How Do You Track Your Reading?

What’s the best way of keeping track of the books you read and those you own, but have yet to read?

I’ve only been keeping a record since 2012 when I began this blog. For the first few years I used Library Thing but though the discussion groups were excellent, I didn’t care for the technical side of the platform — it involved too much HTML code to make it user friendly. So then I moved to Goodreads which proved much easier as a way of keeping a note of what I read each year.

But when I started projects like the World of Literature and the Booker Prize winners, I needed a better system. So I switched to using a spreadsheet in 2018. This gives me far more flexibility to sort and filter the data. I store it in the Cloud via Google Sheets so I can access it at any time from my phone or iPad.

Now I can see at glance which books I read in a particular year, the countries of origin of their authors and the split between fiction and non fiction.

But some bloggers clearly record a lot more information about their reading. Lisa’s 2020 wrap up post at ANZLitLovers for example includes info showing the balance between books she purchased that year and those read from her TBR; new-to-her authors versus familiar names and how she obtained the books (gifts, library etc) of the book. In her 2020 review post, Annabel at Annabookbel talked about the average page count of her reading, the year of publication and the language of the publication. This is all in addition to some nifty looking charts.

As I approach the ninth anniversary of Booker Talk I’ve started to wonder if its time to re-think how I keep track of my own reading habits. My current spreadsheet uses this format (the link will take you to a template containing mock data). The first columns let me keep a record of the number of books read each year, or unfinished or given away. I’ve built in some formulas that give me a running total of my TBR and progress towards reducing it to a manageable size.

Spreadsheet tool to track your reaching each year

The second set of columns record the author’s country , year of publication, the genre and miscellaneous notes such as whether the book is part of a series.

Spreadsheet tool to track your reaching each year

I use this in parallel with Goodreads but mainly use the latter just to give me a quick visual view of the year.

The debate I’m now having with myself are whether the spreadsheet is the easiest most effective tool to use or is there another way, If the spreadsheet is the best option, then how much more do I want to add ?

It would be tempting to insert columns reflecting all the elements Annabel and Lisa use but I’m conscious that just because you can measure something it doesn’t mean you should. What aspects of reading make most sense for me to keep on my radar is the question I’m wrestling with.

So let me take advantage of the wisdom of crowds and ask you all about the system you use to track your reading? What do you track and what system have you found works best?

BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

60 thoughts on “How Do You Track Your Reading?

  • February 7, 2021 at 1:57 am
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    I am crazy, well you already know that lol, but I track my reading in 3 different ways: on paper, in a small alphabetical notebook. In Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5215426-emma), and in a large yearly Google sheet, which I edit after each book I finish, to make end of month/year stats easy. I have some columns in common with yours. Feel free to copy some of my columns if you find them useful: shorturl.at/kuCRV

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  • January 28, 2021 at 7:25 am
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    I keep a couple of spreadsheets – one for my to-be-read books, and another that tracks books I have/will review on Keeping Up With The Penguins. For a while, I tried adding in additional information – publication date, author info, etc. – but it just got to be too much of a hassle. I use Goodreads as well, but that’s mostly just for fun. All told, I think I’ve hit a good balance, between what’s useful and what’s practical.

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    • January 28, 2021 at 10:54 am
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      Finding that balance is what I’m trying to do Sheree. I know I don’t need to add columns for gender or page numbers since I’m not interested in that kind of analysis.
      I’ve decided to start at the end and work backwards to help me make a decision. By that I mean I should first decide what do I want my end of year “report” to tell me; what headings would I use – and then only record the data that supports those headings/analysis.

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      • January 29, 2021 at 3:16 am
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        Sounds like you’re onto a winning strategy there! Good luck!

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        • January 29, 2021 at 12:04 pm
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          Thanks Sheree. I’ve now given myself another challenge – trying to find a way of scheduling Twitter posts and keeping track of them

  • January 28, 2021 at 4:21 am
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    I have used GoodReads for years. Once upon a time I used to track reading habits in spreadsheets but I can’t be bothered with all that now… it’s too much like the day job and reading & blogging is supposed to be a relaxing hobby, not a chore.

