how do you record?

In 1999, I started keeping a list of the books I read on an old computer program called Sidekick, which was amazing because you could create cardfiles and name the categories exactly what you wanted to. As the years went by, they did not update the program.  It became more and more unstable.

So two years ago, I managed to import all outlook michael cunninghammy data into a separate contacts file in MS Outlook. Each book is a separate contact, and hopefully on the fourth line you can see that this card is filed as Cunningham, Michael–author’s last name. There’s also a nice place to make notes, although this one is blank at the moment. Sometimes in the notes area, I will add if I borrowed the book from someone or if I gave it away or why I chose it to read.

The categories don’t match up exactly.

Company=genre (novel, stories)

Job title=title

Business=year it was published

Home=year (or years) I read the book. This is an older entry, where I actually wrote out july. These days, I use 01 for January because it offers nice possibilities for sorting.

Callback=Not seen here because this is an older card, but where it says Business Fax, I now use callback, which = do I want to read this book again. And here I have 3 choices: yes, no, maybe.

I can see in two seconds if I’ve read a book before.

Last summer I added a card for each of  the other books on my shelves that I’d already read.

One of the recent comments: “I keep a tiny journal of all the books I read each year and the page numbers and the dates I read them.”

In a separate Note in Outlook, I also keep track of yearly totals. Do you keep track of the books you read? If so, what do you record and how?

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32 thoughts on “how do you record?

  1. I do not, but meant to, when I ordered the same book twice and not months apart.
    On a side note, I had the first ever need to underline a passage (s – def more than one) in a fiction book. I am certain that you have brought this out! Atonement – wow – is it great!


  2. I use two different online sites, plus a year-specific Excel spreadsheet. My favorite book-related website is LibraryThing, where I have a full catalog of all the books I own, tagged with relevant characteristics, including major themes, nationality, era, point of view, and genre. So if I wanted to pull up all the books I own that treat of, say, father/daughter relationships, I just type the tag “fathersanddaughters” into my search field and it displays a neat list including everything from Austen to Rushdie. Or if I wanted to compare how many of my books are first-person narratives versus how many are third-person, I just look at the tag totals. All the publication data is automatically displayed, as well as a space for my own reviews or reading notes (I cross-post my blog reviews to both LibraryThing and GoodReads). It’s easy to access a list of all my reviews, as well as other peoples’ reviews of a given book or of assorted books in my collection.

    LibraryThing also has a super-flexible widget maker, so you can create a rotating blog widget that shows any possible group of books. For example, one could make a “favorite books” tag, and then create a widget that filters for just books in one’s collection that have that tag. One could theme it to match a preexisting blog, and have a nice little rotating presence of covers and/or titles of one’s favorite books. I have one that filters for all the books I’ve reviewed. Like a Flickr badge, but for books!

    GoodReads is more focused on being a social networking site for readers, and I use it to keep track of what I’m reading right now. It sends out one’s reviews and updates to all the people one has friended. I’m less than thrilled about how ad-heavy it is (LibraryThing is ad-free). But it’s nice for helping to foster a community of book-lovers. I include library books on GoodReads but not on LibraryThing, because I want LibraryThing to remain a literal record of the books I actually own.

    And then I keep an Excel spreadsheet with all the books I’ve read and audiobooks I’ve listened to throughout the year, as a backup in case the internet is somehow destroyed but my computer remains intact. 🙂

    More than you ever wanted to know!


  3. Linda, obviously no need to keep a record of your books unless you want to. I love taking notes. Making lists is the way my brain works best. I have to see it. I even did this for a while when I was in grammar school–wrote the name of a book on an index card and kept them all in one of those plastic boxes. I wish I had that list now. The only book I remember was in there was a biography of Hitler that I thought was amazing.

    Umm, in case you do want to start writing down your books, tomorrow is July 1–the first of any month being a lovely time to start anything.


  4. Jennifer and Emily–I read Atonement in September of 2002. I did enjoy it but didn’t love it. That’s been the case for most of McEwan’s books. I did love Saturday, though, which I actually listened to in the car and then because I loved it, bought the book.


  5. Erin, thanks for the Goodreads site. I just signed up and I see that Tricia has already signed up too! I’m not really sure how to use the site yet, but I look forward to figuring it out.


  6. This is exactly what I wanted to know. I love the idea of using LibraryThing as the record of the books you own and GoodReads as the record of the books you’ve read. Plus, no kidding, I’d have to have my own list too. I actually used an Excel list during the period I was trying to figure out how to import into my contacts list.

    I also like how LibraryThing automatically pulls up so much information plus the cover of the book. Also like the widget idea. I wonder if it will work on wordpress because my Flickr badge won’t.

