I don't know what inspired my decision to start writing down every book I read. I do know I was sitting in my bedroom at my parents' house, it was springtime, and I was packing to move to my first apartment.
Everyone knows I read a lot but I wondered exactly how many books I read in a year. I decided to find out.
I bought a blank 8x10 journal from Borders (may it rest in peace) and on April 14, 2005, I recorded the first book. Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells.
No rating or noteworthy impressions.
The title, the author, the date. An asterisk if it's a book I've read again. Simple.
Almost 8 years and 640 books later, it's a system that's worked for me.
Look, I'm unabashed about my reading habits. I love books and I always will. I typically don't set goals. (The exception being my goal of reading 100 books in 2010 as part of my 31 Things Before Turning 31 list.) I just read. Tracking what I've read allows me a nice surprise at the end of each year. "Wow. I've read ___ books!"
But there's been a few unexpected benefits of writing down the books I've read.
1. It has taught me about my reading habits.
Now I know I average 6 to 8 books per month. If at the end of the month, I've read less than that, then I up the ante the next month. This is not hard for me to do because there are always a million books I want to read.
2. It helps me be intentional about what I read.
I read what interests me but writing it all down shows me the fiction-nonfiction differential, which genres I'm heavy in, and so on. Sometimes I'll think: do I want to write this down? I read a lot of fluff but even I have my limits.
3. I read more.
Each year since I've started recording, I've read increasingly more. In early December, I realized I'd read 93 books so I decided to make 100 happen and ended up reading 103 books altogether. How's that for motivation? The yearly totals have fluctuated, depending on what's going on in my life (loss, moving, writing a novel) but overall, I've read more each year. We'll see what happens in 2013.
4. It helps me remember what I've read and give better recommendations.
It's impossible for me to rattle off the names of every book I've read the past few months, let alone the past few years. But I scroll through the pages of the journal and it all comes back. I can tell you my impressions, whether or not I think you'd like it, and if I've deemed the book Ownable, which is the highest form of praise.
The journal is a walk down memory lane. I can see how I started reading the Harry Potter series in 2006 and finished Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince a week before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out in July 2007. I can see when I first "met" favorite authors and how quickly I tore through their catalog. I can see how many times I've reread my favorite novel A Prayer for Owen Meany. And then, of course, I can see the various subjects I've researched for one reason or another.
Some people track their books through Goodreads, others through spreadsheets. For me, the journal works.
I have plenty more pages to fill. Read on, my friends. Read on.
Do you keep track of your reading habit?