Featured Learning Reflection

Why I track my reading

Replied to ‘It’s dopamine’: Why we love to track our watching and reading habits (

Like wellness before it, cultural consumption has become yet another opportunity for us to measure, analyse and optimise our lives using cold, hard data.

Yes, it’s possible to let tracking your reading become a performative thing, but showing off to others is not the only reason to track what you read. There are a lot of reasons I track what I’m reading:

  • To keep track of what I’ve already read — I read a lot, and can’t keep track of what I’ve read and what I enjoyed
  • To be thoughtful about what I’m reading — I try to read books with a wide range of representation and by diverse authors, and if I don’t track what I’m reading, it’s easy to fall into reading mostly white cis male authors because they are published more (and white cis women in the romance world) — I also like to try out new authors, not just read the same ones
  • To diversify my reading — by tracking what I read, it’s easier to look back and see trends so I can switch it up if I’ve been reading the same thing for a while (or choose to continue with intentionality)
  • To pay attention to my mental state — if I’m not reading, there might be something going on
  • To prompt myself to reflect on what I got out of a book by writing a review, and to think more critically about a work — while I’m reading I can get sucked into a story and it’s only when I surface on the other end I start noticing the problems
  • To keep myself honest — I can look back at what I’ve read, and use that to truth what I think I’ve been reading — for example, I say I read a lot of sci-fi, but in review I read as much or more fantasy, and my fantasy TBR is longer
  • To get better at picking books to read — I can compare what I actually read (and what I DNF’d) with my “to read” list, and adjust future book selections based on what I liked or didn’t like

I stopped keeping track of the numbers of books I read during the year (I add it up at the end to evaluate stats), and don’t participate in Goodreads’ reading challenges. Reading isn’t a competition. I’m not reading to make myself feel smart or “well-read”, I’m reading to enjoy myself and to learn (non-fiction, self-improvement, market research, and story craft). Reading keeps my brain moving, coming up with ideas and connections, and I use what I’m reading as a mental prompt to put thought into a particular subject or pathway.

Why read in public?

But why do I make my reading public? This is to share with other people — I find a significant portion of the books I read through recommendations from other people, directly, on their website, in articles and newsletters, and on social media. I like looking through other people’s websites and wanted the same on mine 😊

As part of the IndieWeb philosophy of owning your content, publishing my reviews on my own website means I won’t lose them if Goodreads shuts down. I wanted to use my own website to improve on what Goodreads offers — and my reading page full of lovely book covers fills up during the year, so I don’t have to wait till December for their “Year End Review” page. I also added extra information that I think enhances the value compared to what Goodreads makes.

My public reading qualms

I do have a few concerns about making my reviews and reading public:

  • judgment about what I’m reading — I read a lot of romance, which is culturally belittled and dismissed, so that could affect people’s impression of me — but I am owning what I read because I know how much I get out of reading romance, and maybe I can help dispel prejudice against the genre by writing thoughtful reviews — plus anyone who would judge me based on what I read I probably don’t want to be friends with anyway 🤷‍♀️
  • offending other writers — I’m planning to self-publish, and don’t want to offend people who’ll be in the industry with me if I didn’t like their book or posted a critical review — I stopped giving star ratings other than 5’s because anything less apparently hurts authors (though it is a little annoying to me to not have a quick reference of how much I liked a book) — I haven’t figured out the rest, I might make some reviews where I was critiquing storytelling technique private?

See also: When Did Reading Become a Competitive Sport – The Cut

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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