A fun way to track what you’re reading

A fun way to track what you’re reading

I consider tracking my books to be one of the next best things to reading—right up there with talking about books with fellow readers and dreaming about what to read next. We even devoted a whole episode to tracking the books we read on What Should I Read Next! We talked with 15 different readers about how they organize their reading records, and it was so fun, inspirational, and often, surprising!

Last week I had the pleasure of getting together with devoted reader and MMD Book Club Community Manager Ginger Horton in person. She shared how that episode inspired her to try one of the suggested tracking methods for herself.

Here’s what Ginger did: she borrowed Caroline’s idea from our special episode and got a Line-a-Day Journal (similar to this one here) that holds five years’ worth of memories and began recording, for her entries, what she’s reading every day. When she looks back on that journal one year from now—and then two and four and five—she’ll be able to see what she was reading at the time.

For some people, this may not be a huge deal. But for Ginger and many other dedicated readers, that record is a time machine. That tiny mental queue will take her back to the experience of reading that particular title—why she chose it, what she thought of it, where she was when she read it.

Ginger’s only been doing it a week but she already loves it. She says she can’t wait for next year to roll around because looking back at what she’s recording right now is going to be so fun!

I’ve tried to keep up with a line-a-day journal in the past (I have this one here) but I abandoned it long ago. (Not on purpose—I just kept forgetting to update it!) Ginger and our special episode inspired me to try and dig up my journal (which might be tough, considering our recent move and resulting state of disarray) and try it for myself.

Readers, would you consider tracking your books like this? Have you tried it for yourself? I’d love to hear all about it in comments. And if YOU have an unconventional method of tracking your reading, please share that as well! 

P.S. A few of my favorite line-a-day journals: Jane-a-Day, a floral line-a-day, and The Happiness Project one-sentence journal.

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54 comments

  1. Rachel says:

    I recently started bullet journaling. I do a page a day for my to-dos, keep a space for any thoughts on the day and at the bottom of the page track what we ate and what I read. It won’t be easy to flip back through as The Line A Day, but it will give a further glance into life at that time.

  2. Jess says:

    I have a leather bound Italian journal with a picture of the world on it, and I just simply fill out the books in order that I read and keep the year at the top. This is my third year doing this. I don’t care so much about all the details of a book, I just like keeping a chronicle of what I read. It easily lets me see what I consistently reread. I actually wrote a title on the inside page “All the books Jess read from 2015 until the end”. So now you can see my goal!

  3. Diana says:

    I really like this idea! I keep track on Goodreads but would love to compare what I read on this day a year ago. I think I need to pick one up!

  4. Heidi says:

    I’m a very visual person, so the title of a book won’t necessarily ring a bell for me, but the cover will. Since I turned 40, I’ve kept a file on Pintrest with the books I’ve read each year. My goal is to read as many books per year as I am years old (i.e. 40 books in my 40th year, 41 at 41, etc.) I then pin the book with the cover (if there are multiples) that I read and I rank them on a scale of one to ten. It’s been a helpful way to track what I’ve read and the new authors I’ve enjoyed. The first few years, I scrambled to meet my goals; since all my kids started school, I’ve surpassed them (I’m at 44 already and it’s 4 months until my 45th birthday.)

  5. Ann Perrigo says:

    My method of keeping track is Pinterest! When I finish a book I find an image of it and add to my “Books Read 2017” board. This is my third year of tracking my reading this way, and I really like the visual aspect of it. That reminds me–I must go over there and add 1984, which I just finished last night!

    • Ann Perrigo says:

      Oh, look! Heidi was adding her post at the same time I was! Great minds think alike, right, Heidi? Love the idea of reading as many books as you are years old, but quail at the thought of 70 titles!

      • Heidi says:

        Absolutely, Anne! The older I get, the more daunting the number, but I read 58 books last year, 15 beyond my goal. Every time I get discouraged, I remember the short Lit course I took one college summer — I read 17 books in 15 days and wrote papers on each. Whew!

  6. Joy B. says:

    This is an unexpected benefit of using Goodreads and that it posts to FB when I note that I’ve started or finished a book. I’ve enjoyed watching those updates showing up on FB Time-hop and seeing what I was reading a year or two ago.

  7. Tara says:

    Oh, I DO like this idea! I mean, I already use a Bullet Journal; I usually just keep a list of books on a page at the beginning of each month, but this would be a great way to keep track of when I started/finished a book and any short thoughts. Thanks so much for sharing this; I’ll definitely give it a try!

