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Old 12-01-2018, 04:32 AM
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How do you count the books you've read?


Or, The Minutiae of Book Counting.

Do you keep lists of all the books youíve read and, if so, what are your criteria for inclusion?

My answer forms the next post to avoid overpowering the OP with wordiness.

In particular, Iím interested in whether you would count different translations of the same work as separate books? Or, if youíre multi-lingual, the same work in different languages?

Letís say, for example, youíve read War and Peace three times Ė once in Russian, once in the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation and once in the Maudes translation. Obviously, if someone asked you if you have read War and Peace, you would likely say exactly this. But if you are making a list of how many books you have read over your lifetime, how many times would you count War and Peace?

Once because itís a single work of literature? Twice because the Russian original counts as a separate work from the English translation (after all, the words are different!)? Or thrice because two translations in the same language still differ enough as to count as separate works?

Similarly, what about an abridged version of a novel as opposed to the unabridged? Two books or one?

Iím thinking of doing a re-read in a different translation than the one I originally read so I am trying to decide how this fits into my obsessive reading list scheme as detailed below.
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Old 12-01-2018, 04:40 AM
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I have kept such a list going since 2000. I started it somewhere during 2000 so the first list began with just what Iíd read so far that year to the best of my memory. Since 2001, it has been every book, numbered in order of completion (so if Iím reading a few concurrently, they will get added as they get finished, regardless of which order I began reading them in). The numbers get added up on New Yearís Eve every year and noted on a running tally of the total number of books read over the years.

Re-reads only get counted on the yearly total Ė so if I read 35 books one year but one of them was something I had read previously, the yearís list is 35 books read but Iíll add 34 to the running total as it was already counted from the first time I read it. (Hence the question of whether different translations of the same book are different enough to count as a separate work in their own right.)

To be considered a ďbookĒ for the purposes of the list, it must be a substantial work of literature or otherwise be a discrete work in codex format that the average person would consider a book (I donít read e-books). Novellas count. Short stories donít unless they are long enough to be bound as a book on its own (e.g a 2 page short story doesnít count, but a 50 page one that was packaged in a small volume on its own does). A collection of short stories counts if I read the whole book (in which case, itís the book title only that goes on the list). Plays count. I donít typically read those multi-novel collections in one volume but if I do, each novel counts on its own even though it was bound in a single volume with other novels and was thus only a single physical book. The same goes for the Bible Ė each individual book counts as a book in its own right (after all, they call them books in the plural).

I also must read the entire main portion of the book Ė acknowledgements, footnotes, endnotes, appendices and indexes are optional. If itís a novel with a critical introduction or other material, the introduction and extra material is optional as the work itself is enough to count as a book in its own right. I donít bother keeping a separate list of partially read or abandoned books, they just get filed away in my mind as something I read part of at some stage but didnít care to finish.

I try to avoid reading anything that I canít finish by the end of the year, unless I donít particularly care to read the whole book so it wonít go on the list anyway. The reason being, if Iím somewhere in the middle of a book when the calendar rolls over, the book wonít go on the exiting yearís list as it was still unfinished. It will go on the list for the following year once I finish it, however the pedantic in me cringes at the thought of saying ďI read X books this yearĒ but I didnít actually read all of one of them since I had started it the previous year and therefore only read some of it that year (I need help, I am aware of this ).
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Old 12-01-2018, 06:56 AM
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Wow. It would never occur to me to keep a log of every book I read.

I did used to keep a list of the books I read while travelling. Firstly, I read a lot when I’m at the beach and away for months at a time. Secondly, I’m not going to keep any of those books, I’m gonna trade them in, next day, on another book! So, if I want to reference or recommend it to someone, I’m gonna need the title and author’s name. Over many months, and lots of books, I know I won’t be able to recall, so I keep a list. In the back of each travel journal. And it’s fun sometimes to look back at.

But once back home, I don’t really need a list since I mostly still have the book on the shelf, if I’ve read it.

You have gone into stuff I have never even given a thought to, in the counting, totalling and quantifying of what ‘qualifies’. It’s impressive, but well beyond my interests.

