It happens to me all the time. A window of time opens up in my schedule long enough for me to run to the library. And then I draw a blank about all the books that showed up on my radar that I want to check out. I throw together a list and dash off, only to remember about something I wanted to read after I get back home.
There is a better way.
The options for organizing your reading list range from simple to amazingly complex. If you want analog solutions, use a notebook, a planner or a bullet journal. If you want digital solutions use your phone, a computer spreadsheet, Pinterest, Notion or Trello. If you’re looking for a system with more features, especially the ability to share, network and capture book reviews, consider GoodReads, Storygraph or LibraryThing.
Knowing the features and drawbacks of the different approaches will help you decide which is right for you.
Knowing how you are naturally wired will also help.
Are you drawn to pen and paper over keyboards? Do you prefer pretty over practical? Is your reading life the chance to escape to your solitary island or do you thrive on discussions about big ideas? Answering these questions offers clues to which option is best for you.
How to Organize Your Reading: Low Tech Solutions
Use a notebook
This is a quick, easy and low cost solution. A simple running list can keep track of the books you want to read. As you finish them, you can add dates completed and stars if you want.
Use a planner
One step up from a notebook is using a planner. You have the added advantage of knowing when you’ve read your books, or when you added them to the list.
Use a bullet journal
They are trendy and popular. A simple page with a running To Be Read list and a second one with favorite books finished could do the trick. Or you could use a simple star system and a date added to your TBR list, if you wanted to keep all the information in one place.
How to Organize Your Reading List: Digital Solutions
Use your library holds list
Your To Be Read list could be what you have requested from the library. When you come across a book you want to read, simply add it to the list. The big drawback here is that it only includes the books available at one library.
Use your phone
This could be the best place to capture all your ideas. You could take a pictures with your phone of books you come across in a bookstore. You could keep a running list of books that show up on your radar that you don’t want to forget about.
Use a computer spreadsheet
A spreadsheet can hold lots of information in a small place.
You can add cells to capture additional information about each book, such as date finished, star ratings and even brief opinions about the book.
Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets and Google Sheets offer more options, such as inviting friends to view your spreadsheets.
Pinterest boards are a good place to capture your reading lists if you love a visual collection of the book covers of the books on your lists. Different boards can capture different collections. These can be viewed by others or kept private, depending on how you set up your boards.
Kailey at Luminous Libro is one of my favorite book tubers. She has a you tube video about using Notion to organize her reading list. Pros here are Notion is a also good place to organize your to do list, and lists are expandable and able to incorporate a lot of moving parts.
A downside to Notion is there is no print feature in the app, you first have to save as a pdf and then print.
How to Organize Your Reading List: Trello
There’s one digital solution that stands alone: Trello.
Kendra Adachi, author of The Lazy Genius Way, explains how she uses Trello to organize her reading list.
The Trello system can incorporate TBR list and already finished lists and is able to move seamlessly between them.
There’s is a small learning curve to get an account set up and start using cards. After that, it’s pretty straightforward.
How to Organize Your Reading List: Goodreads
GoodReads is especially good for interacting with others.
First you create your own bookshelves where you can make lists of books you want to read or have already read. Then you can give them a star rating and post reviews about the books.
You can easily move books from a TBR list to finished, favorites or abandoned.
Then you can friend others who are on GoodReads, see their bookshelves, what they’re reading and what they think about those books. It’s like a book club without a schedule and no pressure to interact.
You can start a list on GoodReads and contribute to others’ lists.
You can join the conversation about books in an informal way.
How to Organize Your Reading List: GoodReads Alternatives
LibraryThing And Storygraph are considered alternatives to GoodReads. They have different features, advantages and drawbacks. A more complete list of GoodReads alternatives can be found here.
LibraryThing has some of the same advantages as GoodReads. It is also a platform where you can build a collection for your personal library or for a small organization such as a church. You can scan the bar codes of books to add to the collection and organize them digitally.
LibraryThing also allows you to apply to be an early reviewer for new releases.
StoryGraph has a good browse feature. It also seems to be a good place to launch a reading challenge. It might be a good place to build community.
|Notebook||Can be small enough to carry||No search feature|
|Planner||Easy to record dates||Too big to carry|
|Bullet Journal||Very customizable||No search feature|
|Library Holds List||Request and forget||Only captures books from one source|
|Phone||Always with you||No keyboard for expanded info|
|Spreadsheet||Lots of info at one glance||Limited room|
|Visual record of book covers||Limited feedback from others|
|Notion||Expandable to do lists||Printing from Notion is complicated|
|GoodReads||Good interaction with others, room for book reviews||Learning curve|
|StoryGraph||Good browse feature||Learning curve|
|LibraryThing||Bar code feature to add books||Learning curve|
|Trello||Seamlessly move books from TBR to finished||No interactions without personal invites|
For more tips for your reading life, see How to Read Books for Fun as a Busy Adult.