A Primitive Book List: How I Keep Track of My Reading

So, in the five months I’ve been blogging, I haven’t become a world-renowned, gloriously successful book blogger.  I don’t have six billion followers, and I don’t have companies begging me for ad space.  (I can’t even get Google Adsense to approve my application.  Help? Anybody?)  But, I did get Freshly Pressed with this post, which gave me a much-needed boost of confidence!  And I now have over 500 followers, which makes blogging a conversation with a bunch of new friends.  I enjoy this interaction.  Despite my apparent lack of major success, I do have a detailed record of what I have been reading, and that to me is its own reward.  More generally, blogging is its own reward because of its record keeping value.

My blog has become a more detailed list of what I read.  I have been keeping track of my reading for the last eleven years.  When I worked as a secretary just out of college, I found myself mostly bored with the occasional correspondence to type or the few and far between phone calls to answer.  During one of the more dry spells, I decided that I would create a list of every book I had ever read.  I spent the next few weeks and months writing down the books I could remember.  I kept having flashbacks to childhood and summer trips to the library, where I usually found myself drawn to the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys section.  There was also a strange Romance section for young adults that included ridiculously corny and dramatic tales of young women becoming lost in the woods or drawn into strange crime syndicates only to be rescued by the perfect boy next door.  (Sounds a lot like Nancy Drew.)  Anyhow, I don’t remember what any of these teen romances were called, and I have not seen them since.  They may be a relic of the 1960s.  (If you know what I’m talking about with that vague description, let me know.)  And no, I was not alive in the 1960s, but the library branch I visited in a small rural town would have kept these books to fill the shelves, which were pretty bare to begin with.  Money makes the world go round, right?

So, I typed up all of these books that flooded my memory.  I divided them into categories: Fiction, Short Story and Poem Collections, Short Stories, Poems, Non-Fiction, Children/Young Adult Books, and Essays.  (The single essays, short stories, and poems really pad the numbers at the end of my list.)  After each title, I listed the author, and then I have a column for the word “Yes” or “No.”  This is whether or not I would recommend the book.  Some books have Yes!!! and others have No.  I guess I could have done something more useful, like a five-star system or some sort of brief description, but I did not think of that at the time.

I later migrated to Visual Bookshelf on Facebook, but when that went kaput, I switched over to Goodreads.  I am enjoying Goodreads.  I still don’t give wordy reviews or descriptions, but it is a backup copy of my primitive list that I started all those years ago and which I still keep.  (I would love to connect with any of you on Goodreads, if you have an account.  Look for me as “Emily January Petersen,” my married name.)

At the end of each section on my book list, I have totals for how many books I have read.  At the end of the entire list, which now spans thirty-one pages, I have the grand total.  I have also kept track of my totals at the end of each year, which is fun because then I know how many books I have read in a year.  In 2011, I read 226 “books,” but that’s deceiving because I also included essays that I had read for teaching my classes (and many of those were from other years, before I decided to include the essays).  A more accurate count is probably from 2007, during which I read 76 books.  However, this was a year that I spent being a full-time, stay-at-home mother, and I had two hours each afternoon during nap time with which to read.  In 2008, I started a graduate teaching assistantship in my Master’s program, and that year I only read 44 books.

After the totals, I have a list of My Favorite Books.  This is really where my recommendations to others come from.  I mostly ignore the useless column of Yeses and Nos and go off of my favorites.  However, I usually find that my favorites don’t match up with others’ expectations of a good book.  I discuss that here, with my post called Depressing Books.

How do you keep track of the books you read?  How many books do you read each year?  And I’d love to connect with you on Goodreads!

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