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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

The TBR: The Spreadsheet

Last week, I talked about how I keep my TBR pile(s) organized. This week, I’m showcasing my mad spreadsheet inventorying skills when I show you exactly how I track all of the books that I want to read – whether I own them or not.

I have a love affair with spreadsheets

This may be a weird thing for other creative people… but I am obsessed with spreadsheets. I think they are absolutely brilliant when it comes to organization. And I have definitely taken full advantage of this for my TBR List, making it into a resource where I can see at a quick glance important information about any book on this list.

TBR Spreadsheet

This is what I track for each book:

  • Author – pretty self-explanatory. Last name, first name.
  • Series Title – if applicable. If it’s not part of a series, I black out the box.
  • Book Title – if known. (Sometimes I have books on there that the authors haven’t announced what the titles are, but I know is it’s a later one in a series.)
  • Year Published – the year this book was originally published, not a specific edition was published (unless otherwise stated in the “Book Title” column).
  • Do I Own This Book? – The box is red if I don’t, and yellow if I do.
  • Do I Want This Book? – The box is blacked out if I already own this book, yellowed out if I want it, and white if I don’t care whether I buy the book or borrow it.
  • Where Did I Hear About This Book? – I wish I had always kept this information, because there are a lot there that I now have no idea why I added them to the TBR list in the first place. (If you take a look at my list, you’ll notice that I have heard about a lot of books that I want to read from a few of the same sources – like Karen and Rachel, who recommend a lot of awesome books).
  • Genre – I keep this fairly broad (i.e., YA or Children’s, not like Children’s-Dystopian-Steampunk-Romance)
  • Link to LibraryThing Page – This link is used for easy reference if I don’t remember what a book is about.

What This List Doesn’t Keep Track Of

In order to keep things as simple for me to actually update as possible (because goodness knows if I didn’t make it simple, I wouldn’t actually update it), I left out a whole bunch of information that every so often I wish I did have:

  • Publisher and ISBN of the edition I want to read/own
  • Other reviews of the book
  • Where I actually purchased/acquired the book (if I own it) – this, however, is tracked with my post-it notes, so I don’t really need this.
  • Any books that I want to reread

Keeping the TBR List current

Every time I bring a new book into my apartment, I go in and update this spreadsheet. (That’s usually just changing the “Do I Own This Book?” and “Do I Want This Book?” columns, as I often don’t purchase books that aren’t already on this list.)

About once a month, I will go into this list and remove everything that I have read.

And once a year (usually mid-December, as if I didn’t have enough other stuff going on then), I will go into this list and reevaluate whether or not I still want to read every book on there. Sometimes, I find myself wondering why on earth I added that book in the first place. Other times, it just no longer interests me. But most of the books get kept. Yes, this is a daunting task, but if I didn’t do it, the list would be MUCH longer than it is now!

If you’re interested, you can view my TBR List in full… It’s rather impressive that I’ve gotten the number of books on there down to a measly 228 books. (Except I haven’t added the first Veronica Mars book yet, and that will really need to be added at some point soon…)

How do you keep track of all the books that you want to read?

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:15 am March 28, 2014.
Category: Bookish Talk

  • Jessica @ Just a Mum?

    That’s awesome. I’m nowhere near this organised. I do keep a notebook with all the books that I’ve already read, but that’s just title, genre, author, and rating. And I only started it in October.
    Usually if I want to read a book, I hop on the computer to put it on hold at the library.
    228 books! That’ll keep you busy!

  • Courtney Wilson

    The notebook is a great idea. Keeping track of what I’ve read is actually why I started this blog – I kept for getting what I had read and if I had enjoyed it!

  • Bibliomama

    Holy. Shit.

    Respect. I have a (let me check) 754-book-long TBR list on Goodreads. Point finale. No keeping track. Then I have the oh-so-scientific system I told you about before (immediate pile on bedside table, less-immediate piles on chair ottoman and table by closet, other TBRs scattered throughout bookshelves and on my kindle app on my ipad.

    I feel even more literarily dishevelled than usual. :)

  • Courtney Wilson

    I’m slightly OCD.

    754! Wow. That’s long.

  • Anastasia

    I have switched almost entirely to using Goodreads for wishlist books! Whenever I find a book I want to read I almost immediately add it to the shelf. If I remember to I also add a note re:where I found out about the book and/or why I want to read it.

    TBR books I already own, however, are slightly more tricky to keep track of. Technically I have a to-be-read shelf on Goodreads, but I haven’t been the best at keeping it up to date so it’s a little disordered. I have a physical TBR shelf where I keep all my paper TBR books, and a virtual shelf in Calibre that I use for my ebooks. Audiobooks just kinda hang out in Audible/my music folder on my computer.

    It doesn’t really bother me that there isn’t one definitive list of my TBR books, but it DOES bother me that I don’t have an accurate count of how many there actually are. I tried to count all of them at the end of last year but eventually I just chose 250 as a starting point. I’ve been doing much better this year of keeping track of in/out TBR books, though! (Right now it’s at 312.)

  • Kyla@Mommy’s Weird

    OMG. YOU ARE THE BEST. I adore your brain, lady.

  • Kelly Rogers

    I wish I was spreadsheet savvy! I need to take a course or something…

  • readingtheend

    I love spreadsheets so so so much. My TBR spreadsheet seems pretty similar to yours, except I have an additional column where I write myself a brief note of what the book’s about (with a focus on why I want to read it — so for some I’ll write a full sentence, and for others I’ll just write BOARDING SCHOOLS or whatever). I also have columns to track library availability and e-book availability: if my library has an ebook copy, that’s a mark in one column; if it has a physical copy, that’s a mark for another column; and if I just have to interlibrary borrow it, that’s a mark in a third column.

    My extremely clever computer friend says she is going to build me I SWEAR TO GOD an online database thing for tracking my reading. And she will add functionality to it based on my wishes, so if I tell her that I want it to make pie charts to check the nationality of all the authors of all the books I’ve read that year, she will cause it to make such pie charts. !!!!

  • Courtney Wilson

    Spreadsheets FTW!

    Hmm. The column for what the book is about would be extremely useful… I may need to include that. it would certainly make it much easier to remember why I actually wanted to read the book in the first place.

    Pie charts of nationality? That would be genius.