Quite a few of my commenters in the past month have talked about their to-be-read lists or their to-be-bought lists, and it got me thinking. I read a lot which means I own a LOT of books – I tend to buy them from the bookstore before I remember I probably could have borrowed them from the library.

Some books I deliberately buy twice – once in e-copy for my Sony Reader, and then if I really like it, I’ll buy it as a paperback for those times when an e-Reader just won’t do (like my long soaks in the tub). Sometimes it works the other way around. Sometimes I buy a second paperback copy because my first copy has been so well-read it is literally falling apart at the seams – several of Diana Gabaldon’s novels – Outlander and Drums of Autumn for instance.

However, sometimes I own two copies of a paperback because, quite simply, I’ve forgotten I already own a copy when I’m at the bookstore and pick it up again. I own two of Lynsay Sand’s The Rogue Hunter from her Argeneau series. I bought the first one and read it as soon as I got home. Then about ten days later I was in a book store with Guitar Hero, saw Lynsay’s book on the end cap and thought “Oooh, I totally forgot she had another Argeneau book coming out” and picked it up again. It wasn’t until I was home later that afternoon and halfway through the first chapter I began to get that “Gee, I’ve read this before” feeling and discovered that I was now the proud owner of two books. Only a few months before, I’d done the same with Kathryn Smith’s latest vampire novel. It was just one (or two) in a long list of double buys.

It’s not that their books were forgettable, it’s just that I read so many books that I can’t keep them straight. That photo above is a shot of just two of my book shelves – yes, they’re stacked double depth. Those are two shelves of 5. They’re not my keeper shelf either which is above my desk. There’s another book cabinet in my dining room (I was running out of room to store my books and it was the only spare space I had) and a third in the upstairs hall. That’s not including the three huge grocery bags of books that I have packed up to give away. Nor the ones I’ve already given away this year.

A few years back I read over 300 books in one year – I resorted to keeping an excel spreadsheet so I could keep track of them. In 2007 (or was it 2008?) I kept a list on my blog of what I was currently reading and what I’d read. (I wasn’t as prolific that year, I think I read just over 100 books then.) But that doesn’t help me when I’m standing in the romance section at the bookstore.

So how do you keep track of what you’ve read/already own and what you need to/want to buy? Do you keep a list tucked away in your purse? Do you have some software on a PDA that you pull out when you’re perusing the shelves? Or do you find yourself buying multiple copies of a book on occasion?

How do you keep track?
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22 thoughts on “How do you keep track?

  • August 3, 2009 at 6:12 am

    Hi Leah,
    I live in a small community and the library isn't that great so I have to buy all my books.Also alot of bookshelves too.
    I have never bought a double because I have a notebook where I list the books I have, first, author name then series title (if there is one) then I list the books.If a new book is going to be released I add it with the date so I know when to buy it.When I buy the books I use a highlighter on that book.Easier to keep track of all the books.

    Have a great day everyone!!

  • August 3, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Elaine – so you keep a list of all your books? That notebook must be pretty thick. I like the highlighter idea. And LOL, sometimes the simplest way is the best. Forget all the high tech devices, use a notebook.

    My mom uses index cards wrapped in a rubber band. One index card per author. Seems to work for her…knowing me I'd leave the notebook or cards on my desk when I need them, LOL.

  • August 3, 2009 at 6:50 am

    I type them up in Word using the Sort feature to keep them in alphabetical order by author. I have several pages of books I've read and several pages of books I want to read, all in a small-enough font I can still read. I write on those printed pages when I read them (so I can move over to the "read" list), and I write new "to be read" books to the pages, using the backs of those pages to keep in fairly close alphabetical order. Once the pages get fairly full with additions, I head back to the computer and add all the info to update the file and start all over.
    I especially carry my list with me when traveling, as there are new libraries to discover and new books to find!
    It's whatever works for you! Good luck!

  • August 3, 2009 at 7:00 am

    So back to my Excel spreadsheet, Laney. I have been considering it.

    Oh, and I should mention that I keep track of my books online over on GoodReads, but again, that doesn't help me in the bookstore. But if you're interested in seeing what's on my shelves or what I'm reading, you can take a peek over there.


  • August 3, 2009 at 7:09 am

    You didn't ask, but I'll mention it anyway, since your mom uses index cards.
    I too use index cards (that's the same as recipe cards, right?) filed alphabetically by authors' names, but those are used for contests so I don't enter the same contest twice. The lined cards are the best. I must admit I should have used the larger cards, as there's lots of info to cram on each line, but I manage.
    My favorite entry is when I write, "I WON!!!" It's just like Christmas for me when I win a book (or sometimes more than one at once). I am reading books I would never have tried before; it's quite illuminating and exciting!

  • August 3, 2009 at 7:31 am

    Hi 🙂
    I've double-bought books when I was collecting DAW books. And when I was collecting an author's works.
    (I lost all my paper novels in a fire & I'd been collecting since age 8).
    Now I've got ebooks (too expensive to try & replace all the lost ones *sob* those 1st ed. Hardcovers, those out-of-print gems, etc)
    So now I don't double-buy because I have them all on a removable hard drive for safe keeping which I also take with me wherever I go (just in case). (Once burned *hah!*…)
    Thanks for sharing,
    Love and best wishes,

  • August 3, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I use LibraryThing. When I'm planning to go book shopping, I dump an export of my booklist and import it into my old Palm. Then I can search my books when I'm at the store and avoid buying duplicates.