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  • January 27, 2021 at 10:25 pm
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    I have an Excel spreadsheet going back to about 1996, but the first few years were backfilled from my old reading journals where I wrote most books I read, so are not completely accurate. I did also start using LibraryThing in the early 2000s because its data was exportable while GoodReads wasn’t but that was for my “library” and not for my “reading” so I stopped. I do enter my reading into GoodReads (mostly) but as I also want to track individual short stories and essays (eg from Library Of America) that I read and review, GoodReads doesn’t hack it as you can only enter books.

    I keep it basic in the Spreadsheet: Author, Title, Publisher and Year of Publication, Rating (just for me), Genre/Form, first line and brief description. Other information I get from categories and tags on my review in WordPress like Women writers, nationality, Indigenous Australian, etc. I don’t worry about form – ebook, hardback – or source (though I sometimes think I’d like to do that – review, gift, purchase). I use Google Sheets for some things, but not for this, as I don’t feel the need to have it available when I’m out and about.

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  • January 27, 2021 at 6:10 pm
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    I track through Goodreads, and use the optional shelves to go as deep as I want (e.g. I have shelves to track “paper”, “ebooks” or “audiobooks” etc).

    I could use a spreadsheet to go deeper if I wanted to, but like you say: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. There was a time i felt guilty about not reading more “diverse” authors, but actually, I could do that in Goodreads, e.g. I already have shelves for “Asia, India, China” etc) – I could always track additional info there (and I dont need Goodreads to tell me I’m not doing well enough :)! ).

    Goodreads also has the export feature if the Reader Gatekeepers wanted to check my Diversity homework.

    I do use a spreadsheet (similar to the one above) for Twitter Content. E.G Feb is Romance Novels, May is Comic books, December is Christmas. Therefore I filter on the appropriate column, and there are the posts I class as relevant, especially the older/no longer performing ones

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    • January 27, 2021 at 6:18 pm
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      I have shelves set up so I can monitor the diversity of my reading. What I can’t get it to tell me though is which books from each of those shelves I read in the specific year. It will tell me for example that I read xx authors from Spain across all the reading years but not the figure for say just last year.

      I’m intrigued by your Twitter spreadsheet – do you record every Twitter post you create?

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      • January 27, 2021 at 6:34 pm
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        God forbid I record every Tweet! I have 4 accounts I look after, where most of my posts are relatively time dependent. The only Tweets I tend to keep are the personal ones for @brumnordie. There are some that I schedule far in advance (e.g. the ones that come out in December that talk about Valentines Day and Romance – one or more copes get scheduled for Feb, then I generally ditch after 8 tweets per account).

        In goodreads I have a shelf for the year I read a book, and then the other optional tags, so something could be down as “2021 [i.e. I read in 2021], to-review [I have yet to post where the review is here ]; Spanish Author, Spain [as in main location of story], paper/ebook/audiobook; audible/bookshop/subscription/bookgroup;

        I’m Nordie on Goodreads, if that helps. Also, happy to share my twitter sheet if you think that would help

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        • January 27, 2021 at 10:09 pm
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          Phew, I was just thinking how much work would be involved if i did a spreadsheet with every twitter post. Thanks for re-assuring me…

          I would be really interested to see your Twitter sheet because I am trying to move away from a paid service for posting and I need to find a way of keeping track of what is scheduled 3 months/6 months ahead. You can DM me on Twitter if that is the easiest for you

  • January 27, 2021 at 6:02 pm
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    I use Goodreads and my bullet journal. I do a monthly read page. I like knowing what month I completed a book and how many books I complete each month.

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    • January 27, 2021 at 6:11 pm
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      I’ve not looked at keeping a journal though I have plenty of lovely looking notebooks I could use. I suppose the only issue I’d have is that I wold have to take it with me when I go shopping just to make sure I’m not buying a book I already own

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  • January 27, 2021 at 4:56 pm
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    I just use Goodreads and my trusty notebook to be honest, I don’t think I could manage anything more!

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    • January 27, 2021 at 5:41 pm
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      I see a lot of bloggers mention they use notebooks. It’s not a habit I’ve ever got into so I’m curious what people use them for – do you just list the books read and when or do you make notes about each book?

