Art Kavanagh

Criticism, fiction and other writing

Tracking my reading

I’ve never been enthusiastic about the idea of tracking the books I read. I joined Goodreads in late 2015 only because I thought (wrongly) that it might be a good place to promote an ebook I had self-published. I never felt all that comfortable there but inertia kept me on the site for several years. In the past 2 years or so, I’ve briefly tried and Copper but got bored with them in short order.

Something I’ve stuck with rather longer has been the Bookshelves feature in, and the companion app, Epilogue (iOS App Store link). Up to a few weeks ago, I’d been using these consistently (with a brief break to try out Copper) since late 2021. I’ve enjoyed the experience but I think that, fundamentally, the attraction has been not so much the possibility of keeping a record of my reading as the technical challenge of creating a Hugo template to display the bookshelves, including my comments on the books I’ve read. That challenge has been met, more or less to my satisfaction.

But as for the tracking itself, it’s started (again) to feel a bit too regimented and inflexible: kind of like a straitjacket. I found myself wondering whether it was OK to add another book to the Currently Reading shelf. Weren’t there too many there already? Was I really ever going to get around to all the (11) books on To Read? If I happened to be rereading (as was often the case) a book that was already on Finished Reading, obviously I didn’t want to add it again, but perhaps I should make a new shelf just for Rereads? What about books I was rereading for the nth time? Wouldn’t it be simpler just to drop the whole idea?

A few weeks ago, I decided that it would. Maybe. So, I’ve deleted the Hugo templates, removed “Bookshelf” from the navigation menu and stopped adding books to my bookshelves or moving books between them. As a result, my shelves show that the last book I finished was A S Byatt’s Sugar and other stories on 21 August, while John McGahern’s Amongst Women still appears on my To Read list, though I finished it … when was it? Tuesday evening, I think; does it matter?

The previous time I deleted the bookshelf Hugo templates (while I was trying out Copper) the page itself remained up, but frozen at the date it had last been generated from those templates. That seems to be the case again this time. Though there is no longer a link to the page from the navigation menu, it still exists as a snapshot of my reading as at 21 August 2023. It’ll be interesting to see how long it lasts — and how long I do, without a method to keep track of my reading.

Posted by Art on 17-Sep-2023.