  8. Kim says:

    I spend a lot of time picking out my journal as that is as important to me as what I put in it. I prefer journals with good quality unlined paper. My current journal is handmade from a recycled & repurposed old Reader’s Digest book.(Found on Etsy) I record every book I read with title, author, date read, starred grade ⭐️, and a one or two line synopsis and/or my reaction to book. I also use my journal to record book quotes I found meaningful. One of my journals I started in 2005 and filled for 10 years now resides on my bookshelf. It makes me so happy to both see there amongst my favorite things as well as pull it out from time to time and peruse. Always puts a smile on my face.

  9. Amy says:

    I take a photo of the cover of each book once I’ve finished, and I have an album in my photos for these images. It makes it easy to share with others.

  10. Jennifer N. says:

    I know I would not keep up with a Line-a-Day journal, although it’s a brilliant idea for anyone who would. I just record the day I started and finished a book in my bullet journal and then I have a few Reading Log pages that constitute a master list. The earliest version of this was just the list with boxes to check when I finished the book. Now I’m leaving a few lines between titles to write some general impressions and anything else I want to remember about the book.

  11. Pam Pomar says:

    Oh no!Another must for me! MMD has influenced me to start a bullet journal and to track my reading on Goodreads. That should be enough, right? But I am intrigued by the idea of a quick picture of what I was reading on a given day over a five year span. I have become so obsessed with tracking the books I’ve read that I’ve started a hand written list where I just jot down every book I remember as it comes to mind. I even take a few minutes from time to time to go through NYTs old best seller lists to jog my memory. I work on putting them in a spread sheet when I get tired perusing the list. And yes, I have a full time job and read about a novel per week. I am interested in literary novels, often use the NYTs book review for suggestions as well as the long list for the National Book Award and the Man Booker prize. Starting these lists has helped me to recall so many special (good and bad) times when what I was reading became linked with the events of my life at the time. Much the way a perfume will remind me of the period when I wore it.

  12. Kathleen Nyman says:

    I just write mine in the back of a planner- just title. My girlfriend keeps a spreadsheet which helps with books that are re printed.

  13. Natalie B says:

    Back in 1997 my mother-in-law gave me a blank spiral notebook with a “Book Woman” graphic on the cover. I divided it up into 26 letters and started journaling my books by authors last name. I write a one line review of the book, and give it a rating and date. I love when I post a book to see what other books I’ve read by that author. I’ve kept it that way now for 20 years. My co-worker has begged me to join Goodreads and start posting there. I’m torn about whether to keep up both or make the technological leap to Goodreads? Would love to read other people’s comments.

    • kaye says:

      Make the leap to goodreads.com! The site is so full of book information and so easy to use.However, in full disclosure…I use both a Reading Woman journal and goodreads.com…the best thing for me about goodreads is that I can make and keep a list of books I want to read…so far around 281…don’t think I’ll ever get them all read…it’s a good way to keep up with your friend’s reading too! Go for it!

    • KG says:

      I keep a book journal separately from Goodreads, but I LOVE Goodreads for tracking what I’m reading and what I want to read. It’s so easy to pull up the app when I’m in the bookstore or library to add something to my TBR pile. I also go through my Goodreads TBR list to check things out at the library.

      One other added benefit to Goodreads is that I started a shelf for ebooks. I constantly buy daily deals and now have so many, I can never remember if I’ve already bought a book. With the ebook shelf on Goodreads, I can quickly check and know whether I have already bought a certain ebook.

  14. Carrie says:

    I have a novel journal that I just love. I purchased it at my local indie bookstore. Each line is a teeny sentence from a Louisa May Alcott book. I started it last year. I track each book I read (even if it’ one I give up on) numbered, give it a 1-4 star, reason why I chose it: Book Club, MMD, award winner and my thoughts on it. I’ll sometimes include what was happening in my life when I read it. I also use the journal to write down what I want to read, authors to see, a page for the reader’s challenge, and books to look into. Love going through my journals at the end of the year and picking my top ten!

  15. Karrie says:

    I previously entered books on a spreadsheet and tracked date finished and a 1-5 star rating. Several years ago I went digital and started using the app Book Crawler. I entered everything from my spreadsheet to the app but now they are all in there. The books can be sorted by date read, title, author, series….. love having my list with me when I go to the library and I’m looking for a new book!

  16. I usually just track on goodreads, and I’m thankful that the website is making improvements! It has come quite a ways since I first logged on. I would forget about this type of journal way too easily, but I wish I could keep up with it because I’d love it!

