It was a spiral-bound notebook with light blue pages, with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger on the front. I must have been in about fourth grade or so when I started writing down the books that I read. Though I didn’t understand it at the time, I was very much an introvert, and I was perfectly content to spend the majority of my free time reading books, even as the rest of my peers were playing sports or participating in extra activities. Books were my happy place.
And I would dedicate a page to each month, dutifully copying down the titles and authors, as well as keeping track of the number of pages in each book that I finished. Some months I would finish nearly 30 books, and thousands of pages. I kept this up for several years, until reading was replaced with more school work, more friendships, different forms of entertainment.
And somewhere along the line, I got rid of my reading journals. They were in a stack with my “dear diary” journals, full of the angsty thoughts of teenagerdom, full of my verbal spewing to help me understand myself and the people in my life. I got engaged, then married, then moved several times. Packing up for one of those moves, I decided I no longer needed the emotional ramblings, and the reading journals went along into the recycling bin.
I only regret that decision now, as my oldest son has discovered reading with a vengeance, and keeps asking to read books off of the “grown up shelf” in the living room, books far and away above his age level, but not too far out of reach for someone who is quickly picking up reading as a hobby. I’d like to look back on the books that I enjoyed, to pass on a recommendation for something I have long since forgotten.
But there’s the catch with my old tracking system – I didn’t keep a record of whether or not I enjoyed the book. What I liked about it. What I didn’t like. Even basic plot points. All I wrote were titles, authors, and number of pages. Going forward, I have a new plan.
Back in December, I responded to an email from my favorite book blogger asking about reading tracking for a special episode of my favorite book podcast. I responded, and ended up having a snippet as part of the conversation about tracking reading – you can listen to that here (my clip starts around the 45:00 mark, but the whole episode is worth a listen!).
That email, and that conversation, really got me thinking about how I used to track my reading, and what I’d like to do now.
Over the past few years I’ve done book reviews here on the blog, and I’ve tracked which books I’ve read in GoodReads. But I haven’t gone beyond the “what”. So now, I’m setting up a tracking system based on the one from my childhood, but with one important addition: Why? Why did I like this book? (Or hate it?) Was it the way I related to the characters? The writing style? The twists?
I rarely re-read books, but when I do, it’s either because they’re cozy, like going home, or because I’ve forgotten them but I know there’s something about them and I want to rediscover it.
And the reason for this addition is also because of the book I re-read this month.
Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman. I bought this book during one of my lazy strolls through a Barnes & Noble during my early college days. I read it, apparently loved it, and immediately added it to my “Favorite Books” on Facebook, because that was a BIG DEAL at that point.
And now, some twelve years later, I figured maybe I should revisit those books I’ve claimed publicly as “favorites” since then.
I have no idea why this book was on that list.
The characters aren’t likable. They’re not relatable. I’m fine with characters being flawed and making bad decisions when I can relate to them, or when I can see where it fits into the story. But these characters were just not people I have anything in common with, and I didn’t agree with most of their decisions.
This book was pretty graphic. When one of the characters is a professional escort, I can assume there may be some mention of sex in the book. And even though I’m much more of a prude now than I probably was twelve years ago, there was just. too. much.
I did enjoy the path of the story, as each of the seven parts was told from a different character’s point of view, and each took the story you thought you were reading and turned it on its side, added a new layer to it. I’m pretty sure that’s what drew me to it in the first place. But beyond that, there wasn’t a lot to redeem it.
Suffice it to say, this book is no longer on my bookshelf. It’s no longer on my favorites list. And now, I have a record of why. Little plusses and minuses reminding me what I liked and what I didn’t.
I really like the concept of bullet journaling. But where it fails me is having everything all put together in one place. For some people, that’s the beauty of the system. For me, that’s where it falls short. But I still like the symbols, the fancy pages, the master lists. Those speak to me. And so I incorporate bits and pieces of bullet journaling into my planner, my journal, my blogging notes, and now, my reading tracker. Just in their separate notebooks.
I’m hoping that by having a more detailed description of the “why” rather than just the “what”, I’ll be able to not only look back on books that I’ve read and enjoyed, but also be able to give better recommendations. Because, after all, the list of books to be read never ends.
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