WSIRN Ep 215: Finding the right way to track YOUR reading

WSIRN Ep 215: Finding the right way to track YOUR reading

Today we’re revisiting a topic near and dear to our hearts here at WSIRN HQ, and one that’s perfectly suited to this time of year, when we’re reviewing the year gone by and making resolutions for the year to come.

To get an accurate picture of your reading life, you’ve gotta track your reading—and in this episode, I talked to 14 different readers about how they do just that. I hope their methods and perspectives provide the inspiration and practical ideas you need to start your 2020 reading year strong!  

We cover a LOT of ground in this episode, starting with the more common methods like Goodreads, then moving on to the more inventive and unusual. Some readers even shared photos of their methods, and we’re delighted to include them here.

You’ll also find a transcript of the episode linked below, if reading along or referring back to a written version is helpful for you. We’ve been providing transcripts of the show for about a year now, to make the show more accessible to deaf and hard of hearing readers, readers who speak English as a second language, and anyone who wants to refer back to old episodes without listening all over again. If transcripts are helpful for you or a friend, know that you can always find them linked in each episode’s blog post.

Click here to read the full episode transcription (opens in a new tab).

Relevant links:

How today’s guests track what they read

a small 6-ring binder showing lined paper inside, colored tabs separating different genres, and erasable colored pencils lying next to the notebook.

Elizabeth’s commonplace book

The MMD printable reading journal


Alice’s Trello method

Deanna’s bookmarks

A peek inside my bookish journal

A look at an old list of “books I want to read”

ThirdLove makes great fitting bras that real women love—because a good-fitting bra makes everything you put on your body look better. WSIRN listeners can head over to ThirdLove.com/READNEXT for 15% off!

Ritual’s Essentials have the nutrients most of us don’t get enough of from food—all in their clean, absorbable forms. Right now Ritual is offering WSIRN listeners 10% off during your first three months!

How do YOU track your reading?

37 comments | Comment

37 comments

Leave A Comment
  1. Pinterest! I have a board for books I want to read, organized by category. I also have a board for books I’ve read and in 2019 I kept a board of books I’ve read this year, which I’ll do again in 2020. I like the visual aspect of seeing all the book covers together. Great topic!

  2. Joan Kyler says:

    Years ago, I created a program for my Mac in FileMaker. I have three fields: title, author, and date finished. This program allows me to sort by any of the fields. If I want to know every book I’ve read by a certain author, I sort by author. If I want to know which books I read in a certain year, I can do that. In addition, I write brief reviews of books I read on 3 x 5 cards and file them by author in a card file.

  3. Pam says:

    Excel spreadsheet! Only because I’m used to that method. I’m definitely open to other methods with three provisos: 1) Low starting and ongoing costs. I don’t want to have to buy a new software package, or pay a fee to access an online system, for example. 2) Little time invested in data entry, after setup. I’d rather be reading, than recording my reading life. 3) Small physical footprint. I’m trying to reduce the amount of paper in my life; it’s an ongoing battle, I must say. I am a clutterbug by nature.

  4. Andrea says:

    I have a Reading and Writing Notebook that I use with my students. We write about the books we are reading and we also write rough drafts and to prompts as well. It is a great way to see improvement and thoughts about reading/writing over a school year. I love it so much!!

  5. I’m struggling. On an ereader I can mark passages that stood out or take notes. But I love pen and paper more. Lately I take pictures of the passage so I can make decent notes and save quotes. I have no idea how to make notes when listening (I just finished a book with great thoughts but I did not capture them, which frustrated me). I’ll listen to this episode with heaps of attention!

    • Lola says:

      I bookmark audio book sections that I want to make note of, but it can be cumbersome to do that. Much easier to mark a paper book or highlight an ebook passage.

  6. Sarah says:

    After listening to the episode, I wanted to share a feature on Goodreads that helps with the tricky Did-not-finish issue. The default settings have 3 mutually exclusive shelves (read, to read, and currently-reading), meaning a book will only show on one of those shelves at a time. However, you can add more mutually exclusive shelves. So you can add a DNF shelf, or a shelf to track reccs for someone else, or a shelf to track books read for school or something else that you don’t really want appearing in you “read” or “to-read” lists.

