nature of your job and your reading, that this is part of your problem.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Hahaha, I can so relate to reading to your son. I’ve never tracked picture books anywhere except Goodreads. I will take the time to flash my phone at a barcode, but I will not take the time to find my notebook and write down 7 or 20 titles! I, too, love the idea of beautiful book journal pages for each book I read, but that is probably never going to be me. Even in retirement, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have other priorities! I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a book on Goodreads, though I do add stars. I always forget the app has a social dimension and I can connect to my online reading friends there!

      1. karpenglish Avatar

        I don’t follow lots of people on Goodreads, because that would take way too much effort. But it gives me a nice column on the web page that shows what my friends are reading. Since my list is my sister, a few teacher friends, and few former students who are now grown-up people with jobs and kids, it is interesting to see what they are reading, and we ask each other questions or make recommendations some times.

  12. Amanda Potts Avatar

    Since you were 16?! My list only started when I was 22, I think. I was living in France & I started writing down books in Word… I allowed myself a *brief* description of each book, mostly so I could jog my memory. Fast forward TWENTY years… these days I’m a pretty reliable user of Goodreads & then I go back and update that old document. I like the Word list because I can update by just copying from Goodreads & it keeps count. It also lets me see how many books I average per year (minus picture books, I’ve been a steady book a week kind of person for years. I mean, sometimes I read more, but then there were the years I had tiny babies and could barely remember my own name – it all evens out…). But Goodreads lets me do categories & that is very nice. *AND* I like when you (and others) use Goodreads because you give me good ideas. So. Long story short: I use Goodreads regularly and update my ridiculously long document every couple of months. (And I am super glad someone else is into this sort of book list thing AND I need to start using my cats as props for basically everything.)

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Cat props are a legit thing! (Though I don’t know how Tippy will feel about this. She is no one’s prop.) I like the categories on Goodreads too, especially getting to organize by year and genre. Maybe I could try a once-a-month update of my handwritten list. That’s a good idea.

  13. Jody Avatar

    I use Goodreads just for longer books and I don’t use the social aspects of it at all, it’s just a running record of reading. The app on my phone means I can log a book easily whenever I finished one. I don’t keep track of picture books, there’s just too many. For awhile I used Litsy, which was billed as a mashup of Instagram and Goodreads, but I didn’t find it helpful for a quick review of my reading, but the reviews and social aspects were fun.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I really like the convenience of logging a book when I finish it. I don’t always remember to get all the picture books in!

  14. Obsessivemom Avatar

    Goodreads works well for me. And also the fact that I take up their reading challenge. The target reminds me to update my GoodReads account. Each time it tells me I’m behind I realise I’ve got books that I’ve read but forgotten to update. I love your idea of clicking pictures of books (better with cats :-)). The picture + a micro review should work fine.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Smart way to use the challenge to remind yourself to log your books!

  15. Shalzmojo Avatar

    I am a huge Goodreads fan as its let me ditch a manual system of keeping a book diary. I love to log my books there and can always go back to it to refer what I have been reading or would like to read more. Lovely pics of the books with the cats.

    Perhaps instagram would work better for you- you could post pics and do a mini review to that.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I hadn’t thought about using Instagram, but I like that idea! My son has been after me to start a catstagram account, so maybe I can merge my two interests: cats and books, and cats WITH books. Thanks for the idea!

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