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Get Your Reading Habits Organized

2013 January 28
by Allison Tran
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Here we are, four weeks into 2013. How are you doing with those new year’s resolutions? If you find yourself needing a little inspiration to stay on track, it may help to know that January is National Get Organized Month.


Photo by CCAC North Library

So let’s talk about organizing our reading. As you saw in Julie Bartel’s recent post about our bookshelves, we all organize our books in different ways. But how do we approach our reading habits? With so many great titles out there to catch our attention, how does one decide what to read next?

Personally, I couldn’t survive without my to-read list on Goodreads. I also read award-prediction blogs like Someday My Printz Will Come and Heavy Medal and try to read at least a portion of the titles under discussion. After the ALA Youth Media Awards are announced in late January (today, in fact!), I typically pick up whatever winning or recommended titles I missed. This usually keeps me busy for a few months! And to squeeze in as much reading as possible at all times, I’m usually juggling print, digital, and audio formats.


photo by Håkan Dahlström

Here’s how some of my fellow Hub bloggers organize their reading:

  • “I check out a ton of stuff from the library and I read it in the order it is due. If I can keep renewing it, I usually end up reading it later.”
    — Kris Hickey
  • “I don’t read from a list, though I usually have some ideas of upcoming release dates. Most of my reading is simply from browsing. I read whatever strikes me at the time or is available.”
    — Michelle Blank
  • “I have a Goodreads to-read list. I choose books to read based on the cover (who doesn’t do this?), the title, the author, and the summary. I have must-read authors, but I’m not opposed to trying out new authors. I’ll read books that I’ve heard about on Twitter or read about on blogs. I find books looking through library journals or the Ingram Advance magazine. I challenge myself to 365 books a year. I like to read across genres because I want to know what’s going on in the book world, outside of YA lit. I’ll choose picture books based on reviews (mostly from) Publishers Weekly. I mostly read YA books: I adore teen romances, historical fiction, books with strong female characters, high fantasy, contemporary, action/adventure/thrillers, and some science fiction. For adult books I devour cozy mysteries, regency romances, and contemporary fiction. I review books for for VOYA, which exposes me to books I wouldn’t always pick up. I co-host a 4th and 5th grade book club, where again I read books I wouldn’t always choose to read.”
    — Jennifer Rummel
  • “I am totally disorganized about reading! I start lots of books and generally only finish them if I am interested in them or if I feel the need to have an opinion about them (for readers’ advisory or The Hub’s Morris/Nonfiction challenge, for example). A great professor I had in library school told us to read widely and deeply, meaning to become an expert on the things you love and try to read a little bit of everything else. I try to follow this idea. I like speculative fiction best, scifi, fantasy, anything that’s a little weird or magical, but I will read anything if it captures my attention. Maybe this post will help me organize my own reading habits!”
    — Erin Daly
  • “I’m what the Atlantic Wire would call The Multi-Tasker (or maybe the All-the-Timer/Compulsive/Voracious/Anything Goes Reader). I’m reading all the time, with whatever I’ve got in my hands. I’ll read one thing on my phone while I’m waiting for the Metro, and a completely different thing on my couch or on my lunch break. I’ve got a Goodreads to-read list, which I will add to frequently, but I could stray from that list if a trusted reader-friend tells me I should read something not yet on it. My Goodreads to-read list currently consists of 2,222 books (I’m trying to keep it on that number as long as possible!) with 46 sub-categories, which include genre and other ways to categorize (for instance, I have “borrowed from library” and “abandoned or on hiatus” alongside “sci-fi” and “history-biography”). Keeping them organized in such a way helps me to see what I’ve read, what I’d like to read, and what I probably shouldn’t pick up. For the most part, these are books I will end up reading for fun, even if it’s the painful type!”
    — Jessica Pryde

Photo by Dano

  • “My priority reading is books assigned by committee work or for review. If that’s caught up, I try to read the books my teens like, or ones that are recommended by other youth librarians. My real pleasure “reading” is audiobooks. My work commute is one hour each way, so that’s when I can listen to adult books!”
    — Diane Colson
  • “I use Goodreads to keep track of my to-read list, but I confess that while it grows enormously I only occasionally remember to look at it (mostly because if I hear of something new that I must read, I get it right away). I do jot titles down on paper, or email them to myself, depending on where I am when I hear about a book I want to read. I feel like I am constantly hearing about good books, so I do need to keep track of what I want to read. I try not to be such a slave to my lists that I don’t allow for just finding a good book on the new book shelf at the library, or an old good one in the stacks. Often these unexpected treasures are the best and open the door to a new-to-me author.”
    — Sarah Debraski
  • “I try to read as many books on the lists of nominees for various YALSA lists and awards as I can. Typically I lose steam after about two months and read Star Trek novels and Lovecraft until a new list is released, when the process begins again.”
    — Maria Kramer
  • “Oh, I feel that my reading is very disorganized. I do keep a Goodreads list and it is HUGE — so impossibly huge that it’s more a record of books that I’ve had to let go or want to remember or tag somehow and that I would read if I had a thousand lives, but not an actual list that I’m methodically working my way down. I get distracted from everything easily, always reading several books at once and switching between them depending on how I feel, or which is newest and coolest, or which has the most reserves and has to be returned to the library, or which I am reading in order to review (deadlines are great priority-makers!). I am also in a book club, and that sets another deadline, so I often find myself with “assigned” reading. I like most of the assigned reading, because it gives me something to stick with and fight off my “reader’s attention deficit,” and it also brings me to books that I would never pick up on my own. On the whole, though, I wish I could feel more organized about my approach to reading!”
    — Becky O’Neil
  • “Before I became a librarian, I used to read pretty exclusively within the fantasy/sci-fi genres. I will admit, even now, that those are my go-to book choices. Now, however, I try to continuously remind myself to read across all the genres because readers’ advisory is such a huge part of my job. I find that the professional reviewing I do helps me in this aspect, as I’m constantly assigned books that I might never have picked up myself without prompting. Some of those books have even become my absolute favorite reads! In the past two years, on top of my regular reviewing, I’ve also been part of a book award selection committee. This has greatly improved my knowledge of books geared for a middle school audience, but it also means that I have very little time right now for my “just for fun” reads. When my current term on the committee ends, I have visions of being able to just wander the bookshelves and pick out books at random to read…”
    — Jessica Miller


    Photo by Wrote

  • “I have good intentions when it comes to organizing my reading! I really do. I keep a Goodreads list; I write down titles I come across that sound great; I even take digital notes when I am out and about and want to remember a suggestion from a friend. But … when it comes down to action, I always end up perusing the shelves here at the library or asking my co-workers and the patrons for something new to read!”
    — Dena Little
  • “I have too many books to count. So I downloaded an amazing $18 computer program called Bookpedia that creates a personal catalog for you of all your books. You can scan in all your books to the catalog with a webcam, and then search and sort through your books using the program, rate them if you want, and even check them out to friends. It’s the perfect program for an organized book geek.”
    — Annie Schute
  • “I am forever and a day being distracted from my list of things to read — there are titles on my Goodreads list from 2009 that I still have not read. I do a lot of reading for a selection committee, so I tend to read those in the order I check them out and intersperse them with titles that I choose myself to avoid burn-out. I read more than one book at once, and I find that I’m most successful doing this with nonfiction titles, or with only one fiction and a nonfiction. I used to be able to read two or three fiction titles at a time, but I guess I’m just not the multitasker I was when I was in my twenties!”
    — Carla Land

There you have it: reading organization tips and tricks from a well-read group of librarians. Sounds like a lot of use Goodreads to keep track of it all, and preferred genres seem to be fantasy and science fiction. How do you decide what to read next?

— Allison Tran, currently reading Mind Games by Kiersten White (digital), Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed (print), and The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson (audio)

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