The Benefits of Tracking Your Reading


Harry Truman. Posted at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO.

In 2004, I started keeping track of every book I read. I started it out of curiosity. I wanted to remember what books I had read, and when I had read them. I was also curious about a few statistics, like:

  • How many books did I read every year?
  • When did I read them? Was my reading evenly distributed throughout the year, or clustered during “down-times”?
  • How many different genres did I read? Was I just stuck in one or two?

Reading is important, because as I’ve said elsewhere, Leaders are Readers. And there are numerous ways we can help ourselves become better readers, as I’ve written about here. The benefits are too many to mention, but it’s safe to say I wouldn’t be a writer if I wasn’t first a reader. Ten years of tracking later, I can say this has been a worthwhile project, and one I continue to do.

Here are several reasons why I’ve found it beneficial to track my reading:

1. I Read More

I get competitive–with myself. I want to read more this year than last year. This helps me be intentional about reading and carving out time to do it. Maybe you think this is weird, but I get a great sense of accomplishment when I complete a book and add it to my list.

2. I Read Better

I’m more selective about what I spend my time on. Because I can look at what I’ve read in the past, I get a sense of what I enjoyed and what was a waste of time. Memory helps me to be more selective and make better choices.

3. I Read More Widely

Early in 2013, I realized I hadn’t read poetry in a while. It’s not one of my go-to genres. So I picked up Christian Wiman’s book  My Bright Abyss, about the author’s spiritual meditations in the face of death. It was stimulating and very different from everything I had been reading, in a good way.

4. I Notice Trends

My list tells me if I’m reading too much or too little of a genre. Variety is the spice of life! Too much fiction? Too much history? Too much biography? Too much non-fiction? Then switch it up. My reading list is also helpful as a reference of my intellectual and spiritual history. I can look back and see what I was reading when I was really troubled, really busy, when that new idea began to take hold, etc.

5. I Finish More Books

I like to finish books. I know not everyone does. Not that you always have to finish, but its often good to. Good authors don’t pack their books with filler. They make every chapter, page, sentence and word matter. If you read good writers, you’ll want to finish more books.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I keep track of everything I’ve read–including a “To-Read” list–in Evernote. For a while I considered tracking it all in Goodreads, but didn’t like the social aspect. I don’t need to document all of it in public.

What about you? Do you track your reading? What have you found helpful in reading more, reading better, and reading more widely? 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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