Why You Should Record The Books You Read

Books on a shelf

Can you remember the books you read last summer? What about that one you loved? That one you couldn’t stop thinking about. Or have you been asked for a good book recommendation recently, and you find your mind has gone blank? I hate it when that happens. Why not start recording what you read? You’ll always have a great book recommendation at hand, and you’ll never wonder how you spent those lazy summer days reading. You’ll know.

Should You Record The Books You Read?

  • Keeping a record of the books you’ve read can help you to see if you want to prioritise reading more. We often wonder why we didn’t have time to read, but keeping a record of what you’ve read will allow you to see, in black and white, how many books you’ve gobble up in a year. This number could be high, or it could be low. But knowing the number allows you to make adjustments accordingly. If you’re not happy, make more time for reading.
  • Keeping a record of the books you’ve read allows you to notice what you like. You start to develop a style or type. You’ll learn which books are going to set you alight, and you’ll know when to leave a book unfinished.
  • Keeping a record of the books you’ve read will help you to retain more of the information you’ve read. This is especially true for non-fiction. Making notes and copying out quotes helps you to cement the learning from the book you’ve read. Here’s how you can read more non-fiction.
  • Keeping a record of the books you read is also a great way to document your life. By looking at the books you’ve chosen and the stories you’ve spent enjoyed allows you to see a visual representation of how you’ve spent your time. It’s also a great way to add some tangibility to your life documentation. You can count the pages, tally up the hours, and literally see how you’ve spent your days.
Books on a shelf

How To Record What You’ve Read

For the last few years, I’ve made a list of all the books I’ve read. It sounds like a bit of weird thing to do, but this guy I met at Uni told me he did it and although I’d dabbled in the past, I decided in 2019 – I’m doing it properly. And I’m so glad I did. I’ve not looked back since. You can see the books I read in 2019 and in 2020.

There are lots of different options to help you record the books you’ve read. I’ll be honest, I just like a simple Google Sheet. It takes seconds to update, and I can access it whenever I’ve got my computer. You could use paper diaries and journals, set up an account on Goodreads, or even start your own Twitter thread. It doesn’t matter how you do it, you just need to start.

When To Start Recording The Books You Read

It can feel criminal to start recording the books you’ve read on any other day, other than the first of January, right? But if we waited for the first of January to start lots of our plans, we wouldn’t get much done. The best time to start recording the books you’re reading is now. Today. With whichever book you’re reading. Start in the middle of the month, start on a Thursday. It’s amazing how quickly we can forget what we’ve read, unless we write it down.

The Books I Read in 2021

I read 52 books last year. It’s funny how the number for this year is almost exactly the same as last year – 54 books. I’d hope to read more, but I think I’ve found the number which is manageable (still a challenge), but it fits into my list of things to do, without feeling like a chore.

To read more books, I’d have to be ‘stricter’ with my time and routine, and I don’t want to read to become something else that I can beat myself up about for not doing. So, I’m happy with an average of a book a week. However, when I analyse my data, which sounds extremely serious, but really means glimpsing at my Google Doc, there are some months where I only read one or two books and others where I read double figures. It’s funny how it works, but we can learn to read more – if we want to.

My Top Five Books From 2021:

  1. Know My Name – Channel Miller

2. Anything You Want – Derek Silvers

3. Think Big – Grace Lordan

4. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

5. Normal People – Sally Rooney.

The Rest Of The List:

  1. Almost Everything – Notes on Hope – Anne Lamott
  2. Bittersweet – Shauna Niequist
  3. The Seven Sisters – Lucinda Riley
  4. Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur
  5. Calypso – David Sedaris
  6. Ghosts – Dolly Alderton
  7. The Course of Love – Alain de Botton
  8. The Lonely Hearts Travel Club: Destination Chile – Katy Colins
  9. Carry on, Warrior– Glennon Doyle
  10. Yes Please – Amy Poehler
  11. The Panic Years – Nell Frizzell
  12. The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman
  13. Know My Name – Channel Miller
  14. The Rosie Project – Graeme Simpson
  15. Your Second Life Begins When You Realise You Have One – Raphaelle Giordano
  16. Anything You Want – Derek Silvers
  17. Show Your Work – Austin Kleon
  18. Your Author Business Plan – Joanna Penn
  19. The Hard Way – Mark Billingham
  20. The Handmaids Tale – Margaret Atwood
  21. Nobody Will Tell You This But Me – Bess Kalb
  22. Happy Ever After: Financial Freedom isn’t a Fairy Tale – The Seven Dollar Millionaire
  23. The Pomodoro Technique – Francesco Crillo
  24. Starling Days – Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
  25. Scary Close – Donald Miller
  26. Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut
  27. You’re the Business – Anna Codrea-Rado
  28. Metamorphosis – Charlotte Lunn
  29. The Path Made Clear – Oprah
  30. Think Big – Grace Lordan
  31. So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Cal Newport
  32. The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
  33. Glorious Rock Bottom – Bryony Gordon
  34. The Practice – Seth Godin
  35. Normal People – Sally Rooney
  36. High: My Prison Journey As One Of The Infamous Peru Two – Michaela McCollum
  37. A Moveable Feast – Hemingway
  38. They Both Die At The End – Adam Silvera
  39. Olive – Emma Gannon
  40. The Squiggly Career – Helen Tupper
  41. My Name Is Why – Lemn Sissay
  42. How We Met – Huma Qureshi
  43. The  Testaments – Margaret Atwood
  44. Find Your True Voice – Emmy Brunner
  45. No One Is Talking About This – Patricia Lockwood
  46. Trust Exercises – Susan Choi
  47. Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller
  48. I owe You One – Sophie Kinsella
  49. Kindfulness – Padraig O’ Morain
  50. The Year of Less – Cait Flanders
  51. The Trick to Time – Kit de Wall
  52. The Sun and Her Flowers – Rupi Kaur
  53. The Top Five Books of The Dying – Bronnie Ware
  54. Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy – Steven Mann

Picking five books was hard! So many others I loved, but so many more I didn’t really enjoy. Why is it so hard to leave a book unfinished?

I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these books on the list. Please get in touch and tell me. I also love to hear about the books you loved and the ones you want to read again and again. What did you read in 2021?


Stories From A Backpack is a place that celebrates the process of documenting our life through stories. You don’t have to see yourself as a writer to want to document your life. You can start to save your memories and share your story today.

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