This week’s LBT was Choose Your Own Adventure! So I looked back into the LTB Archives to see what would catch my eye like a fishhook in an unwary face, and saw a prompt on a topic to which I devote a great deal of time in my human life: Tracking Reading.
Do you keep track of the books you read?
I do! And have done since 2010, which was twelve years ago, he said, disintegrating into ancient crumbling mummy bones-dust that makes a surprisingly good broth for a nice high-calcium, high-caffeine ramen.
If so, do you use Goodreads? Storygraph? Another platform?
First of all I’m downloading Storygraph without delay because it seems like it basically does everything I’ve been doing the hard way for you, which at least fits my Late To The Party brand, and as we all know consistency is key in building an audience. I do use Goodreads in a passive way, like I’ve got the automatic updates enabled through my Kindle account and every once in a while I’ll poke around in there and see if they’ve added any features that make it…useful or interesting? I know a great many people use it as their primary book-space, and I will occasionally dip in to see what the scuttlebutt about a specific book or comic is, so overall I’m glad it exists, but generally it’s not for me.
Has the way you keep track of your reading changed since you started blogging?
Kinda? I started out in a big ledger, then switched to Evernote, then kept Evernote but also started keeping monthly lists in my journal/planner like so:
Then I started doing all of that plus the annual-then-monthly lists I post here like these…aaaaaaand finally I also started another monster one-volume master-list going back to 2010 in a lovely leatherbound volume that was a gift from a friend back in high school, and which I’ve been saving for just such a worthy purpose; the first ledger was also in a 21-year-old’s handwriting, which is to say it would serve as damning evidence in any trial.
What are the pros and cons of tracking your reading?
Book-tracking has come in handy in a couple of really unexpected but helpful ways. In The Disappearance Of Lady Frances Carfax, a fugitive dame flees across Europe, seeing refuge in its many naturally-occurring hotels, and Holmes and Watson track her by mapping out the route indicated by the receipts they find in her bank-book. Doyle wrote:
“Single ladies must live, and their passbooks are compressed diaries.”-Arthur Conan Doyle, As Far As I’m Willing To Be Concerned
“Surely not all the single ladies, Holmes?”
“All the single ladies, Watson.”
“Really Holmes, a Single Ladies joke in 2022?”
“Had to be done Watson. Just like that metric pile of medical cocaine you brought along, hint-hint.”
“Quite, pass the sniffer-shovel, Holmes.”
My experience has been similar; I can’t recall off the top of my head when it was that I got lost driving home from getting Cold Stone and my wife had to drink her Mud Pie Mojo like a weird chunky cup of Nesquik, but I do remember that I was listening to John Hodgman read Robert Sheckley’s Dimension Of Miracles at the time, so all I have to do is search for that in my lists et voila, my 2017 note delivers:
When was I last hospitalized??? No the hell idea, mainly because my memories of that time are blurred by meningitis, but I do remember that I was reading A Dance With Dragons at the time because my then-foxy-girlfriend-now-foxy-wife brought it to me and my morphine-weakened arms couldn’t hold the goddamn thing up to read it, so it fell on me, crushing my frail form like so many science fair projects beneath the ass of a careless uncle, keeping me in the hospital for another month. Also, in retrospect, a 1,000-page book is going to take at least several weeks to read, so it’s not an exact science, but still.
(Fun side-note: I was hospitalized after having a grand mal seizure in my ASL class due to the above-mentioned meningitis, during which I apparently bit my professor as he eased me to the ground. This would be mortifying enough on its own, but I had no idea it happened until he told me years later during our final class together, meaning that for years I thought of him as Dan The Cool Professor and he thought of me as KID THAT BIT ME. Being Deaf, and with ASL’s flair for…shall we say flavor text, he made big chompy shark-motions and went rawr-grawr as he told the story. We stan a real one.)
There are downsides, however: for example this month I’m reading several fairly thick actual non-comic books and enjoying the hell out of them, but I don’t keep track of pages-read or pleasure-measurement, a phrase I just got twelve years in jail for typing, I keep track of 👏 books 👏 finished, so my Books Read September 2022 page is looking mighty thin, only one column so far, and that does fill me with a certain make-Number-go-up anxiety. Gamification is a powerful, extremely useful tool in many areas of life, but the thing about games is that it’s possible to lose them, for Number to go down, and then a tool to enhance our enjoyment of something we love becomes a source of guilt and stress; this is of course purest nonsense, but nonsense is the clay from which all human bricks are made, and if we can enjoy something, we can weaponize it against ourselves. So, watch out for that, and remember that all of the structures and social stuff surrounding all of this is merest fluff, is stickers and puffy-paint on the thing we actually care about: Books, and reading them, at our own damn pace, unhurried and because we want to, not out of some sense of obligation. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m recording an episode of my Percy Jackson And The Olympians read-through podcast in three hours and it would probably help if I actually read the chapter before then, so I’m gonna go skim that as quickly as possible, substituting jokes for insight.
What about you all, do you keep track of your reading? What do you use, some kinda book-abacus? Can I have one? Whom might you unknowingly have bitten? When was the last time you let a book crush you beneath its leaves like a centipede entombed alive in the loam? Lemme know in the comments!
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