In 2017, I started a spreadsheet to track my book consumption. It's turned into a fun project that fulfills several of my nerdy passions in one fell swoop: playing with spreadsheets, organizing things, thinking about books, researching books, evaluating books, and of course...actually reading books. Along the way, I’ve developed some literary rules of the road intended to make me a more reverent – and ever-joyful – reader. Here they are.

How I Read

The majority of my reading is done on a Kindle Paperwhite. (Fellow bibliophiles, suppress your gasps – I have good reason!) I’ve been nomadic for the past year, so I travel too frequently (and too lightly) to lug real books around. Several years ago, I embraced minimalism and donated all of the hard-copy books I had accumulated – no small number at that point. It was surprisingly non-traumatic (liberating even!), and I haven’t looked back since. Plus, now it feels like an extra special treat to hold a real book, and I appreciate the sensory experience of it in a way I never did before.

Every Monday when I do my weekly planning routine, I update my reading spreadsheet. If I’ve finished a book in the prior week, I log the date, grade it, and double check the formulas to be sure my tallies update correctly. (What would a spreadsheet be without formulas?)

Then comes the fun part: deciding what to read next. I keep an On Deck tab in the spreadsheet where I frequently add titles as I come across recommendations and “best of” lists. I reference that and do one of the following:

  • Select my next book from the list.
  • Read something I’ve already downloaded on a recent book-finding spree.
  • Do some new research on a topic that has piqued my interest lately and find a book centered on that – Stoicism being a recent example. (This is my favorite book-choosing option, but I try not to let reading about reading get in the way of actually reading, if you know what I mean.)

I usually keep three books in rotation at the same time: one fiction, one non-fiction, and something on spirituality. Previously, I had rules about which books to read at which times. (Have I mentioned I love rules?) Eventually I realized it was turning my book consumption into a should-do instead of a can’t-wait-to-do activity, so now I read what I want when I want. I’m a real rebel, if you can’t tell.

Speaking of literary rebellion, a new rule this year – and one I’m still struggling with – is that I now allow myself to quit a book if it’s not sticking. I still debate about whether this is the right thing to do because there is the odd book that takes a significant upswing in the final chapters. But in the end, we only have this one little lifetime and so many delicious books to fill it with – quite a beautiful conundrum.

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For an in-depth look at the outcome of all this spreadsheeting, book-evaluating goodness (and some nifty graphs), check out 15 Books That Rocked My World in 2017!

"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."   - C.S. Lewis


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