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      • January 29, 2021 at 12:04 pm
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        No, I plan my blogging month and list what I’d like to read and what I need to review. If I’m reading short stories I keep a track of each story and what it was about, but mostly I use it for planning. I’m a list nut so it helps!

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        • January 31, 2021 at 4:31 pm
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          I just keep a document in the cloud that serves the same purpose. Easier to carry around (not that portability is an issue these days when I go no further than the supermarket)

  • January 27, 2021 at 4:41 pm
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    My book tracking has gone through so many iterations! I started keeping track back in the late 1990s in a notebook. Then I just started using my blog. Then I joined Library Thing but didn’t find it great for tracking my reading only tracking what books I owned, which is convenient when you are out at the bookshop and don’t remember if you already own the book in your hand. So then I tried a fancy spreadsheet and didn’t like it so built a little database and liked that for a long time but then stopped liking it because I had so much detailed data I kept adding and decided in the end I didn’t really care. So I have been using Goodreads for the last couple of years and it’s been ok but ultimately unsatisfying. So now I am thinking of going back to using notebooks again but in conjunction with Goodreads. The notebook would be for information about the book, but also a place to keep the notes I write about the book–currently I write them on scraps of paper and then promptly lose them!. And Goodreads would be for the easy list filtration, sort of like an e-index that I can use to find the book I read and then track it down in the dated notebook. Ha! We’ll see how long I stick with that one!

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    • January 27, 2021 at 5:44 pm
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      Goodreads can work for some things like telling you which books you read in a particular year. By using tags I can see for example which Indian authors I’ve read – but it won’t let me do a list of all the Indian authors I read in a specific year….
      I don’t keep notes about the books as I’m reading them beyond using post it notes which have a habit of coming adrift from the relevant page. Most frustrating. There was a blogger recently who said they use post its when they read at night but then they have adopted a habit where the next morning they write up those scribbles into a notebook. Sounds very doable!

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  • January 27, 2021 at 4:26 pm
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    I have been using a spreadsheet since 2005. It has 6 columns now – Title, Author, Source (Personal Choice or a book group) Date, Opinion, and Author Gender. Opinion includes abbreviations for Historical Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction, Bio, Memoir, and Autobiography. I have through that it would be useful to include the format (book vs electronic) to let me or others know where the book can be found. Overall, the system helps me keep track of what I have read and which series I like. The spreadsheet works for me because I can easily sort the information.

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    • January 27, 2021 at 5:54 pm
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      Yes its the ability to sort that I like about a spreadsheet. Because I use mine to record all my TBR books if there is a reading event for a particular geography or a publication year I can quickly check what I have available.
      When I saw you had a column called Opinion I thought thats where you recorded a star rating

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  • January 27, 2021 at 10:39 am
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    I used to keep a spreadsheet of all my books, but somewhere in the moving houses process and updating of computers from floppy disc to CD roms to USB memory sticks, I lost it.
    So now I just use Goodreads to track what I’m reading, to make notes of any quotes I like and when I finish it. If I hear about a book I’m interesting in hunting down, I add it to the Goodreads want-to-read list, so next time I’m in a bookstore I can find the name of that book again!
    I do have a list on my blog of all the books in my TBR pile, compiled when I realised I was acquiring some books twice, because I had forgotten that I already had it! I can double-check this list from my phone before purchasing anything. It has saved me several times in past few years!

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    • January 27, 2021 at 6:20 pm
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      I have a want to read/wishlist too in Goodreads and periodically review it to decide if I still want to read the book.

      How do you use it to make notes of quotes – where do you insert those?

      You have your TBR on your website?? I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone else doing that.

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      • January 27, 2021 at 8:56 pm
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        My TBR list is called Mount TBR & sits under the This Reading Life menu.
        In good reads, you can update your reading progress for each book. You can make a note, write down a quote or even leave yourself a question to research later. Sometimes it means I’m updating my progress every second page, but it also means I can go back & find the quote I’m looking for because I’ve got the corresponding pg number.

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      • January 28, 2021 at 6:54 am
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        I’ve hit my first big block editor hurdle Karen! I’m trying to update my Mount TBR page, but I cannot for the life of make a list (without using dots or numbers).

