How do you count the books you've read?

Or, The Minutiae of Book Counting.

Do you keep lists of all the books you’ve 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, I’m interested in whether you would count different translations of the same work as separate books? Or, if you’re multi-lingual, the same work in different languages?

Let’s say, for example, you’ve read War and Peace three times – 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 it’s 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?

I’m 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. :slight_smile:

I have kept such a list going since 2000. I started it somewhere during 2000 so the first list began with just what I’d 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 I’m 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 Year’s 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 – so if I read 35 books one year but one of them was something I had read previously, the year’s list is 35 books read but I’ll 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 “book” 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 don’t read e-books). Novellas count. Short stories don’t unless they are long enough to be bound as a book on its own (e.g a 2 page short story doesn’t 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, it’s the book title only that goes on the list). Plays count. I don’t 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 – 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 – acknowledgements, footnotes, endnotes, appendices and indexes are optional. If it’s 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 don’t 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 didn’t care to finish.

I try to avoid reading anything that I can’t finish by the end of the year, unless I don’t particularly care to read the whole book so it won’t go on the list anyway. The reason being, if I’m somewhere in the middle of a book when the calendar rolls over, the book won’t go on the exiting year’s 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 “I read X books this year” but I didn’t 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 :D).

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?

Not really even for bragging rights, actually. Just for me. Because I’m weird like that, apparently. :smiley: 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.”

I’ve kept a list of books I’ve read since 2012. Separate translations are all listed separately. Re-reads are marked as such.

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 don’t keep a count of the number of books I’ve read. Same for the number of movies I’ve seen or live shows I’ve taken in.

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.

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. :slight_smile:

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.

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!

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.

I know how many/what movies and shows I’ve seen because I keep my ticket stubs; I have since I was a teenager. :slight_smile: I converted my movie ticket stubs to a simple Excel list many years ago, and now I scan my concert and theater stubs.

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! :slight_smile:

*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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.