    If you go to the My Books page on Goodreads and click the “edit” link next to “Bookshelves” on the left-hand column, it will take you to the edit my shelves page, which lets you adjust this feature of shelves, as well as some others (like whether or not the shelf is sortable or produces recommendations).

    Hope this will help someone else too.

  7. Lola says:

    I do use Goodreads because I like the stats it keeps for me, as well as, like a guest commented, the reading challenge banners on my home page. I also post some, but not all, of my books on Instagram. But my favorite tracking method from this year, and one I am going to use with even more detail in 2020 ,is Jane Mount’s beautiful Bibliophile 12 month planner. This book-themed planner is great for keeping track of, and commenting on, book club meetings (I belong to several), bookish events, such as author talks and festivals, podcast notes, book store happenings, and books as I’m reading them or as they cross my radar. It has been a really fun way to note and track my reading life for the year.

    • Suzanne C says:

      I’ve used Goodreads for several years, but I added a physical book journal and BoookRiot’s spreadsheet at the beginning of 2019. For 2020, I’ve made some changes to the spreadsheet to suit my needs (like changing the genres) and I’ll be making a few adjustments to my journal, but overall, the combination of these three have made a huge, positive impact on my reading life.

      • Suzanne C says:

        Lola, I accidentally cut off some of my comment when I posted. 😮 I’ve seen the Bibliophile planner, but Amazon didn’t have any pictures of the inside. Does it have room for regular planner-type things (appointments, etc.) or is it strictly book-related? It’s so pretty, but I can’t see myself keeping up with two planners.

        • Lola says:

          It’s absolutely a regular planner. A seven day week spans two facing pages and on one of those pages, there are 7 blank lines on the bottom to write notes. I just chose to use the whole thing for books and book related events but it is totally designed to be a regular planner. Hope this helps!

      • Sara Ault says:

        I use the bookriot spreadsheet too! I’ve modified it to track just the things I’m interested in and have added a tabs at the bottom for a DNF list and a want to read and who recommended it list. I’ve used it for three years now and it gets better each year. It’s a google spreadsheet and it’s free. Just make a copy and rename it.
        https://bookriot.com/2019/12/04/2020-reading-log/

  8. I use a combination of Goodreads, LibraryThing, paper, and a spreadsheet. I set a goal on Goodreads for a number of books to read in the year and when I finish books, I add them to my read shelf in Goodreads. I’ve been on Goodreads since it started, but only started consistently tracking my reading since 2012.

    I use LibraryThing for inventory only (I have 2550 books and 538 blu-ray’s or DVDs cataloged in LibraryThing). Your guest didn’t mention Tiny Cat, which is LibraryThing’s circulation management and is free if you have the lifetime membership to LibraryThing (which is only $25). I’ve made patron accounts for my friends and family. They can peruse my books and place them on hold. Next time I see them, I check the books out to them. I’m not terribly concerned when the books come back to me, but I am happy to know where my books are, should I be looking for them.

    For several years in the late-’90s and early-’00s, I tracked my reading on paper. These are just lists of what I read each month and the number of pages in the book. I currently keep my TBR on paper. To be honest, the TBR is aspirational at best. I rarely look back at it.

    I want all my TBR and read lists to be in one place. I’ve downloaded my Goodreads information into a spreadsheet and I’m massaging it a bit so that each year is on a separate tab. I’ll also add tabs for the years that I tracked on paper and a tab for TBR. I’m putting this spreadsheet on Google sheets so I can access it whenever I am.

  9. Derby Jones says:

    I read most of my books in the Kindle format, which does allow highlighting and note-writing. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I could download my notes in a nicely designed PDF file, which I copy and paste to Evernote, after adding my final thoughts on the book. You could simply keep the physical copies in a notebook as well, but Its’ very useful to be able to go back and read passages that stood out and any thoughts you had while you were reading the book. I also keep a simple chart that shows the books month by month to give that visual sense of what I’m reading every month. I’m constantly fine-tuning my system, but I’m happy with this right now! I would love to post pictures, maybe I’ll email them in!

  10. Thalia says:

    I’ve tracked my reading ever since I learned to read just under 30 years ago.
    When I was a kid I just kept my notes in a basic spiral notebook. I later moved to a spreadsheet, and finally to LibraryThing (although I still use the spreadsheet as well). I’m a librarian, so I love the cataloging abilities and the flexibility that LibraryThing provides.