It seems a shame you’ve done all this detailed scorekeeping and not had a chance to use it, (as I can only assume was it’s purpose, I cannot imagine any other?), to brag on your mad reading and/or tabulating skills! This thread seems the perfect avenue for you to finally do so, (and you’ve set the table perfectly for it....) So, like, at least share with us...what is your grand total then?
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Old 12-01-2018, 07:38 AM
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It seems a shame youíve done all this detailed scorekeeping and not had a chance to use it, (as I can only assume was itís purpose, I cannot imagine any other?), to brag on your mad reading and/or tabulating skills! This thread seems the perfect avenue for you to finally do so, (and youíve set the table perfectly for it....) So, like, at least share with us...what is your grand total then?
Not really even for bragging rights, actually. Just for me. Because I'm weird like that, apparently. I guess I just started because I was curious. I initially tried to make a list of every book I'd read in my lifetime until then, just wondering how many. Knowing that it was woefully incomplete because there were probably many I'd long since forgotten, I just decided to start keeping tally. (I also have lists of who I've slept with and who I've kissed, the latter a bit more give or take as there's a few nights blurred by alcohol consumption; many of those entries amount to "random girl at X nightclub" - I started those lists right from the very beginning of my romantic and sexual escapades. From 1997 to about 2007 or so, I also kept tabs on every movie I watched in the cinema along with the ticket stubs, but eventually got bored with that one.)

As for books, my present grand total from 2000 to now is 477 (plus hundreds, if not thousands, more that I only read part of). On average, I read 25 books a year. The lowest was 2007, with a mere 7 books. The largest was 2012, with 46 books. I've done 30 so far this year and can probably plow through 2 or 3 more by the end of the year.

The other nice thing about having a list is that I associate certain books with certain periods of my life as those are the books I was reading at the time. So having a list helps to jog the memory. It's nice to be able to go, "Ah, yes, I was reading X around the time such-and-such event happened."
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Old 12-01-2018, 08:23 AM
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I've kept a list of books I've read since 2012. Separate translations are all listed separately. Re-reads are marked as such.
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Old 12-01-2018, 08:25 AM
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That seems obsessive.

I associate significant events in my life with thise events, not which book I happen to have been reading at the time.

I always seem to have between three and five books in progress at any time, but I cannot imagine wanting to know when I last read Moby Dick, Anna Karenina, or a given Doc Savage story.
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Old 12-01-2018, 08:36 AM
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I donít keep a count of the number of books Iíve read. Same for the number of movies Iíve seen or live shows Iíve taken in.
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Old 12-01-2018, 09:50 AM
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I created this spreadsheet that goes back eight years, but I never got committed to it until about 2 years ago.

This only includes books I've read on my own. I also read with my family and since I'm an English teacher, I also read books at school.

Here it is, with starting and ending dates.
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Old 12-01-2018, 09:53 AM
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It seems a bit obsessive to me, too, but I can see the usefulness. There are times when I wish I had such a list, but to be of any value it would need to have been started about forty years ago.

I have a bad memory for titles, so when perusing something like Stephen King or John Grisham novels, I sometimes need to read well into the first chapter to see if I have read it before. I spend a lot of time in the library. For some reason I don't have as much trouble with non-fiction(the majority of my reading in the past) - I can usually suss out whether or not I have read it with the table of contents.

The only time I made any kind of list was when I went on a goofy quest to read all 82 of Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason books. It was a simple printed list of them that I checked off as I read them. It took about five years because many were unavailable even through inter-library loan and I wanted do do it chronologically. But it only worked because I had only read a few of them before taking on the task.
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Old 12-01-2018, 10:44 AM
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It is impressive when you’ve tallied it up, I agree! Does seem to border on the ragged fringes of obsession, but as long as you’re enjoying the process why not?

A look back, larger overview, hadn’t ever occurred to me. But it might be interesting to see how my reading aligns to my life experiences, how one affected the other perhaps?

It’s a very interesting concept on reflection, though I personally would lack the discipline. On that front you most certainly are very gifted indeed!
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Old 12-01-2018, 11:07 AM
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I'm a little anal retentive, so keeping various lists comes pretty naturally to me.

During grad school I took a class on social networking sites -- this was in the fall of 2007, when several of them were still relatively new (I was 36, and hadn't joined Facebook or LinkedIn yet; Twitter was only a year old, and Instagram didn't exist) -- and someone did a presentation about Goodreads. I signed up immediately. I added all of the books I could think of that I'd ever read, and started keeping track as I read others. I only count a book the first time I read it, and I don't think I would count a translation separately; I think of a translation as a different edition, and I don't count those separately. I would mark it as a book I've read more than once, though.