    Anyway, I just signed up on LibraryThing (also GoodReads) but am wondering how long it took you to add all your books…


  7. I do not. And you all are making me feel pretty disorganized. 🙂

    The way I look at it: if a book was good enough I’ll remember reading it and I’ll buy copies for friends and make other people read it and the love will grow. If I read something and didn’t like it, I’d just as soon forget it anyway. I have a hard enough time keeping track of my online passwords and checking account balance and various story submissions. A place to track my reading just seems like another thing I’d have to maintain. 🙂


  8. Yay, Barb! There is that just-another-thing-to-keep-up-with aspect to keeping a list of your books.

    For awhile I was keeping my own list for the year, keeping the card file in my contacts list, and doing the visual bookshelf on facebook. That felt like too much. Signing up for GoodReads and LibraryThing today is my own attempt to find the perfect (oh, no, I was trying to give that up) way to record.

    I don’t think it’s a question of organization–personality yes, my own little attempt to control and make order of the world around me. My own little way to catch the day.


  9. Yes, adding all my books took quite a while. Upon discovering LibraryThing I was enamored of all that amazing cataloging potential, and became a little obsessive. I basically devoted all my free time for week or so to entering and tagging, because I was so enthusiastic about it! Now it’s become part of the ritual to enter new books after I come home from the bookstore. 🙂

    That’s weird about your Flickr badge not working on WordPress; I asked a WP geek friend of mine, and she says you should be able to use a WP flickr widget. Maybe that’s different than the badges Flickr makes for you on their site? I noticed a number of them available over here (scroll down to F, for Flickr).


  10. here’s one of them 🙂
    beginning, when Briony is watching her cousins enact her play.

    “She wanted to leave, she wanted to lie alone, face-down on her bed and savour the vile piquancy of the moment, and go back down the lines of branching consequences to the point before the destruction began.”


  11. My reaction to other McEwan I’ve read has been the same as yours – kind of “eh.” I haven’t read Saturday, though; I should check it out.


  12. You are a geekess! 🙂 I had lost any memory of Sidekick (and now I remember the word Borland and a colorful picture of an old cowboy) but I think I used it briefly too! Thanks for the reminder and the review of your new sidekick.

    – Andrys


  13. Well, I was afraid it might take awhile, but I’m intrigued by LibraryThing. I’ll try adding 10 books or so this weekend to see how I like it.

    Yes, I can add a Flickr widget, but I wanted the badge–the little rectangle where 12 or so little photos rotate in and out. So cool. Maybe I’ll find something similar on the site you’ve included. Thanks!


  14. Thanks for the quote, Jennifer. Isn’t it great that this line grabbed you?

    What is also interesting is that as much as I like the idea behind these words, McEwan’s word choices here push me away from the idea instead of drawing me in.

    It’s almost more interesting that we have two different responses to this line than it would be if we both liked it. Fascinating from a reading and a writing standpoint.


  15. I just took Saturday off the shelf. It takes place all in one day. I reread the first line and then the last–beautiful. I may have to read it again.


  16. I love that you called me a geekess! I will so wear that proudly.

    I did love sidekick. In fact it’s still installed on my computer, and I print blank calendars from it all the time. I just don’t rely on it anymore.


  17. Until I started blogging, I kept a running list on my Palm. Now I just keep my list hidden (beyond the last ten books) inside of my Blogger layout. Your method sounds better, though. I like that you make notes about each book. This is something I haven’t done before. I’ll have to start. There have been too many times when I went searching for a special moment in a book and couldn’t put my finger right on it.


  18. It is – this line grabbed me, pulled into that little girl’s mind! I re-read and re-read it.
    Of course, if we all responded the same way, there would only be one type of book and we would be left with little.


  19. Hi Stephen-thanks for your comment. I keep a list of the books I’ve read here on the blog as well as in my contacts file. It’s hard for me to trust just one electronic source.

    I do enjoy making notes about a book. There are so many great ones that most of them I will only be able to read once. So I want to try to hold on to what struck me.

    Hope to hear from you again!


  20. Thanks for the book tracker site, Christian. I haven’t started transferring my books yet. So I’ll see how it compares to LibraryThing.


  21. I keep a list of the books I’ve read in Word docs organized by year. I record title, author, and dates read. I also log this info on Facebook through the LivingSocial: Visual Bookshelf app. -ae


  22. Annlee, thanks for sharing your method of recording the books you read: word documents organized by year. How long have you been keeping records?


  23. Hi Emily-I finally got around to checking out your Flickr site and it’s for blogs not blogs, which this one is. I was able to add a “still” widget, but not the cool flashing badge that I wanted. Maybe some day…Thanks, though–cynthia


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