    I’m just a little data-obsessed (LOL!), so I track my reading by title and author, as well as date read. I also track author nationality, date and place of setting, and original publication date. I use LibraryThing’s TinyCat catalog interface to style my reading log as a library catalog (link in username) with links to the various data sets, so anyone can browse my reading collection and see all the books set in Maine or written by an author from Canada or read in the 2010s. I really enjoy browsing my own collection too. It’s just so pretty! 🙂

  11. I used goodreads but also have a dedicated bullet journal to track my reading. In my bullet journal, I write a brief paragraph with my reflections on the book. The reason I started the bullet journal is that sometimes I want to privately track my thoughts on a book. Also, my grandfather used to write a brief sentence on the first page of every book he read (he owned all the books he read as we didn’t have a library in the town where I grew up). After he passed it was so nice to read his thoughts on a book. So that prompted me to start an analog approach to tracking my reading as I mostly read library books so I can’t write anything in the book. 🙂

  12. Eileen says:

    I have just begun using a standard binder with tabs. Primary tabs include To Be Read, Weekly Book Count, Comments, Did Not Finish, and Series. I thought about Excel, but went with a table in Google Docs that I designed for each category, i.e., for TBR I included author, title, source of recommendation, and brief comments.
    For Weekly Book Count, I included author, title, rating, date read,publication date,genre, and brief comments.
    I have five secondary tabs, one of which is Modern Mrs Darcy – love the recommendations I have gotten from Anne over the years, both from the blog and from WSIRN podcast, as well as the comments section! Thanks for sharing and letting me share this new book journal journey I am embarking on.

  13. Christa Burke says:

    I got a beautiful journal for Christmas and plan to start tracking books by hand. It won’t be easy to search eventually, but I think I’ll stick with it. Emails from good reads drove me nuts.

  14. Beth says:

    Regarding abandoned books in Goodreads. This used to drive me crazy too, but I figured out that you can actually edit your shelves in Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/edit

    So in addition to “Read”, “currently reading” and “to read” I now have a 4th shelf “Abandoned”. It makes me so much happier than the default!

    From Goodreads’ help section: “exclusive shelves: All members have three default shelves (read, currently-reading, and to-read), which are mutually exclusive, meaning a book can only be on one of them. Members can create as many additional shelves as they like, and books can be on as many non-exclusive shelves as you desire. This may be useful for shelves such as “reference” or “gave-up-on.” It may take a few minutes for the changes to propagate if you have a lot of books on this shelf.”

  15. Angie says:

    I love seeing my Goodreads Year in Books. However, this year I listened to a large number of audio books and felt disappointed with my end of year tally. I wish Goodreads would give me credit for hours listened somehow. I know it’s probably unrealistic but surely I could still get numbers added to my page count for this or at least hours listened. After all audio books do count 🙂

    • GlendaS. says:

      When you add a book, you can hover over the thumbnail of the book and it’ll pop up a link for “other editions”. If you click on that, it’ll list the various edition options for that title, including audiobook. You just want to be sure to change editions before you do any other editing because you can lose data when switching from one edition to another. So I chose the appropriate edition, then add my “date finished” and so forth.

      Unfortunately, the Year in Books data doesn’t show total audiobook hours, it just includes the book’s total pages in your year-end total pages. If you want to know how many audiobook hours are included in your year-end total pages, you have to figure it out on your own (as best I can tell).

  16. Beverly says:

    A couple of years ago I read “My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues,” by NYT Book Review editor Pamela Paul. In addition to describing her bare bones analog way of recording her reading in a single notebook, which she has done since at least high school, she weaves autobiographical stories with her reading life in the book. It was a good read and made me wish I had been tracking my reading life since childhood, too. So I bought a simple notebook to record month and year I read the book, title, author(s), and a simple symbol system of ratings for the books I finished. I decided not to bother recording books I abandoned.
    .
    To keep a list of books I want to read, I use my account at the local library, which is now part of a large library network. The system keeps track of my checkouts, and lets me create lists for books I want to read. In other words, my TBR pile is a hydra of lists by interest or genre. I can quickly open a tab in my browser to on-line recommendations at blogs and other sites, and another tab for my library account, and get the recommendations onto my lists. The frustrating thing is that I realize I have more books, including audio books and DVDs of movies based on books, than I actually have years to consume them. This makes me much more of a gatekeeper as to which books I bother to track at my library account.
    .
    I will also use Amazon to keep track of things I want to listen to, watch, or read, especially if my library system claims not to have the one I want. I have requested that the system purchase a book more than once if it keeps turning up on recommended lists but is not yet in the library system.
    .
    Maybe in 2020 I will finally start reading more ebooks on my phone or other devices, to help whittle the massive TBR I have amassed in only a few years.
    .
    I will some day switch to software for everything if I can depend on the software being so widespread in use that I can depend on it to still exist years into the future, and I can create thorough easy backups of my data to be stored at home, as well as in the data cloud. Keeping a little analog system has been the easiest for me, though.