While Goodreads allows you to create customized "shelves" for your books, it forces you to place them in one of three basic categories: read, currently reading, or to read. I keep track of books that I've abandoned, and for lack of a better option I put them in the "read" category. Whenever I'm curious about how many books I've read, I just have to remember to subtract the "abandoned" number from the total "read" number.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hampshire View Post
Same for the number of movies Iíve seen or live shows Iíve taken in.
I know how many/what movies and shows I've seen because I keep my ticket stubs; I have since I was a teenager. I converted my movie ticket stubs to a simple Excel list many years ago, and now I scan my concert and theater stubs.

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I have a bad memory for titles, so when perusing something like Stephen King or John Grisham novels, I sometimes need to read well into the first chapter to see if I have read it before.
Until recently, I only had a few categories on my Kindle*: samples, read, and classics. But a month or two ago I decided to add categories for frequently-read authors, and that has definitely come in handy when trying to remember if I've already read something!

*E-ink was also relatively new when I was in grad school, and the available readers weren't quite ready for prime time. I distinctly remember poo-poohing the idea of ever owning an e-reader (real books 4EVR!), and now I'm on my 3rd Kindle. What a difference 11 years has made!
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Old 12-01-2018, 11:10 AM
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I've never thought to keep count. For certain authors; King, Crais, Grisham, I know I've read everything they've written. Every now and again I'll try to buy a book and my kindle will remind me I own it.
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Old 12-01-2018, 11:23 AM
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Umm. I am ocd/anal and goofy. I don't count the books I've read. Now I am concerned. I must have missed a step. Thanks alot. I'll grind my gears about this for days.
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Old 12-01-2018, 11:40 AM
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I started keeping track of the books I read way back in 1979. I wrote each one down in a notebook I kept for the purpose, recording the title, the author, and the number of pages. I kept that up into the late 1990s, when ...

... I discovered the Filemaker Pro database software. Brilliant! I thought, and proceeded to make a simple database file into which I painstakingly typed in my entire past record. Then, later, I got completely carried away and started adding more fields to the database to record more information about each book. Copyright date. Genre. Part of a series. Which series. Main character's name. Other details I can't remember.

The result was that I had turned recording my reading into a pain in the ass like a book report, and I eventually just trailed off keeping track.

Nowadays I don't have to keep a separate record, because I read everything on Kindle now, and everything I've bought and read is stored in the cloud.
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Old 12-01-2018, 12:36 PM
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If it's on a shelf, it's been read.

If it's anywhere else, it's either unread or in progress.

Books that have been sold, donated, trashed, or otherwise left my possession are not accounted for.
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Old 12-01-2018, 12:40 PM
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I have no idea how many books I've read.

My Amazon kindle library has over a hundred entries. That only covers books bought since 2013.

Last edited by aceplace57; 12-01-2018 at 12:42 PM.
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Old 12-01-2018, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
That seems obsessive.

I associate significant events in my life with thise events, not which book I happen to have been reading at the time.

I always seem to have between three and five books in progress at any time, but I cannot imagine wanting to know when I last read Moby Dick, Anna Karenina, or a given Doc Savage story.
I find it useful to have the record (mine goes back to 1984). A few months ago, I was trying to remember when I made a particular business trip, and it was inconvenient to extract that information from the big pile of travel itineraries in my email. But I remembered that that was the trip when I read "Leviathan Wakes" - and my book record then told me when the trip was (allowing me to find the right itinerary and extract the other info I needed).
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Old 12-01-2018, 01:12 PM
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I donít keep a count of the number of books Iíve read. Same for the number of movies Iíve seen or live shows Iíve taken in.
It never occurred to me to count that sort of thing. It would have to be an obsession: I've seen thousands of films, read thousands of books, listened to tens or even hundreds of thousands of pieces of music. I'm not sure what the point would be.

OTOH, I own a huge percentage of those films, books and pieces of music, etc. so i guess I could just count them and call that the minimum. Not sure why I'd do that tho.
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Old 12-01-2018, 01:18 PM
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Does seem to border on the ragged fringes of obsession, but as long as you’re enjoying the process why not?
Agreed .

I don't keep lists of anything - just not a list guy. I don't have top tens of anything or bird life lists or anything else of that sort. I did once get caught up in brief SDMB meme( well, thread anyway )and listed what was then in my DVD collection using some internet database that everyone was playing with. But that wasn't a very large list and I never updated it or subsequently paid it any attention. I've read an awful lot of books in my life, but the idea of listing them all seems simultaneously interesting, daunting and also frankly kinda tedious .

