The book reading tracker in my bullet journal notebook started out as a digital organizing project. This year I want to read more books. But I don’t want to buy a bunch of new books to read. Instead, I want to read books I already own. UhOh! I really didn’t have a clear picture of all the books I actually owned. So I needed to do an inventory before I could determine which books I was going to read this year.
There’s a cool vocabulary word I learned last year. It’s actually a Japanese word:
The act of acquiring books followed by letting them pile up and never reading them.
Yep, I’m guilty of being a tsundoku-er and I knew I needed to take action on this behavior or else I’d end up with such a huge collection unread books that I’d be on a future episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive.
Buy the book tracker template
Before we get into the details of how I created my book tracker, I want to let you know that you can buy the Book Tracker Template in the Shop along with the cover page that you can add color or leave black & white.
Digital Book Inventory
The first step was to figure out what books I actually had before I could figure out which books I wanted to read this year. I could have done this all analog but that is definitely inefficient and there would be no easy way to sort by genre or author once I had a massive list of books on an inventory list. Digital is the way to go with this project. There’s an app for that!
I’ve had an account on Goodreads since 2011 but I’ve never used the site to its fullest capabilities. Here are the steps I took for this project:
- Add all my books to Goodreads
- Sort my books into read, want to read, currently reading
- Decided which books to read this year
- Export that list to work on offline
- Categorize the books into genre sections
- Design, print and assemble my book tracker section
I dug in and learned that I could sync my Amazon and Kindle purchases with my Goodreads account. I added e-books, physical books and audiobooks I’ve purchased through one of Amazon’s platforms. Then I gathered up all the physical books in my house that I bought locally – either at a normal bookstore or through some type of second-hand situation (thrift store, yard sale, used bookstore) and added those to my inventory too. Adding books manually was very easy since I just needed to type in the ISBN number and Goodreads found that book for me in their database.
Whew! That was a huge project that I worked on over a couple weeks. Once I had all my books in an inventory I needed to sort them into categories. Goodreads has categories for books you’ve already read, want to read, or currently reading. So I assigned all my books a category. Then once I had my “want to read” list I thought I was all set and I’d have my list for the year.
Whoops! My “want to read” list was massive with about 175 books. So I needed to prioritize and created a new category in Goodreads for my 2018 reading list and started adding books to that list. I whittled it down to about 95 books. Still too many. So I cut some more and finally settled on about 60. That still seemed like a big list, but doable.
Are you on Goodreads too? Why not head over and add me as a friend. It’s always nice to connect with other bookaholics!
Analog Book Tracker
It was time to move off digital and go analog. The great thing about Goodreads is you can export your full book list or just a single category if you want. This left me with an MS Excel spreadsheet with a bunch of columns so I could sort the books into sub-categories. I started with a general sort by genre (one of the columns Goodreads gave me). Then I started moving books around based on my own categorization system by renaming genre titles, sorting by author and publication date, grouping books together that needed to be together (according to my nerdy brain).
By this time I was starting to feel like a book nerd to the highest extreme. I mean, I love reading, but I’ve never been the type of person who plows through a book a day or several in a week. Unless it’s something by Nora Roberts or Janet Evanovich (which I devour all at once), it usually takes me a while to get through a book because I take my time and enjoy the experience (who am I kidding?! I try to read before bed and I end up falling asleep before I can even finish a single page!) So this list was pretty daunting!
Once I had my book categories set and the books sorted alphabetically by author, then by publication year by that author… I had a final list! But I wasn’t ready to go all the way to analog with this list. Because I wanted to include so much information for each book, I knew creating a handwritten list would test my patience beyond its limits.
Here’s what I included for each book title:
- Category / genre
- Book title
- Publication year
- Book medium
- P: physical book
- E: ebook
- A: audiobook
Because full-out analog wasn’t an option for this much info, I created a document in Microsoft Word (but MS Publisher would also be a great choice) that was essentially just a big table with enough columns for each of the categories for each book. I set up the document to be the size of my bullet journal (which is an A5 Tekukor dotted notebook) and arranged the books and categories on the page how they fit best and what made sense to me. I also included an extra page with lots of blank space so I could add more books I acquired throughout the year.
When I finished the creating chart, I printed the pages, trimmed everything to fit my A5 bullet journal, and started assembling the new book tracking section. You know me… I love gluing in pages to my bullet journal because I’m not a purist when it comes to my journal. I do what’s convenient and efficient and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks about my methods.
Buy the book tracker template
If you don’t want to make your own, why not use mine instead? I added the Book Tracker Template to the Shop along with the cover page that you can add color or leave black & white.
Assembling my Book Tracker Section
Whew! By this time I’ve been working on this project for several days and I was thrilled to get to this step. It was time to start assembling my bullet journal pages. My go-to adhesive for my journal is the Scotch Tape Gun that I’ve had for 12+ years (since my old scrapbooking days). I love that the refill rolls are huge and I don’t run out of tape very often. This is the type of glue gun used by framing shops, so you know it holds up over time. But that tape gun is a bit too big to pack in my purse, so when I’m out and about and need to bring along a tape runner, I go for a generic Crafting Tape Runner because it’s cheap and portable. But when I’m home, I’m all about the big tape gun.
So I started adding pages to my journal. When I had them all glued in place, I realized it needed a cover page to tie it all together.
So I turned to my graphic designer roots and created a picture with a stack of books and a quote. I printed it on standard copy paper and added a bit of color using my Tombow Dual Brush pens (the pastel set) and with a light hand gave it a tiny bit of color. I love how it turned out!
Using my Book Tracker & Actually Reading Books
Now it was time to read! I left an empty box for each book so I could mark when it was read. I love seeing the boxes filling up as I plow through my list. What I find fascinating is my mindset about reading since I created the reading tracker. When I was bored I used to just turn on Netflix or surf the web to fill the time, but now that I have this goal of reading more books this year, I find that I am naturally turning to the list in my journal to help me figure out which book I’ll read next.
My favorite time to read is early on Sunday mornings (I’ve somehow become an early riser). With a cup of coffee, some soft light, and kitties snuggled up next to me, I read for an hour or two before I start the rest of my day. And now I also have a book waiting for me on my bedside table so I can spend 20-30 minutes reading before I go to sleep.
Watch the video flip-through
Check out the video I made of my book tracker. I explain all this again and do a flip-through of the pages for you.
Other Book Tracker Inspiration
My method of tracking reading is not the only method, of course. In fact, I think my method is a bit unusual because I identified the books I want to read and created a list before I read them. I see most people with book reading trackers record the books they read after they finish the book. And most people don’t span 6 pages in their journal to track books, one page is sufficient. But you know me, I tend to nerd out about things and go a bit overboard.
I love that others have the skill to draw elaborate and beautiful trackers in their journals. Seeing some of these makes me wish I was better at drawing!