    • Karen Grosz says:

      I am with you, Julia. I have been tracking my books since 2009 in Goodreads and I love how easily accessible it is. I love that I can “see” the book and I can make notes for private or public. Love that Goodreads continues to improve.

  17. Grace says:

    Neat idea! I use and love GoodReads. I make separate shelves for each year which helps me when I’m looking back at them. The website is just so convenient, and while I don’t use it, a friend was just telling me they have an app for your phone as well.

  18. marijo storm hinton says:

    I think it is a great idea to log the books you read….I have kept a notebook of them for several years. I must confess some of it is because of my advanced years, and often forgetting I have already read a book unless I have written down that information. Of course, if I don’t remember that I have already read a book, I enjoy it again!!!!

  19. Anki says:

    I don’t know that I would use a 5-year diary solely for tracking the books I read, but I will regularly mention my reading in my 5-year diary (along with the weather, food eaten, special events, etc). It is fun to look back at what was happening in previous years.

    I am on my eleventh year of recording my reading in a spreadsheet on my Google Drive, and I also keep track of things on Goodreads and LibraryThing. The thing is, I rarely write reviews on either of those sites. I’ll give the books star ratings, but that’s about it. Last June I started also recording things in my shiny new silver Modern Mrs. Darcy journal, and one of the sections I decided to create was “Book Thoughts”, which are focused largely on how I felt about a book. What it reminded me of, where I stopped reading (if I set it aside permanently), stuff like that. I am *loving* this, and I wish I had started doing it years ago. The bullet journal style format turns out to be exactly what I needed in a book journal, and I am looking forward to many happy years of recording my reading!

  20. Erin says:

    Anne
    Here’s a question I’d love to hear you talk about, and your readers response. How do people record Family Reads. I do alot of reading aloud to my children, I have a mish-mash of incomplete recordings of 23 years of read alouds (and some audios) recorded. In bits and pieces of places all over. Currently I’m collating into an excel spreadsheet but I’d like something prettier. Considering either One Note perhaps or..?? and/or a Family Reading Journal, but something that will do the distance. Thinking to include online because I get asked alot about book recs for the whole family, so not doubling up on work. Love to know how you and your readers record family books.

    • Jennifer N. says:

      This is interesting. I’m attempting my first non-picture book read with my boys right now (Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH) and I just recorded it in my reading log with everything else I read. However, it might be nice to have a way to record them seperately so the boys have easy access to it.

  21. I love keeping track of what I read. I’ve discovered I’m reading quite a bit more books by men than women and intentionally reading more books by women to catch up! I also like to keep track of how many non-fiction vs. fiction. Goodreads makes it really easy to do all of this!

  22. Vanessa says:

    Our old library system, in Multnomah County, used to keep track of everything I ever checked out. I could always go back and find a good book from the year before. When we moved to Solano County three years ago, I found that they would not keep a log in order to protect the patron’s First Amendment rights on the off chance that lists were ever subpoenaed by the police. Interesting, I thought, but not helpful. I started to my write books down last year in a simple notebook and this year a couple friends told me to try Goodreads so now I am using that. It adds the cover picture automatically and the columns can be sorted in different ways, which I like.

  23. Eileen Hodge says:

    I keep tabs of the books I read on 3×5 cards and file them in a recipe box. A fun, simple, and inexpensive way to access and enjoy the precious memories of my treasured reads.

    • Jennifer N. says:

      I have thought of doing this! Maybe even using a color system for books as a rating for how much I enjoyed the book. You could even design the cards to look like the old card catalog system of yore!

  24. kaye says:

    In 1973, I started documenting what I was reading, but I wasn’t consistent. In 1978, I began writing down the book title, author, date I finished the book, and the genre. If I loved the book, I starred it. I have kept it up for all these years. Nothing fancy, but sure is fun to glance back and see not only what I have read but, the number books read per year! I never thought of keeping a record of what I read to my children or grandchildren…too bad…

  25. Caroline says:

    Yay! So glad to see that Ginger liked and is using my idea! I was so honored to share it on that special podcast episode. (Thanks, again, Anne!) And it’s so fun to read all of these great reader ideas in the comments.

    Also, Anne, that five-year Line-A-Day journal you link to first in this post is the exact one I have!