But I totally get the list impulse and I do find them impressive in an odd way. I'm just never going to do it myself.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 12-01-2018 at 01:19 PM.
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Old 12-01-2018, 01:44 PM
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I can't imagine why anyone would want to count or make a list of books read. It doesn't make any sense to me.
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Old 12-01-2018, 02:10 PM
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In high school I started a list of the sf books I bought, in a steno notebook with the title, when I bought the book and where. I wrote the date I read the book above it. 20 years later work and a second kid overwhelmed me and I gave it up.
I later made a spreadsheet of all the sf books I own, with a notation if I've read them or not - but lots are maybes.
So I can kind of count the number of books I've read in my collection but I've never kept track of library and non-sf books.
I have started a log of books I've finished, but that is mostly to track how long it takes and to inspire me to read faster.
I have to read like I'm running out of time. </Hamilton>

Last edited by Voyager; 12-01-2018 at 02:11 PM.
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Old 12-01-2018, 08:01 PM
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I used to keep lists for the annual 50 books challenge. My criteria has always been that a book only counts if I finish it. That means when I compare my past reading to lists of 200 best books or 50 books everyone should read, I always notice books I can't count because I hated them and didn't finish them. I don't count re-reads, but I guess I'd count a book in Spanish even if I also read it in English.
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Old 12-01-2018, 08:29 PM
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I started keeping a list in 2017 because I occasionally wondered just how many books I really did read. It was an interesting experiment, but it had its downside, because I let it turn into a contest rather than just a simple accounting. I wound up reading at least one book (Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer) I really didn't enjoy, because it was short. I also put off until this year several books I really wanted to read (for instance, Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson) because I knew I was going to want to enjoy them at leisure.

I'm keeping a list this year too, but mostly because I'm trying to read a bunch of Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh mysteries and it's hard to keep track of all those titles. I refuse to get myself into another self-imposed contest.

As far as what counts as a book, I haven't read any with multiple translations so I haven't had to deal with that. I do consider collections of short stories to count as books. I also counted the sole graphic novel I read, and a book on archaeology that was mostly aerial photographs (by Charles and Anne Lindbergh!) but had several chapters of text.

Edit: I didn't count books I never finished (duh), but I did re-read several books from years ago and I think it's fair to include those.

Last edited by Rough Draft; 12-01-2018 at 08:31 PM. Reason: See above.
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Old 12-01-2018, 08:38 PM
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It's really not a tedious task at all. All it involves is finish a book, write down the title and author/editor and mark if it's a re-read. Takes 30 seconds. At the end of the year, take another 30 seconds to note the yearly total and add it to the running total, less any re-reads. I just write it in a notebook, no detailed spreadsheets or anything like that.

I used to do the detailed spreadsheet for the movie list, with the date, time, which cinema I went to. That's probably where it started getting tedious so I quit after a decade or so (I am pretty stubborn...).

It's nowhere near as obsessive as the Quantified self movement! That I have no interest in getting into. My book tracking obsession is more like the Minimally Quantified Mind.
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Old 12-01-2018, 11:58 PM
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I can't imagine why anyone would want to count or make a list of books read. It doesn't make any sense to me.
I have a tendency where a current conversation, or bit of reading, or something I hear, will remind me of something I read in a book years earlier, but I can't recall exactly what book. So sometimes, there's a chance that, if I review the list, seeing the title of the book in question will jog my memory. "Right, that's the book I read it in!"
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Old 12-02-2018, 01:23 AM
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I mostly buy books at used book stores, and never give them up. So my book shelf is basically my "what I've read" list. I try to keep the "to be read" books separate from the "have read" books. I don't think I've ever read multiple translations of the same book, so that's really not an issue.

Last edited by Tim R. Mortiss; 12-02-2018 at 01:26 AM.
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Old 12-02-2018, 02:22 AM
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Why would I want to count them? What does that tell anyone about anything worth knowing?
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Old 12-02-2018, 06:45 AM
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Why would I want to count them? What does that tell anyone about anything worth knowing?
It's not about telling "anyone". It's about telling something to the person who is counting. What's "worth knowing" depends on the value that someone places on that knowledge.
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Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
I cannot imagine wanting to know when I last read Moby Dick, Anna Karenina, or a given Doc Savage story.
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Originally Posted by GreenWyvern View Post
I can't imagine why anyone would want to count or make a list of books read. It doesn't make any sense to me.
It seems that some people lack imagination ...