        I’ve tried using the group block but any time I try to add a new book, I end up with a HUGE gap between that book and the next in the list and it wont let me decrease the line spacing. Help!!
        https://bronasbooks.com/my-reading-life/mount-tbr/

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        • January 28, 2021 at 9:37 am
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          Brona, WP and double spacing drive me batty. I go into HTML and type: xx open diamond bracket br close diamond bracket a few times. Then go back to Visual, copy as many lines as I need and type over all the xx’s

        • January 28, 2021 at 10:48 am
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          Ugh that doesn’t sound like much fun. There will be an easier way.

        • January 28, 2021 at 8:57 pm
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          Thanks I’ll try that Bill. I’m comfortable playing with some coding if that will do the trick.

          I also went back to my own notes & used the preformatting option. It just means whenever I add books to my list. I will have to remember to do this step each time.

        • January 28, 2021 at 10:26 am
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          When you are working in the list block, go to the Block Settings options in the Content Settings section (it will probably be on your right). This is where you see the formatting tools specific to the list block. You should see choices of bullets. There is one style option called ‘none’. Just click that and all the bullet points, stars etc should go.

          If you don’t see those list formatting options it might be that the theme you are using restricts your options

          Give it a go – if it doesn’t work, let me know. If you want to send me a screen grab, either do it in Twitter direct message to @bookertalk or to my email bookertalk at gmail dot com

        • January 28, 2021 at 9:00 pm
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          Thanks Karen. I ended up using the preformatting option as all these pages are from my old blog & automatically use the classic mode.

        • January 28, 2021 at 10:39 am
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          I found an alternative for you in case you don’t have the formatting options I just mentioned.
          You can change the list appearance using a little HTML code.

          What you do is …
          – click at the start of your list
          – go to the little three dots in your formatting bar – the one where you can click bold, italic etc (mine is at the top of the screen). In the drop down menu select “edit as HTML”.
          – you’ll now see a string of HTML code which will begin with a < and then say ul class="is-style-default". that will be followed by a whole string of other stuff you don't need to worry about. I've tried copying the string in but it doesn't show up correctly - all you need to do is to change that word "default" to "none" - then use the format drop down menu again to change back to edit visually - if that HTML string has a different word than default - it might say 'dash' or 'star', don't worry, just overwrite it to 'none'. - be careful not to change anything else in that html string I'd suggest you do your list in several blocks to make it easier Good luck!!!

        • January 28, 2021 at 9:02 pm
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          I didn’t think coding changes were possible in wp, so that’s great to know I can tweak stuff as I explore more!

          Thanks so much for taking the time to help me with this. I really appreciate it 🙏🏽

        • January 29, 2021 at 12:05 pm
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          There will be some changes you can’t make even via html but basic formatting ones should be possible with any theme. Hope all goes well.

        • January 28, 2021 at 10:58 am
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          Karen, your way sounds easier, and I’ll give it a try. I’ve been copying over the top of single spaced lists for years, they were easier to create in Classic but still involved HTML. My ongoing problem will be making single spaced lists for my work blog on my phone – I don’t ever see the menus you have down the side of a full size screen.

        • January 28, 2021 at 5:01 pm
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          I sympathise with anyone trying to blog using their phone – it’s hard enough on my iPad.
          See if this works for you – I don’t have wordpress editor set up on my phone so had to do this on the iPad but the settings should be still the same.

          In your post, click in one of your content blocks. Now you should see the toolbar you use to change the basic format to bold, italic, or to add a link etc. At the end of that block, next to the down arrow, you should see three little dots, one above the other, Click that to see a drop down menu. The first one says “show more settings’. That will open your block editor options where you can change line height etc

        • January 29, 2021 at 4:25 am
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          Thanks Karen. What Brona said, I appreciate you taking the time to do this. I did what you said (about line height) and it worked. I think the real problem both Brona and I have is the automatic double space that follows Enter. But you have given us ways to deal with that I think.
          I have a Chinese phone running Android and WP worked as you said it would. Each ‘blog’ is just a heading, a few lines about the trip and a photo. So that customers can see what I’m doing/have done. And the editor on the phone is fine for that (and it saves me having to send my photos to another device).
          You don’t need to have a look but billhtrucking.com if you’re curious. The posts are under ‘Trips’.

