How I’m Tracking My Reading in 2021

I’ve been using Goodreads to track my reading since I started blogging in 2010.  I track what I’m currently reading, when I start and when I finish a book, and I have about 30 or so different categories (“shelves”), mostly genre but also things I’m interested in tracking, like authors of color, debut novels, books set outside the U.S., and racial or LGBTQ issues.  Goodreads lets me choose whether I’m reading an audiobook or e-book version, which is helpful when I need to look up the name of an audio narrator.  Goodreads also has a widget for my blog that shows the books I’m currently reading. 

But Goodreads doesn’t let me track any statistics about my reading, at least not the way I want it to, so I started using an Excel spreadsheet to track my reading as well. Excel requires extra effort in data entry, but it’s easier to sort, filter, and manipulate the data. For example, I can filter for my favorite books, then sort by genre, and see how that compares to my reading overall.  Excel brings out the data geek in me, plus it’s helpful for me to learn how to build graphs and charts because I use Excel for lots of other things.

Now I’m experimenting with a new program called The Storygraph.  It’s similar to Goodreads but with fewer of the community functions, which is okay with me.  What it does well is track different categories of data. SG allows you to import your Goodreads library so you don’t have to enter everything you’ve read or plan to read, but I’m not sure I want to take that step. I like that it assigns genres and characteristics automatically, so I don’t have to think about how to classify a book (the downside is that it might not be what I would choose).

And it creates nice graphics on my reading stats. Here’s some of what Storygraph can tell me about my reading in the first three months of the year:

Is all this data meaningful? That’s a good question, and maybe I’ll see where I land at the end of the year. But Storygraph has a few other great features. First, it’s much better than Goodreads or Amazon in making book recommendations. I entered some information about what I like to read and got a list that had some of my favorite books on it, and a lot of books I haven’t heard of. It also specializes in tracking challenges. I can create a challenge using any categories I choose, making those challenges either public or private. Or I can search for existing challenges to join. Finally, Storygraph has a rating system that is much more fine-grained than Goodreads.

A few cons of Storygraph so far: the interface feels clunky to me, and it seems to require too many steps to create reviews or assign books to challenges. Some of this might be my own newness to the site, and some of it might get better over time. Also, SG doesn’t allow me to create my own categories, unless I create a specific challenge for that category.

For now I have three different platforms for tracking my reading (as well as keeping this reading list on my blog). It’s duplicative and means I’m spending time inputting data when I could be reading or writing. I’m going to try out Storygraph longer and see what it can and can’t do, and then I’ll report back. 

How do you track what you read, and what types of data to you collect?

  19 comments for “How I’m Tracking My Reading in 2021

  1. April 3, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    Though I like statistics, the ones from GR are good enough for me. The most important one: what did I read – at least the novels.
    I‘m reading lots of short stories and GR is not of great help there.

    • April 4, 2021 at 2:55 pm

      I realize a lot of this data isn’t useful to most people – but I do like to play with it, and I like the way Storygraph covers aspects of books that aren’t just length or genre. And it does a lot of the analysis and the graphics for me. I don’t know if anyone has a system that covers individual short stories, that would be interesting (though less useful for me).

      • April 4, 2021 at 3:10 pm

        I’d probably have to program that myself. But I’m too lazy 🙂

  2. April 3, 2021 at 4:59 pm

    I’ve been using Goodreads forever and also have just started experimenting with Storygraph. I like it. I am actually in the process of importing — yes, myself — nearly 5,700 books into Storygraph. I didn’t trust either Goodreads or Storygraph to lose my data or mess it up. It’s time-consuming and has taken me a couple months but I do it while watching TV or other mindless tasks. You can add your own categories as “tags”. I haven’t done that yet – just focused on getting my books entered, dates read, reviews, etc.

    • April 4, 2021 at 2:30 pm

      Wow, importing 5700 books sounds like quite a task. I’ve only got about 1,000 books read in GR but I would hate to lose that data. I wish these websites had a way to import the data into an excel spreadsheet so it wouldn’t be lost. Thanks for the suggestion about tagging, I haven’t tried that yet.