I don't count the number of books I've read but I can understand the desire to do so.
There's obviously a number. Knowing the number can satisfy curiosity. It can provide something beyond the experience of reading. Perhaps it's motivational or it provides a sense of accomplishment. Perhaps the counting itself is satisfying. Or something else.
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Old 12-02-2018, 07:03 AM
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I wonder if Wilt Chamberlain counted how many he read?
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Old 12-02-2018, 07:37 AM
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I've kept a list of books I've read since 2012. Separate translations are all listed separately. Re-reads are marked as such.
This. Different translations can make it seem a different work entirely. If you read the same work in different languages, the same applies, or even mores. Reading in second or third or fourth languages is a lot of work, and you'll get different images and ideas about the text from languages other than your first one.

I also write a few sentences about the work, so I remember it later. Give a star rating system for the better books.
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Old 12-02-2018, 07:46 AM
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I wonder if Wilt Chamberlain counted how many he read?
He had time to read?
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Old 12-02-2018, 08:00 AM
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Also, he number doesn't matter much to me, and I don't add up the totals from year to year. But knowing the themes of particular works, whose writing was particularly good, what gave good food for thought or what light read carried me through a stressful time, does matter. Useful to refer to when getting together with seldom seen friends to discuss books and recommend some or warn away from others. I've toyed with different ways of tracking, but have settled on devoting a dozen pages or so in my bullet journal.
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Old 12-02-2018, 08:05 AM
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There are several people in this thread who currently track books they read, but I don't see any who track every single book they've ever read.

For me it would simply be impossible, and I can see exactly zero benefit, so I don't do it. (Zero for me; if you enjoy it, have fun).

We did inventory the books at Mom's house, but that was so she'd be able to avoid buying multiple copies. The trigger was buying her third copy of a book that's "super important!" but apparently not so super important that she would believe us when we told her she already had two copies.

Last edited by Nava; 12-02-2018 at 08:08 AM.
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Old 12-02-2018, 09:55 AM
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I can't imagine why anyone would want to count or make a list of books read. It doesn't make any sense to me.
so you don't buy the same book twice.
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Old 12-02-2018, 10:25 AM
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I started keeping a list in my teens when I kept starting on suspense novels by Bagley or Maclean that I'd already read. Eventually put that into a spreadsheet, and now I use Goodreads and the goodreads app.

I count the number the way Goodreads counts. Multiple translations do not count, and rereading only adds to a how many books I've read that year, not to how many books I've read total.

I also went through all the books I read before the existence of book tracking websites and guesstimated when I read them, because of Goodreads neat "year read" - "year published" graph.
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Old 12-02-2018, 10:28 AM
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There are several people in this thread who currently track books they read, but I don't see any who track every single book they've ever read.
I try to, but I can't remember every one of the hundreds of books I read in elementary and middle school ... I've only added the ones I'm certain of, like C.S. Lewis' books, and haven't tried remembering what dozen Hardy-boys books I read, or which Nancy Drew, or what Jenkins books or ...
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Old 12-02-2018, 10:35 AM
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No. I must have 2-300 downloaded. It is nice when Amazon reminds me "You've already purchased that"

Oh Snap!
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Old 12-02-2018, 11:35 AM
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It's not so much the number of books. I keep track so I can remember which ones I have read. I read a lot of histories and books on biblical studies, many of which have very similar titles.
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Old 12-02-2018, 11:51 AM
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Old 12-02-2018, 02:43 PM
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so you don't buy the same book twice.
When I was in high school and college, I could tell which books I owned and/or read. Not so much any more. I have a pdf version of my spreadsheets (one for books, one for magazines) on my phone so I could look up books I'm interested in buying which I'm sure I don't have. 75% of them I do have. Comes from being so far behind and from losing some brain cells as I've aged.
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Old 12-02-2018, 06:49 PM
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At the suggestion of my mother-in-law (bless her), who's done it for many years, I've kept a list of books I've read since 1994. I include the title, author, publisher and year of publication, a sentence or two about its subject or plot, the date I finished it, and a letter grade (A+ through F). Audiobooks count, and go on the list. I don't put a book on the list unless I read it cover to cover, or skim it thoroughly enough that I'm very conversant with it.

Sometimes, I have to admit, when I go back and check my booklist from many years ago, I don't remember a book, not even a little. If it hadn't been for seeing my own handwriting about it, I might even deny having read it at all!

As to the OP's War and Peace example, each time I read it would have one entry on my list. In conversation, I suppose I'd say that I'd read it three times, and then explain about the different translations.

I very strongly prefer unabridged to abridged editions, but if I read an abridged edition, it's still "a book," and would thus go on the list.
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Old 12-02-2018, 07:17 PM
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I used to have a card catolog that I started in the 80s and quit sometime around the time my kid was born in the late 90s. I recorded my rating, title, author, genre, date published, date read and other books by same author I'd read (that part got annoying long for favorite prolific authors and contributed a lot to my quitting).

