Why you should keep track of every book you read

For the past three years, I’ve kept a record of all the books I read in an Excel spreadsheet. I note the title, author, publication date, genre, month I read the book and I give each book a letter grade (I like the report card feel of assigning a letter grade – I feel very authoritative and teacherly). I can’t remember exactly why I formed this habit, but it’s one I’ve stuck to. And now I think that keeping track of all the books you read – whether in a public way, like Goodreads, or a more private way, such as my spreadsheet or in a lovely notebook – is something that every serious reader should do.

First of all, it’s a great resource. I get asked for book recommendations a lot and it’s very handy to be able to look at a list of the books I’ve read recently and say: ‘You’ll like this, and this, and this’. Sometimes, I’ll just copy and paste the whole thing into an email.

Secondly, it adds another layer to my reading enjoyment. It sounds rather dorky to say this, but looking at that list of titles gives me a feeling of achievement, and I feel more connected to the books than I otherwise might, even with the ones I didn’t like. Books can have a profound impact on your life and keeping track of what you’ve read, and when you read it, feels like a nice a way of acknowledging that importance.

It will help you read more too. I’ve read more books in the years I’ve been keeping a record than I ever have before (granted, working for a bookshop probably helps!). But just knowing that I’m keeping track of my reading, and that I will one day be looking back on what I chose to read, encourages me to pick up a book instead of watching TV, or listening to a podcast, or reading that really addictive celebrity gossip blog (although I still do plenty of all those things.)

Plus, if you are in any way a data nerd, it means you can do lots of analysis of the types of books you read each year: Fiction vs. non-fiction; Australian vs. international; new releases vs. older titles; female authors vs. male authors. You can identify your own biases and make an effort to read outside your comfort zone – or, alternatively, you can see what types of books most connect with you and better understand your taste (after all, there are only so many books you get to read in a lifetime.) It’s also a lovely way to see your changing tastes over time, and to trigger memories of certain events in your life.

I really think keeping a record of my books has made me a better reader. If you feel inspired to start keeping your own records this year, I recommend setting yourself a goal or a challenge: ‘I want to read x books this year’; ‘I want to read x number of books by Australian women this year’; etc. Competitive people (of which I am one) can try to read more books each year, or set up a ‘who can read the most books’ competition with their significant other or friends. Give yourself a reason to start logging the books, and you’ll find yourself looking forward to it, I promise.

Nina Kenwood is the digital marketing manager for Readings.