    If I was really high tech, I'd have a smartphone and could just search my LibraryThing library directly from the store.

  • August 3, 2009 at 7:47 am

    I have to admit that yes, I have bought more than one copy of a book before. I don't keep track very well of what I already have. I've been trying to keep a spreadsheet of what I've read, but when I get busy, even that falls to the wayside. Argh! Maybe if I had a PDA it'd be more easy to stay up to date since it'd be theoretically more transportable? Eeek! 😉

  • August 3, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Fedora – that's the key – keeping up with what you've read. I'm having the same issue. I just checked my Goodreads page and KNOW that I've forgotten to add books I've bought or read to it. Same happens with the spreadsheet.

    Unfortunately I don't think that's a problem with the system, LOL, but the operator 😉 I need to be more organized. Ugh.

  • August 3, 2009 at 8:27 am

    Simple. When I find I've purchased two copies I put them aside and give them to my sister in law (voracious reader) for the next birthday or Christmas!

  • August 3, 2009 at 8:34 am

    LOL Sam! Good idea. Maybe I should offer them as prizes to commenters?

  • August 3, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Hi Leah,
    I've done this so many times that I started to keep track of the books that I have purchased on an excel sheet, then print it out occasionally and keep it in my purse. I do have my eye on a PDA so that I can download the excel file and always have it current.

    Luckily I do have a pretty good memory so I don't do this too often, even w/o an updated sheet. I too have multiple copies of Outlander and the rest of the series, especially if it is in a used book store, that way if I run across someone who has not read it yet I can share the love 🙂

  • August 3, 2009 at 9:32 am

    I do the spread sheet thing. I keep a list by the month of what I have read. Each time I read the book I put it on this list. I also keep a list by author of what books I want to read of theirs and then I just delete it once I have read it. So far this has worked for me. But I have only been doing this for about a year. I have tried to go back and look at the authors web site and print a list of their books I have read previous. A lot of work, but I just do a little bit at a time.

    If I happen to buy two of the same books. I give a copy to my mother for gifts. She loves to read. Or I give them to my cousin. We often exchange books.

  • August 3, 2009 at 11:06 am

    I keep an excel spreadsheet with the author's name, book title, year published and I give it a rating too. Since I give away a lot of books to my local library, I refer to the list to jog my memory about any previous releases.

  • August 3, 2009 at 11:08 am

    I have a simple Word file that lists book title and author of my Read list. If I didn't like it enough to finish, I shrink the font.

    Fancy, huh?

    My wishlist is in Excel. It's easier to manage that way.

    Don't ask. It's mine. It works and makes me happy. Enough said.

  • August 3, 2009 at 11:31 am

    I rely on memory. Once in a while I buy two of the same title. I just give them to friends or family.

  • August 3, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I carry a huge Excel spreadsheet list in my purse. I'm never without it. The first part lists the books I own, the second is my TBB listing. So far it's worked, I haven't accidentally double bought yet!!

  • August 3, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Yep, it's completely operator error here on my end! Excel/Goodreads/Word works quite well for most people!

  • August 3, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Sigh – yes, I have double-bought and I now keep an excel spreadsheet. This has really only been a problem for me with ebooks — if I actually touch/see a physical book, I am less likely to forget. Oh, and the worst, for me, when I find a new author I love and then one day a site is having a sale and I buy their whole backlist and realize that short story I already had is in an anthology I just bought …

    Oh well — at least books are my crack and not some other habit 😉


  • August 3, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    I use a commercial book database computer program called Byron. I love it. Since I currently own nearly 7,000 books it's nice to be able to look up by author, genre, plot points, date, series, you name it. It also has a shopping list. You can set up folders in the program and I've do that with my got rid of books. I've also got a keeper folder.

    Last year I used it to track the books I bought and got rid off for that specific year. My goal was to get rid of 2 books for every one that walked in the house.

    Since you can export the folders, I believe I'll be able to put the lists on my ereader.

  • August 3, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    I'm a compulsive book buyer, but I also go through 'occasionally' and give away bags full to whatever cause hits my list.

    Inevitably, I end up buying another copy of this one or that, that I decided I wished I hadn't given away, but I figure it's all good in the long run.

    as far as my TBR pile. I don't really have one. Either it get's read or it doesn't. Usually, I'm so anxious to get in one, I'll read right through it as soon as it gets in the door. Otherwise, they just go on the shelf and have to catch my attention again when I'm looking for something to read.

  • August 4, 2009 at 5:58 am

    You know I have a hard time remembering my TBR from my read pile. At home it isn't as bad but my librarian orders in books for me all the time… I usually am good at going… yep read that , ya that one was good… sorry I bought that one… I have an electonic roledex that I have my books listed on… actually 2 but I have lost one and have been scrambling to remember whether to buy or not to buy some… LOL

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