Columns > Published on November 10th, 2016

5 Reasons To Keep A Record Of What You Read

If you’re like me, you’re always reading something. Sometimes you’re reading multiple books at once. Other times, you’re so fixated on a single book that you actually feel a deep sadness when you reach the last page. Regardless of your level of reading obsession, I believe it’s a great idea to keep a record of what you read. It might seem pointless, or even something that could distract you from fully enjoying the experience of reading for pleasure, but trust me — monitoring what you read will make you a better, more well-rounded reader over time.

Here are five reasons to keep close track of your reading habits:

1. Become more aware of what you tend to read the most

When I first started keeping a list of the books I read, it felt superfluous. Why take time to keep an eye on what I read? That’s time better spent choosing my next book! Soon after I started, though, I noticed a troubling trend: I was reading mostly literary fiction, and a huge chunk of the authors were dead white males. My “random” book picks were embarrassingly unvaried, and what I was reading did not match up with the kind of reader I wanted to be. Once I noticed, I consciously sought out different genres and authors, and I’m so glad I did. My number one surprising discovery? I love poetry, and I would never have known if I didn’t make the choice to be hyper aware of what I was reading.

Regardless of your level of reading obsession, I believe it’s a great idea to keep a record of what you read.

2. Set reading goals and track your progress long term

At the beginning of each year, I like to challenge myself to read a certain number of books. Setting a goal like this means you’ll automatically have to keep track of the books you read. Even if you aren’t setting a reading goal, it’s interesting to see how your reading habits change from year to year. When I lived in Brooklyn and worked at a bookstore, I read 80 books one year. When I moved to Los Angeles and changed jobs, that number was cut in half and I haven’t been able to get anywhere near my Brooklyn reading number since. The reasons? I know one of them has to be driving. It was so easy to tear through books when I was taking public transportation to get everywhere. Because I’ve noticed this drop, however, I prioritize ‘reading time’ much more than I did in the past since I no longer get this time organically.

3. Remember your favorites and go back to them later

I’m on an unreasonable and impossible mission to read every book in existence, so it’s not often I’m compelled to reread a book. Still, there are rare occasions that a story moves me so much I make a note to come back to it in a few years, from a new life place. A physical note will always be more reliable than a mental note. It’s a sure thing. I mourn the long forgotten books I read before I started keeping tabs on my reading habits…my awful memory fails me!

4. It’s a great way to connect with other readers

There are wonderful apps and sites that make keeping a record of what you read exciting and interactive. My two favorites are GoodReads and Litsy (the tagline for Litsy is “Where books make friends”). You can read up on what other users have said about a book before, during, and after you’ve read it, share photos of your latest book buys, and, as I mentioned earlier, share your reading goals and celebrate when you reach (and even surpass) them. I have discovered a few of my favorite books by either browsing through my friends lists, or being recommended a book directly.

5. Go back to what you stopped reading

We’ve all started a book that we wanted to connect with but for whatever reason couldn’t. I never dismiss the possibility that I picked up a book at the wrong time, and that I should come back to it later. If you keep track of not only the books you read in full, but the ones you only read partially, you can check back in with them years later and give them another go. This is better than casting a book off entirely, or pushing yourself to finish one when you’re not keen on the experience. Move on to a new title without guilt knowing you’ve made a note to revisit it in the future.

To review: there are a number of ways to record what you read. Keep a blog, keep a paper journal, or sign up for GoodReads/Litsy. Come up with another way I haven’t thought of yet. Start now!

About the author

Christine J. Schmidt is a writer originally from New Jersey. After receiving her BFA in Dramatic Writing from SUNY Purchase, she worked at Seattle Repertory Theatre as their artistic literary intern. She recently left Brooklyn, where she was a bookseller and events host at WORD, to reside in Los Angeles. She has previously written for New York Theatre Review, and her plays have been read and produced at theaters in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Washington. Coffee is her favorite thing.

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