bunch of books

Do you count the books you read in a year? Do you keep track of what you read, when you read it, what you thought of it? Many people do. Many people also set goals for the number of books they want to read in a year.

Why track your reading?

There are many reasons why people track what they read. Some simply want to have a list of the books they’ve read so that as time passes they have a record of their reading history.
Others add in more detail than just title and author. They want a history of the genres they’ve explored, the length of time it took them to read different books, their thoughts or ratings on what they read, or even their favourite passages from each book.
Some readers keep a list of the books they’ve read and their thoughts on them for recommendation purposes. It’s much easier to recommend a book to a friend when you can open up a document or journal and refresh your memory about when you read a book from their preferred genre, how long it took you, and what you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about it.

I’ve never kept a reading journal…but I did blog

In the past, I would blog about books as I read them and I would add a list of some of the books I had completed to a page on my website.
In the last few years, I’ve been lax at tracking my reading. I haven’t written about or kept a list of the books I’ve read. I can’t remember what I read last year and that makes me sad. Really sad, actually.

So this year, I’ve decided to consciously track my reading.

I want to track my reading for a number of reasons:

  • I want to know how many books I’ve read in a year.
  • I want to be able to look back at my reading and remember what books I’ve read.
  • I want to be able to compare my reading quantities and genres and see how they correlate with life events.

I’m not interested in knowing how long it takes me to finish a book. Some weeks, I have lots of time to sit and read. Other weeks, my time is filled with social events, housekeeping, extra projects or writing, and I don’t read as much. The time it takes me to read a book is not important to me. The record of what I’ve read is important simply for information’s sake.

Tools for tracking

Everyone has their own style and way of tracking the books they read. Some methods I’ve found during my research are online tools like Goodreads, Pinterest, Librarything, Shelfari and Google docs.
(Update March 1, 2015: I just joined 50 Book Pledge to help me track my reading this year. It has badges, bookshelves to organize what I’ve read, what I’m currently reading, and what I’m planning on reading.)
Other tracking methods include software like Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, Evernote, or the sorting abilities of your ereader.
Still more readers use decidedly low-tech methods of tracking their reading. Things like handwritten journals, Post-It Notes, scrawls on a calendar, and even the placement of the book onto a certain shelf on the bookcase.
I’m still exploring the tools for tracking my reading list. I may use a Word document for simplicity. I use Word all the time for my writing and I’m comfortable with it.

Why not track your reading?

I haven’t read a lot of arguments against tracking your reading. The main argument I can find against it is that tracking the number of books you read, especially on social networking sites, puts pressure on you to read more and read faster, rather than read at a pace you enjoy. For some readers, the pressure of trying to compete with the number of books that others have finished reading is disheartening.

Reading should never be a competition.

Reading is something we do because we enjoy it. And if I read at an average speed of 288 words per minute and you read at a speed of 490 words per minute, who really cares? If you read faster than me, then yes, you’ll likely read more books than me in a year. Perhaps you read shorter books than me. Then yes, you’ll likely read more books than me in a year.
The length of the books and the speed at which you read them does not matter in the long run. The reasons to track your reading should never be about your ability or your worth as a reader.