Why I Track My Reading and You Should Too
I recently launched a new side project for tracking my book history. Although this project is new, I've been tracking every book that I've read for a few years now in one form or another, and I'd strongly encourage everyone who reads to do the same. I've put together my top reasons for maintaining a reading list record below.
Often when speaking to friends we'll remember an outstanding book we've read that relates to the subject of conversation that we'd like to recommend. The problem for those of us with poor memories or who go through a lot of books, that title and author name might be difficult to recall—even if it's on the tip of the tongue. A reading list will save these situations, enabling easy lookup and referral.
Fresh after finishing a book you'll only retain a small portion of all the useful facts and information that it contained. A few months down the road is even worse, you'll only retain a small fraction of the small fraction that you retained originally. After a few years, everything might be gone including the book title. In a way, reading a book is an investment, one where you trade your time for knowledge. If everything you read will be forgotten to a large degree, then you've lost that time invested. Fiction might be an exception to this rule because it's more of a leisure activity.
This concept was my primary motivation for building my facts project (open sourced on Github), useful for breaking a very heavy piece of prose into bits of information that are still meaningful out of context. This is not to say that a fancy web application is required! A plain text file works fine for the purposes of taking down notes on a book.
A reading history allows you to easily look up metrics like how many books you've read year to year, or what portion of fiction books you read versus non-fiction. These metrics are useful for determining whether you're maintaining target reading levels, along with other goal setting.
Tracking your reading is far easier than it was a decade ago! Convenient sites like Goodreads have appeared, allowing you to track your reading and take advantage of the like-minded community. Before I wrote an application for it, I maintained my reading list in a personal wiki for quick reference and easy updating. If these solutions seem too elaborate, a text file or a written list on paper will do just as well.