Now I used Goodreads to record the books I've read past and present. It's only complete from 2011, but I add things constantly when they come across my dashboard.

Last edited by DZedNConfused; 12-02-2018 at 07:18 PM.
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Old 12-03-2018, 06:43 AM
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For the last ten years I've photographed the cover of every book I've read or re-read and added it to an annual Flickr album, together with a short review of what I thought of it. These days I usually read 50 - 60 books a year, so it's not a huge imposition or time sink.

For older books I have to rely on my memory and, while I will probably remember reading a book, I often don't have more than an overall impression or a reoollection of a few scenes.
Lots of people blog about what they've read and I don't see what I do as much different from that.
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Old 12-03-2018, 07:56 AM
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It's not so much the number of books. I keep track so I can remember which ones I have read. ...
I kept a list for a couple of years some years back, and restarted the practice this year. I just keep a Word doc, in which I list the title, author, and 1 line about the book. Maybe the subject, whether I enjoyed it, and why. Takes a whopping 10 sec or so to do.

I mostly read library books, so I do not retain them on my shelves. I probably average a little over a book per week, probably 60/40 fic/nonfic. I have a horrible memory for what I read. So if someone asks me if I would recommend any books, I can go back to the list. If I want to recall an author, and see if they wrote anything else ... If I vaguely recall having read something I might want to re-read ...

But primarily, the list is in reaction to my dismay at how quickly the subject matter, content, and even author/title of so many books I had read vanished from my memory.
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Old 12-03-2018, 08:20 AM
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I can't imagine why anyone would want to count or make a list of books read. It doesn't make any sense to me.
So I can post in Elendil's Heir's annual Best 10 Books You Read This Year thread, of course.


I list my books over at Goodreads also. I started in 2008. I don't care for their rating system, and don't really know what it's good for, except that I can tell you I read a lot less now than I used to.
On the up side, Stephen King is my "friend"!
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Old 12-03-2018, 10:22 AM
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I don't keep track of which books I have read. In fact, I was reading The Sun's Heartbeat by Bob Berman recently and parts of it started seeming familiar. Eventually I cottoned to the fact that I had in fact read it several years before. Not a bad book, but not very memorable, obviously.
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Old 12-03-2018, 11:24 AM
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So I can post in Elendil's Heir's annual Best 10 Books You Read This Year thread, of course....
Good... no, great answer!
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Old 12-03-2018, 05:17 PM
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so you don't buy the same book twice.
There are two of us here though, and we both read and buy books. We try to keep track of books owned, which is massively different thing than books read.

The kid's books we keep seperate. I don't mind getting a copy of a book already in the house for him. I look on it as giving him a foundation for building his own library on.
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Old 12-03-2018, 05:56 PM
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I can't imagine why anyone would want to count or make a list of books read. It doesn't make any sense to me.
So I don't rebuy copies of books I already or have read.
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Old 12-03-2018, 06:28 PM
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Probably shouldn't post in this thread because I don't count or number the books I read in any way -- that factoid just doesn't interest me. But I DO keep a record about every book I've read that goes back to 1967. In the beginning I tracked them on index cards (yes! paper ones!) and later through various 'notebook' type programs. Currently Flashnote.

Each book gets an entry with title, author's name, date I finished reading it, and a sentence or two about how much I liked or disliked about the book and why. I also make entries for books I abandoned, including how far I got into it and WHY I disliked the book so much. (I'm a completest at heart, so a book has to be really bad before I don't finish it)

I use these records to compensate for my leaky memory, especially when it comes to names. When I see a review for a new book that sounds interesting, I search the note program for the author's name and check what I thought about their previous works if I've read any. If my reaction to those were really negative, I'll usually skip the new one, but if the new book still sounds intriguing despite that, I'll get the book from the library instead of buying it. Saves me a lot of money when I end up tossing this one after 100 pages of "tons of diction mistakes", too.

Oh, and series books with on-going character/plots arcs also get a reasonably detailed synopsis: names of the leading characters, the main plot points, and -- most useful to me -- the developments in the lives of the lead characters. So when I pick up the latest book by a 'usual author', I can go back and read the entry for the book before that. "Oh, yeah, John's wife left him, he's flirting with the department secretary, and his partner has just come out as gay and he's uncertain how he feels about it." Gets me back up to speed on their lives in just a minute or two, despite my rotten memory.
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