Tracking things to read

Tracking books I’ve read is much easier – I’ve played with various options, including a nice straight plain text list, but I’m currently using GoodReads, because it’s got the nicest integration with WordPress in my opinion. (Just take a look at my sidebar…) But tracking what I *want* to read is a lot trickier.

Like most avid readers, I usually have a long list of books I want to read. But those lists can get complicated.

  • Some books aren’t out yet.
  • Some I want to get from my library (most)
  • Some I’ll need to buy (things not readily available from my library, or just plain books I want to own.)
  • Some might be out of print.
  • Some are going to be very popular, and I’m going to sit on the reserves list at the library for quite a while.

And most importantly, I want to read a wide variety of different kinds of books: when I’m looking for something new to read, I try to keep a balance between them. My basic categories include genre reading (fantasy, science fiction, mysteries), non-fiction, professional reading, books related to my religious interests, and I don’t like the list of one type of reading complicating finding titles of other types. Also, I sometimes have the “I want to read a mystery…” moments and don’t want to wade through dozens of other entries to find the mysteries.

There’s no really great solution for this. I’ve looked at various discussions – this discussion from the Unshelved Answers site on tracking books to read and this one from AskMetafilter on tracking books to read are both focused on tracking books already read, but include comments on tracking things to read as well. I’ve played with a few of the iPhone/iPod apps, and find them useful, but a bit cludgy: it takes me a long time to enter and move data around, and I read enough books that that’s problematic. (The one I like best is BookCrawler, though, if you’re looking…)

But I think I’ve settled down into a spreadsheet – in my case, in iWork’s Numbers, which I prefer to Excel when I get the chance. I have one page for fiction, and one page for non-fiction right now, but may split those out in other ways later.

My columns are:

  • Title (the thing I’m most likely to remember about the book, personally.)
  • Author (because it is also useful)
  • The publication date, with conditional formatting I’ll explain in a moment
  • Genre
  • And a brief notes field

The publication date is the trickiest one for me. I often hear about books a good while before they’re coming out, sometimes long before I can put a hold in on them at the library. Likewise, there are times I want to focus on recent titles (especially those that are getting a lot of conversation right now) so I can join in discussions about them.

My publication date column is therefore set up so that I can tell at a glance how recent a title is. I divided things up into books more than 5 years old, books 1-5 years old, books 3-12 months old, books out in the last 3 months, and books not yet out. This way, it’s easy for me to see what I might want to go and request at the library (or go and get from the bookstore.) and an idea of how long the reserve list might be. I can easily sit down once a month and add a reminder in my task management program for forthcoming books once they might be in the system, too.

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter

Comments are closed.

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

More about my job and a day in the life

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner