A couple weeks ago, Liz Finch asked me how I keep track of the books I read. I started this system a while ago, but it’s evolved and I figured it might be a good idea to share it with the world.
Here’s a breakdown of what I use:
- A pen that makes me smile (in this case, Dong-A Miffy Scented Gel Pen in Lavender Purple)
- A quality journal (I prefer Kikkerland)
- An inexpensive spiral or composition notebook (New Leaf makes some cute ones)
- Index tab stickers (one of the greatest inventions ever—pictured JStory Index Fun Rabbit)
Now to explain as best I can why and how I use all of those things…
When I read, I tend to jump around from book to book depending on my mood. At any one time, I could be reading four or five different books. That’s why I have the inexpensive spiral notebook.
Whenever I finish reading a section in one of the books, I’ll write a quick summary along with any notable excerpts (marked with the Post-It flags as I read) or personal thoughts I have during the reading. And when I pick that book up again, be it a day or a month later, I’m able to quickly catch up without needing to start the book over.
The reason I use an inexpensive notebook for this is because it’s not very useful in the long term—one page might be about Book 1 while the next page may be about Book 2 while the next several pages may be about Book 7. It’s rather haphazard. In fact, it usually ends up in the recycling bin. That’s why I have the fancier journal…
The real action happens when I finish a book. I crack open my “completed reading” journal and add a new entry. I’ll add an index tab sticker to mark its place, then I’ll add the book’s vital statistics: Date Read, Title, Author, ISBN, Page Count, Genre, Personal Rating, etc., and then I’ll write a full and thorough book summary followed by notable quotes and personal thoughts. Nice, neat, and organized.
Once complete, I’ll flip to the front and add the book’s title and rating to the journal’s table of contents. Which brings me to why I prefer the Kikkerland* journals—quality binding, quality paper, and they come with pre-numbered pages with a dedicated table of contents.
This process allows me to keep track of the books I’ve read, which ones I’ve enjoyed and would like to re-read, and which ones I can safely give away without feeling guilty. And I don’t have to worry about forgetting a particular book’s storyline if I do give it away.
Now, if I were less A.D.D. I could probably nix the “in progress” notebook and just jot everything in my completed reading journal when I’m finished. But, I’m not, so…
And although this is a post on how I manage my books in an analog way, I must concede there’s a bit of digital involved, too. I tend to keep a spreadsheet where I note the title of a book and whether or not I’m reading or finished, and whether it’s awaiting review. I could probably manage this list using Goodreads, but I haven’t found a groove within that system…so I’m sticking with what I know.
There you have it…my system in a nutshell.
*It’s a sad day as it looks like Kikkerland is discontinuing its Leuchtturm notebook line. I’ve already stocked up so I’ll at least have several more reading journals available when I need them—each one can hold roughly 20 book summaries. And when they’re finished, guess I’ll have to start numbering Moleskine journals. (Or maybe I’ll get lucky and another notebook manufacturer will smell the potential and start producing quality journals with numbered pages and tables of contents.)