How to Keep Track of Your To-Be-Read List (an odd sanity saver)

When I was small, I loved going to bookstores and libraries in other towns. I didn’t think it at all inappropriate to bring a notebook and a pencil in with me, locate books I would like to read and -rather than buying them- write down their titles and authors to borrow from my local library later on. I’m now told this behaviour was somewhat questionable – though I’m not sure I’d agree.

Regardless, I ended up with a fairly unmanageable stack of little bits of paper, titles and authors scrawled on them, which I would inevitably stick somewhere “safe” and then never find them again.

Now, smartphones and apps (and age, perhaps) have solved this problem for me. I can’t remember when I first heard of the website Goodreads – I think I might have been in undergrad. The website immediately solved the little-bits-of-paper-everywhere problem. Goodreads is a sort of digital bookshelf; with a free account, users can make shelves of books they’ve read, want to read, and are currently reading – plus others to suit their fancy.

My Goodreads homepage

If one desires, bookshelves can be shared with friends and acquaintances, to get real-time recommendations just as you would at a book club or the local bookstore. And for my purposes, my to-be-read (known as TBR for bookworms) can be collated into a neat and tidy digital shelf, to which I can refer in any situation, and indeed add to from the privacy of my phone whilst standing in an aisle at a bookstore (sorry Mom, I still do this- it’s just more discreet now).

Success! You're on the list.
I might see a list like this online, and take a photo. At my convenience, I’ll look up these books, and add the ones I want to read to the TBR list.

You could rightfully be wondering what business a post about a book website (*nerd alert*) has on a blog about travel and anxiety and introversion but I promise, there is a connection. Here it is:

I used to find it quite stressful to walk into a library, head into the stacks, and be expected to choose enough books – on the fly – to last the next two weeks. Indeed, this problem was made more stark when I would move to increasingly rural places with ever smaller libraries. The stock was smaller, and I would inevitably choose badly. Being in a library in that state is akin to being in a restaurant without having looked at the menu online in advance: you are bound to be a bad orderer. I would inevitably return home with a shoddy mix of books, most of which I wouldn’t finish, and yet would be stuck with until I could find time to return to the library.

But with the advent of Goodreads, this problem is solved.

Four or five times a year, I head into my digital shelf of to-be-read books, and spend half an hour searching for the titles on my local library’s website, reserving any that I’m able to get. Then, over the next several weeks or months, the 20 or so books I’ve reserved slowly trickle in, and I get an email when they’re ready for pick up. No standing in the stacks, panicked. No choosing badly. And, the steady and oddly satisfying achievement of working through the TBR pile. (On Goodreads, the number of books in your TBR stack shrinks each time you move one to the ‘Currently Reading’ or ‘Read’ shelf – affirming for Type-As like myself).

The ‘Want to Read’ or TBR virtual shelf

When the stack starts to get smaller, I just repeat the process. The TBR list can grow or shrink but there’s always something good to read on the shelf. And, there’s no more stress about what to do with the tiny pieces of paper, or trying to surreptitiously write down titles. In fact, the Goodreads app lets you scan the barcode of a given book and add it to your TBR list that way- very sneak. I also love that you can go back and look at all the things you’ve read in the year. When a friend asks for a recommendation, I don’t need to feel badly about not remembering titles; I’ll just go look at my virtual shelf.

Books added to my holds at my local library

If you have a Goodreads account, you can find me here. If you’d like to join Goodreads, it’s free to make an account and start adding books.

This might seem like a small thing – but it’s the small stressors that add up. Looking up the menu in advance of going to the restaurant, and ordering the books you want to read: two small solutions in a big world of challenges.

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    […] use my public library often; it’s small and quaint and you can see from one end to the other regardless of where you […]

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