How I maintain my want-to-read list


Published 2021-05-10

For many years, my system was basically this: every time I came across a compelling book recommendation, I added the book to my want-to-read list on Goodreads.

The list was frustrating because it lacked context. Aside from the most recently added books, I could never remember why I’d added a given book. Where had I come across the recommendation? Who had recommended it, and why? And what did my past self think I would get out of it if I eventually did read it? After a few years, my want-to-read list had grown to more than 600 books, and was completely uncurated. It effectively represented a list of books I had heard of. Not very useful.

Luckily, there was an easy fix: start keeping track of context. I switched from Goodreads to Google Sheets, and made a spreadsheet with the following columns:

  • Title
  • Author(s)
  • Date added
  • Context of recommendation
  • Reason why future-me might be interested

To make it as easy as possible to add to the list, I have the sheet bookmarked in my browser and also have a shortcut on my phone’s homescreen. Adding this information takes a bit longer than saving the book on Goodreads, but it makes the list way more useful.

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