        • January 29, 2021 at 12:04 pm
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          So glad to hear these fixes worked Bill. When I press enter, it looks on the editing screen as if there will be a double space but then when I look in preview it’s just normal spacing. Have you checked how the post actually looks?

  • January 27, 2021 at 10:37 am
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    Thanks Lord. Yes it was the link in the other comment that was the issue – it just needed my approval to show up. I’ll take a look at the Nose Graze tools. They sound interesting.

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  • January 27, 2021 at 10:29 am
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    I don’t review more than a fraction of what I read, so I list the others from time to time then add them up at the end of the year. Goodreads, I can’t say I’ve never been there because that’s where half the book searches you do end up, but it has never occurred to me to use it. Sheets I have begun using recently for recording my locations/the locations of my equipment (like every other small business I do my accounts on Excel) and I can see how I might use it also for recording what I have read without having to wait till I’m home.

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    • January 27, 2021 at 10:39 am
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      It would be a full time job for you to review everything given how much you read Bill. Google sheets doesn’t have as much functionality as Excel but is far more practical because yiu can synch with other devices and also use offline.

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  • January 27, 2021 at 8:32 am
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    I used to use LT to track my books but my library is in a constant state of flux so that went out the window. The blog serves part of the function of tracking (LOL) but I now use a simple spreadsheet to record incomings on one tab, and have an annual tab recording reads, when I finished, when I reviewed and when book was published. I am in awe of people with fancy spreadsheets which produce all those statistics, but at the end of the day that’s not the kind of reader I am – so my simple version will do!

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    • January 27, 2021 at 6:27 pm
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      I don’t see myself going into such level of analysis either. The page count for example isn’t a key factor for me. If that’s what other bloggers want to keep track of that’s absolutely fine, I just know its not for me.

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  • January 27, 2021 at 6:40 am
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    I’m super lazy about recording things. I just posted about how I’m going to try to post at least a short note on Goodreads for every book.

    In addition to do it yourself spreadsheets, which I think are cool even though I’ve never gotten organized enough to use them, Ashley from NoseGraze has produced a couple of plugins for book bloggers that can be used for organizing and recording info. The classic is Ultimate Book Blogger, which I have used and can recommend, and she has more recently created a Book Database plugin that I’m eyeing. Here’s a link to the shop page: https://shop.nosegraze.com/

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  • January 27, 2021 at 5:58 am
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    I track reads on Goodreads but I’m not that interested in their end of year stats, which highlight number of pages read and shortest/longest books and most/least popular, that leaves all the richness out of my year.

    I use a spreadsheet, but I only it populate it once at the end of the year and I pull the titles from a page in my blog called Books Read 2021 where I list the titles I read by month. I often look back at this list and it’s a reminder also to which books I really favoured.

    For me, the country/culture the author’s cones from is important so I note that, also the genre, also translations. I track only what really important to me or something I want to be aware of, or change/improve.

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    • January 27, 2021 at 6:29 pm
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      You’ve hit the key point Claire – record only the info that is of importance to you. Good advice for me to have in mind as I think about an upgrade to my spreadsheet

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  • January 27, 2021 at 2:57 am
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    For about a decade I used a simple spreadsheet that I’d add new features/columns to every year. But last year I gave up and switched to https://readervoracious.com/2021-reader-spreadsheet-template/ (well, the 2020 version). I don’t use all the features of this, but a lot of them. Goodreads leaves me dissatisfied (not that I’ll stop using it, I’ve been at it for too many years)

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  • January 27, 2021 at 2:17 am
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    I keep track of my books in two main places: The StoryGraph, which I started using late last year (it’s a superior experience to Goodreads), and on a GoogleDocs spreadsheet. Mostly, I use it to keep track of author gender, author nationality, where I got the book (library, my own shelves), and the year of publication. I know other readers will keep track of even more information than that, but I read too much in a year to go into minutiae.

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  • January 27, 2021 at 2:07 am
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    This year I’m trying, trying, trying to keep up a spreadsheet. I have tried and failed for countless years. I am keeping my info-tracking to a minimum, though, and hope to use it mainly to keep count of books and audiobooks, so I just include author; title; format (ebook, eaudio, print); reading dates; and notes. I also use LibraryThing to track my reading, and I try to keep up with that. I’m really not a numbers person, but I admire all those detailed spreadsheets and charts…including yours!

