I’ve got to admit, the question floored me a bit. Why should you? Why wouldn’t you want to?
I started recording the books I’d finished in a basic Word document – alphabetical by author, then the title of the book. Soon I added the date I finished the book, and a little bit later I added a rating.
I have never once regretted keeping these records; if anything I wish I’d started sooner.
But what’s the advantage? Well, I started it because at the time I was reading a lot of mystery series, and I found it hard to remember where I was in each series – had I read book #3, or was it #4 I just finished? You’d think it’d be simple to remember if I read a book or not, but I found that with series fiction, so much of it stayed the same that the snippets of plot information I could find on the book’s cover wasn’t enough to always help. Then add in familiarity based on detailed reviews or discussions (I was part of an online mystery book club at the time), or even preview chapters included in the previous book and it all resulted in it being way more brain power than I wanted to expend when a few moments of record-keeping could avoid it.
Since I’ve been tracking my reading for so long (since 1999) I’ve found other, unexpected advantages:
- It’s really easy to set reading goals. Do I want to read more of a certain type of book? It’s clear where my current reading has been lacking. Do I want to read more? Easy to know what, exactly, is “more.”
- It’s much easier to recommend books. I am terrible at thinking of readalikes off the top of my head. My memory is not good, and I read so many books that the particulars are often hard to remember. By keeping track, I don’t have to remember.
- I love being able to see how my reading has evolved over time. I love seeing how I’ve gone on reading jags, obsessing over particular topics. I love seeing how changes in my life have been reflected in my reading choices. I love being reminded of what’s made me think, made me cry, made me change.
- Keeping track of what I’ve read makes obvious my literary quirks. Makes clear my guilty reading pleasures. Makes clear when my interests have changed or I’ve flirted with a new hobby.
- I’m a stats-nerd, and I love being able to see metrics on my reading. What portion of fiction books do I read verses nonfiction? What was the longest book I read in 2008? Did I read more biographies this year than last? Is any of this information life-saving? No, but it’s fun for me. 🙂
This doesn’t even touch on the benefits of using Goodreads (or something similar; I keep saying Goodreads because it’s what I use, but there are other options) to keep track of books I want to read. That list can be sorted, and it’s been easy to add a separate shelf to track the books that my library offers as ebooks; when I want to borrow a book on my Kindle it’s easy to look at that shelf and find one.
And, I love love love that Goodreads has an “export” option. I semi-regularly export my data, just as a precautionary measure. If they were to close their site, I haven’t lost all the data I entered, and it’s in a standard format.
I’ll admit, it took a bit of time initially to get all of my data entered, but now the time to maintain it is minimal. If you’re not as ridiculous as me about entering a backlog of data, just entering books as you read them shouldn’t take long. It’s maybe 30 seconds to open the app, type in the ISBN and mark it as read. Add another 30 seconds if I want to add it to particular shelves or include the date that I finished it. So not a big deal, and so worth the effort.