  26. Susan says:

    Here’s a couple of [unique] ways I’ve tracked what I read: In 2016 I created a 4×4 mini scrapbook album http://susanbowers.typepad.com/in_the_storm/52-new-books-in-2016/
    Another year I used one 12×12 scrapbook page to document the books I read to reach my goal http://susanbowers.typepad.com/in_the_storm/2015/11/30-i-mean-60-new-books-in-2015.html
    For the past six month I’ve been creating a 12×12 page of all the books I read that month. http://susanbowers.typepad.com/in_the_storm/what-ive-been-reading/

  27. KG says:

    After too many times getting halfway through a book only to realize I’d read it before, I started a book journal about 8 years ago. It’s in a Word document in which I record the book details, the jacket summary, my own summary, and the editorial reviews.

    In an effort to remember as much as I can about the book, I tend to write long summaries (easy to do since I’m typing), but it’s become cumbersome. It feels like a chore because it takes so long since I’m so determined to remember detail. I’d love to find a way to record enough detail without spending so much time on summarizing books rather than reading. 🙂

  28. JULIE CASTELL says:

    I don’t currently track, I use Goodreads.com as my tracker. Probably not the best mthod as I am a fast reader & consume many books.

    I’m open to getting a journal but trying to find the time to write what I’m reading plus put it on goodreads & everything else seems a bit daunting.

    • KG says:

      It is daunting to find time to journal everything – I find that especially challenging since I find myself writing so much detail when I journal what I’ve read.

  29. Stacy in TX says:

    A little late in commenting, but wanted to join in the fun. I use a combination of things for tracking. Goodreads is my primary tracker since having all my book information in one app is wonderful when at a book store and I’m trying to remember what books are on my wishlist. I also create shelves for each year so I know when I read a book. Since I love tracking stuff, there are also shelves that show when I bought a book. Once the book is read, then off that shelf it goes leaving the total left to be read.

    I use Library Thing for tracking but primarily for social interaction with people who are doing the same reading challenges that I am.

    Finally, I’ve been using the Day One Journal. It’s an online journal that lets you have multiple journals, so I have one for personal, garden information, and books. If I remember, I update the book journal daily with what I’m reading. It’s fun since Day One has the option to see what else you posted on that date in history, so as I use it more my book reading past will show up.

    • JULIE CASTELL says:

      Stacy,
      I use Goodreads as my tracker/all things reading related. I looked into Librarything.com & it looks better than Goodreads.com. How do you use both? I barely have the time to get on Goodreads. I only can use 1 site for my reading site but transferring all my stuff over to Librarything seems daunting. Any suggestions for a fellow bibliophile?

      • Anki says:

        I’m not Stacy, but I can tell you how I use both sites. There is some overlap, but each site has different strengths, which is why I find it useful to maintain accounts in both places.

        I joined LibraryThing in February 2006 (nearly a year before Goodreads was even a thing), and use it primarily as a catalog for my personal library. It lets me keep track of all sorts of information related to my books, and I have complete control over my library data. With relatively few exceptions, all the books I have cataloged on my LibraryThing account are ones I own or have owned at one point, and I try to keep on top of adding new books as they come in (I still have a backlog on my cataloging efforts, but at least it isn’t getting much worse).

        I joined Goodreads at the end of 2009, and it is the home of my ever-growing TBR list, as well as being one of my primary reading tracking systems (the spreadsheet I mentioned in my earlier comment on this post is my current primary tracking device). Because of how the data is managed in Goodreads it is easier to add generic/semi-generic editions of books to your shelves, which makes it ideal (for me, at least) for maintaining a searchable TBR list. The social networking aspects are also a bit more front and center.

        As for transferring all your stuff over from one site to the other, the process is made easier by the import/export features on both sites. So you could export your library on Goodreads (saving the file to your computer) and then import it at LibraryThing. LibraryThing also has a dedicated Goodreads importer, which as far as I know removes the step of you having to export the data yourself.

  30. Krista says:

    In the evening, before I close the book I’m reading and turn off the light, I scan the page or two I just finished and jot down a quote in my bullet journal. It could be anything: an image that stands out, a piece of interesting dialogue, an appealing turn-of-phrase. Some nights I forget, but I love the ongoing catalog of quotes that transport me right back to the book when I look them over. Here’s yesterday’s quote, from IQ by Joe Ide. “He looked like a man who’d lost his dignity and was too tired to go get it.”

  31. Karen says:

    Since I do most of my reading on my Kindle, I found an easy way to collect quotes and comments together from all ebooks with a timestamp for each one. I set up a separate private Twitter account and linked to it on my Kindle. Now I can select something, click “share” then Twitter, and include my comment at the beginning of the tweet. Later I can see those tweets in my usual Twitter feed.

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