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  • January 27, 2021 at 1:47 am
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    One of these days, I hope to be more organized. For now, I enjoy reading about others who are ahead of me. Thanks for your post.

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  • January 27, 2021 at 1:09 am
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    I also use a spreadsheet, which I find both easier and more flexible than things like Goodreads. I record: title; author; fiction/non-fiction/poetry; gender of author; original language (if not English); and century of publication.

    This allows me to keep track, as well as overall numbers, of things like balance of male/female authors (generally around 1:1, although 2021 is currently 7:1 F:M), proportion of books read in translation (usually c. 25%, with French by far the most common language of origin), and at a high level, the age and era of the books (skewing increasingly towards the twentieth century).

    This year I’m thinking that I should get more granular and go with year, rather than century, of publication; I also plan to start recording whether something is a re-read.

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    • January 27, 2021 at 1:34 am
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      This seems like a good list of atributes to track. Not that I have the energy to do so but I like your choices.

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  • January 27, 2021 at 12:57 am
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    I use Goodreads and an excel spreadsheet. I started the spreadsheet as a backup to goodreads…..and also because I’m a data nerd. I enjoy the social aspect of goodreads (commenting, liking) and there’s a thrill in creating various virtual shelves. I like that I can pull it up on my phone any time to make note of a title or to see if I’ve read it etc. I like my spreadsheet for tracking in additional areas….which vary from year to year. Last year I tracked how many books were borrowed from the library, women authors, etc. I realize I could probably create a goodreads shelf for this data but I didn’t know if I wanted to track these things forever or just one year. In January, I started using Story Graph, too, just to see for a year how it compares to goodreads.

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  • January 27, 2021 at 12:33 am
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    I tried home base from Abe books a while back but ended up losing a lot of my work in notes and inventory, even with backup, so I just make a plain booklist in word and haven’t worried about inventory. Thanks for the inspiration, I should consider it again

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  • January 26, 2021 at 11:47 pm
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    Spreadsheets remind me too much of hard work! Basically, I record the books I either own or love in a Word document, the rest evaporate from whence they came. After shunning Goodreads for years, I now find it a source of reference (particularly my Australian Women Writers shelf) and link my reviews to my blog.

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  • January 26, 2021 at 11:16 pm
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    I pretty much only track what books I’ve read with a list in a notebook and on Goodreads. I also track the physical books I own on my Goodreads to be read shelf so when I am shopping I can tell from a quick search if I already own it. When I see everyone’s awesome end of year stats I always think I should track more info but I don’t.

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  • January 26, 2021 at 11:14 pm
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    I’ve not used a spreadsheet as I haven’t learned how yet. Meant to. I do use data bases and tables in word process programs. I used to use Good Reads but I kept getting so many emails from them with outdated information I closed the account. Now I have a table in my word document. I need to get off my behind and work out the spreadsheets as I know that is the best way. But I am not one to look behind at what I’ve read once the year is over. I don’t see the point and my own stats just don’t mean that much to me outside of the year I’m in. Clear as mud, right?

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    • January 27, 2021 at 6:21 pm
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      As someone who has spent her career in IT, all I can say is:Keep It Simple, Stupid. Do not overthink this malarkey, you’ve got this far in life without it.

      If you want a spreadsheet (excel or otherwise) I suggest keeping the following info as the minimum:

      Title
      Author
      Link to review (if you did one)
      Format (paper book, audiobook, ebook)
      ISBN (if you know it).
      Date/Year read

      Really that’s it.

      You can then add in extras if you feel like tracking it, e.g. fiction/non fiction, Historical Fiction,True Crime. Romance. Two or more of the above. It’s entirely up to you what you do.

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      • January 27, 2021 at 6:24 pm
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        Keep it simple is a good piece of advice, sometimes we can indeed over complicate things

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        • January 27, 2021 at 7:59 pm
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          I had a long explanation of mine. I live in excel so enjoy the nuances of creating reference cells and tabulating. The newest one I’ve added because I always went back and calculated it at the end of the year is weather an author is new to me. All of the other charts you can see here are pulled up from the 10 columns I use.

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