  17. Melanie says:

    Goodreads was my first tracker, I continue to use this. Now with the yearly reading challenges my daughter in law creates pages in Sheets for our iPads so that she and I plus, my son, can track our progress and share our reads with each other. As a retired teacher and mom, I was so pleased to see my son take on books for the first time since his k-12 years! ❤️ My BFF and I love stationary, so when we found our favorite provider-1canoe2, now has a Reading Journal we both purchased one and are using it as well this year. I’m so happy to have your journal pages that offer lists of books as well!

  18. MelO says:

    I listened to the podcast and was really interested in seeing Liz’s reading notebook and log. She stated that she would send pictures. Did she? If so, I would really love to see them. Additionally, a friend of mine introduced me to your podcast last week and I am so glad she did! I’m recommending you to everyone! My kids and I are huge book lovers and I am excited that you’ve inspired me to begin logging my. books and having my kids log theirs. I wish I’d started this sooo many years ago, but at least 2020 is a cool date to begin!

  19. Francie says:

    Since the very early 90s, I turn to the back pages of my journal and start a list of what I’ve read. Once Goodreads came along, I added all my books to there. I have continued to keep track in both places. Me and my bestie have a reading competition each year to see who can read 10,000 pages, so Goodreads is perfectly setup for that. Spoiler, I have been in the 8000 page range the last few years, she’s retired and hits the mark every time! Definitely something to look forward to! 🙂

  20. Kelly S Rothschild says:

    I use many of the methods already mentioned but with some variation.

    I keep a list of the books I want to read in Todoist, my task manager, as apart of Someday/Maybe lists (a concept from David Allen’s GTD methodology). I have over 2,000 books I want to read! These lists grow at a faster rate than my current reading rate, but that’s fine by me. Someday, maybe … maybe not.

    I track what I’m currently reading with Toggl (a time-tracking app) and Evernote (I have a template which I duplicate and complete for the book I’m reading while I read it. Date Read, book details [Title, Author, Year], Quotes, Notes, Opinion, Rating (1-5★).] I use Libib cloud cataloging website & app to track what I own. It’s similar to LibraryThing. I, too, have the already mentioned problem of being in a bookstore and not remembering if I own the book or borrowed it from my local library.

    I use Goodreads to track my completed books. Like many others, I am motivated by the annual challenge and I enjoy seeing my Goodreads Year in Books. In addition to this, throughout my reading year, I take a short video of the book I’m reading. I compile these videos annually with 1SecondEveryday. This produces a 3-5 minute video of my reading year, which I share on Facebook. Most of my note-taking is very personal and private, so my only sharing is this one 1SecondEveryday video and my ratings on GoodReads.

    At the end of each year, I review my Evernote book notes, my Toggl time tracking, and this 1SecondEveryday video and ask myself how I felt about my reading, what I’ve enjoyed, what remains months after putting the books down. With each year, six years and counting, I’ve changed how and what I read for the new year. One year, I realized that 80% of what I read was written by white men. So the next year, I added more female, people of color, and LGBTQ authors, and also books in translation. Another year, I realized I was finishing books that I didn’t enjoy or provide value, but they were short and I could tick a little box. So, the following year, I gave myself permission to start yet not finish books. Another year, I discovered how combining audiobooks while simultaneously reading a physical hard copy helped me read faster and with great comprehension. This insight gave me the motivation to pick up 500+page and more intellectually challenging books.

    All this data tracking, this reflective looking back, altered how I read moving forward.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *