My Favourite Ways to Catalogue Books

I have a confession to make. Call it OCD, call it a “Type A Personality,” or just call it weird, but I am an organizational freak. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’m a selective organizational freak. Go into my room on any given day and you’ll probably find a mess, but when it comes to my music library, to-do lists, bullet journals, or anything like that, I am nothing short of crazy. I love to keep things organized and catalogued because it makes my brain feel less cluttered. I am not exaggerating when I say that if my iTunes is a mess, or if I have a pile of uncatalogued books, I can’t sleep at night 😛

The most prevalent of my organizational obsession is, of course, my personal library. At this point I have around 1100 books, and I have multiple ways of keeping track of what I read and how many books I own. I couldn’t imagine owning that many books and not knowing how many I have or how many I’ve read! Call me weird, but let’s be honest, as book nerds I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way.

This article is dedicated to my four favourite ways of organizing everything book related! If you’re looking for ways to start keeping track of your books, I highly recommend these methods, as they work really well for me. For each method I will discuss pros and cons so you can see if it’s really something for you. And if you’re like me, hopefully you can relate and feel some relief that you are not alone! Without further ado, here are four methods that I use to keep track of my books:

Method One: Old School Reading Notebook

14191405_10157440369590422_1738410487_oI’m starting with my favourite way of tracking the books I read, and that is a physical notebook. This was the first way I ever started to record what I was reading, and it’s been going strong ever since I began in 2011 or 2012. In my notebook (picutred to the left) I keep monthly lists and totals and then a total for the whole year. At the end of the year I make a list titled “New Gems” where I write down new favourites that I’ve discovered in the year. In the back of the notebook I also keep a list of book series I’ve finished, books I pull out of my To-Be-Read jar every month, checklists of reading challenges, and any other bookish list I want to make. I love this notebook so much and I love being able to flip back through the pages and see what I’ve read year to year.

14274427_10157440369700422_715435323_oCons of the Notebook: The fact that this is a physical notebook can be a bit of a hinderance if you like your lists accessible. My notebook is a little big to stick in a bag and carry around all day. Then there’s the issue of never having a pen on hand, and yes I am so crazy that I want everything to be written in the same colour. Don’t judge! Anyway, in a world of having everything we need on our phones and therefore on our person at all times, the notebook is something that will probably just stay in one place. Mine is always at my desk and being the lazy person I am sometimes, I’ll occasionally have a backlog that I will have to write in the notebook. That being said, this is still my favourite way to record the books I read!

Method Two: A Numbers or Excel Spreadsheet

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The beginning of my spreadsheet file.

This is the primary method that I use to catalogue every single book I own. On my computer I have a spreadsheet file that has two sections: “Books That I Have Read/Will Read” and “Books That Won’t Be Read Cover to Cover“. The books that won’t be read include textbooks, dictionaries, and other things like that. As you can see from the picture above, I have a lot of columns that note certain information about my books. I chose my headers based on how books are recorded in a bibliography, and the purpose of this document is to be a sort of library catalogue. The headers I use for my columns include: Title, Author, Publisher, Place of Publication, Copyright Date, Edition, Genre, Format, Page Count, Read (I put an “X” in this column if I have read the book), and any notes about the book (if it’s signed, if it was a gift etc.) Typing this out is honestly making me feel a little crazy, but I’m telling you, it works and it’s a good idea if you have a huge personal library you want to keep track of! You can also use a spreadsheet to keep wishlists and any other kinds of lists you would want to make concerning your books.

Cons of the Spreadsheet: Honestly, I had a hard time coming up with cons for using spreadsheets because I love mine so much! However, I suppose if you’re not sure how to use Numbers or Excel you would have to do some fiddling (or just Google how to use it). It also costs money to buy these programs if you don’t have them installed on your computer already. Furthermore, if you do keep a wishlist on there, it is difficult to share it with other people. I don’t use spreadsheets for my wishlists, but my boyfriend does ,and when I wanted access to it, it was such a hassle! Emailing the file gets complicated from Macs to PCs because either or may not have the program to open the file. Also, you can’t keep track of the wishlist in real time, meaning if I had a copy of his wishlist and he bought something on there and checked it off, I wouldn’t know. The only way to update in real time if you are sharing a spreadsheet with someone else is if you use something like Google Docs, and that is another program all together. And those were the few spreadsheet cons I could think of!

Method Three: Goodreads

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Goodreads is awesome. I’m just going to put that out there. It is by far the best social media platform I’ve found for book lovers, and admittedly the only one I’ve found. Goodreads is the online platform I use to keep track of what I’m reading from year to year. Even though many people don’t like the Goodreads Reading Challenge, I take part in it every year. I don’t take it too seriously, but I like having that online list of what books I’ve read. Goodreads is also my go-to if I want to look up a book I may be interested in buying, whether it is to read the synopsis, read reviews, or to check out its average rating. Goodreads is interesting in that you can customize bookshelves, so I love sorting my books into different categories such as love stories, fantasies, funny books, etc. All in all, I use Goodreads as more of an online reading tracker as opposed to an online catalogue of my books.

P.S. Don’t be shy about adding me on Goodreads! To find me on Goodreads, you can click here –>

Cons of Goodreads: There are a few cons to Goodreads that prevents it from being my primary method of cataloguing books. First of all, Goodreads is not good for keeping wishlists. Goodreads has three default bookshelves that you cannot delete: “Read”, “Currently Reading” and “Want to Read.” The problem I’ve found is that there is no way to distinguish between books you own that you want to read and books that you don’t own and you want to read. I mean, you can make your own “Books to Buy” bookshelf or “Books I Own and Haven’t Read” bookshelf. I used to have these before I found my next method, LibraryThing. However, I just didn’t like that My “Want to Read” shelf was a huge mixture of books I own and books I want to buy. After finding other ways of keeping track of my wishlist, I’ve since used Goodreads only to catalogue books I own that I’ve read and that I’m currently reading. My “Want to Read” shelf remains empty!

Method Four: LibraryThing

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In my opinion, LibraryThing is a better method to catalogue books online than Goodreads. Yes, Goodreads is a better social media platform, but like I said above, keeping want-to-read lists on Goodreads is impossible. That is why I keep my wishlist on LibraryThing. I give my LibraryThing profile to my family and friends, so they can have access to my lists around Christmastime or my birthday, and this is the best way I could find to do this. Like Goodreads, you can customize your bookshelves so you can have as many as you want. You can also write and post reviews. My primary uses for LibraryThing are to keep my wishlist and to keep an online catalogue for all the books I own. I don’t really use it as a social media platform at all. I love that this keeps your wishlist and what books you actually own and haven’t read separate!

Cons of LibraryThing: The first con that came to mind about LibraryThing was that it didn’t have an app for your phone. I always whip out my phone to check the Goodreads app while I’m out and about, but it was always a pain to access my wishlist on LibraryThing through the internet browser on my phone. However, while fact checking for this article, I’ve discovered that LibraryThing has developed an app for the iPhone! How exciting is that?! 😃 Unfortunately, there is no app for Android yet, but who knows, by the time you read this maybe there will be! Another con of LibraryThing is that you have to pay to catalogue more than 500 books. I think the limit is 500, I can’t really remember. I think the fee is $20 – $25, but you only have to pay once and then you can catalogue as much as you want!

And that’s it! Those are the four ways that I currently catalogue my books and keep track of what I’m reading. Hopefully this was helpful to you and you’ve found a new way to catalogue what you’ve been reading and what books you own. If you have any ways that you like to track your books that I haven’t mentioned, please feel free to share because I love organizing my books! Yes, I know I’m weird. But it’s all a part of my charm 😉


To browse beautiful notebooks online, you can explore the Chapters and Paperchase websites here –> –>

To purchase Numbers or Excel you can click here –> –>

To explore Goodreads, you can click here –>

To download the Goodreads app, you can click here –>

To explore LibraryThing, you can click here –> 

To find the LibraryThing app on iTunes you can click here –>


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