  3. April 3, 2021 at 7:37 pm

    This is a really interesting discussion! I primarily use the Storygraph and Goodreads to track my reading. I prefer the Storygraph because I like the data that it shows, but I agree with you that it feels clunky. Hopefully it will improve in the future with redesigns to the website. I like the idea of using spreadsheets, but I’m terrible at being consistent about writing the books I’m reading. So, I only use it for any foreign language books I read, which are a lot less than the books that I read in English.

    • April 4, 2021 at 2:32 pm

      I am hopeful the website will get easier to use! Right now I can’t see giving up Goodreads, at least for its capacity to post reviews. I’m not loving the review feature on Storygraph, but I do like that I can break my ratings down more.

  4. April 3, 2021 at 8:12 pm

    I recently entered my GR data into Storygraph, and it was so much fun because it compares your TBR to your Read. It ended up showing interesting internal biases of my own – My TBR is filled with historical and nonfiction, but my already read is jam packed with fantasy and mystery. If you’re into fun graphs, I definitely recommend importing the data. Happy reading!

    • April 4, 2021 at 2:36 pm

      That’s a really interesting idea to compare your TBRs to your Read books, and look at the difference between what you aspire to read and what you actually read. I didn’t realize you could do that! Thanks for sharing.

  5. April 3, 2021 at 10:00 pm

    Goodreads works for me. The only things I really need to know are 1) what books have I heard about that I want to remember to read? and 2) what books have I already read? (so I don’t buy/check them out again). Plus Goodreads is the only place I post reviews.

    • April 4, 2021 at 2:40 pm

      There are two clear camps so far – the people who want lots of data about what they read, and the people who just want to track what they’ve read and what they want to read. I can see how all of this tracking seems unnecessary to most people!

  6. Louise
    April 4, 2021 at 2:33 am

    I really love these stats but I just can’t seem to get into The Storygraph! Every time I import my books from GR they only ever seem to come through partly and books are missing and it just feels like such a huge job to get them all imported!

    • April 4, 2021 at 2:42 pm

      Hi Louise, I’m sorry to hear the import feature hasn’t worked well. I haven’t done it yet because I like the idea of starting with a clean slate, but now that I hear it leaves things out, that definitely argues for not importing. Thanks for sharing.

  7. April 4, 2021 at 11:18 am

    I am an ardent GoodReads fan. It is by far my favorite social media platform, and I like the community and networking aspects of it, but primarily I love it as a log of what I’ve read and what piques my interest. My Want to Read list is pretty much a hodge podge reminder of everything I want to get to eventually!

    However, my inner geek wants to play with Storygraph. Maybe after all you early adopters work out the bugs 🙂

    • April 4, 2021 at 2:46 pm

      I agree that the TBR feature of Goodreads is really useful. I like that there are so many ways to sort books, like date published, date read, average ratings, etc. Storygraph seems a lot more limited, but I may not be seeing it yet. I haven’t used the community aspects of Goodreads very much – I signed up for a lot of book clubs at first but found I rarely did anything with them.

  8. April 4, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    I wish there were some combo of Goodreads and Storygraph, keeping the best features of each, and enabling graphs for some other data, maybe self-chosen tags? For now I stick to Goodreads, as it’s a goal of mine to enter every book I read this year — I’ve always been more scattershot about it. I admire those spreadsheets and end of year graphs that other people come up with, but it takes too much time for me (I’m not someone who uses Excel every day anyway).

    • April 4, 2021 at 2:51 pm

      I do wish there was a way to combine these, right now I feel like I’m spending way too much time on these different systems. But maybe what I really don’t need to maintain is the page on my blog that lists every book I’ve read, since I don’t suppose that’s terribly interesting to anyone else! Storygraph does a lot of the data work for me, which is what I’m liking about it. I also like that it thinks about books differently, instead of just looking at genre it looks at pacing, tone, etc.

  9. April 5, 2021 at 6:21 pm

    I’ve gotten into StoryGraph as well. I’m slowly transferring my data from Goodreads because I’m doing it manually. I did it the quick, automatic way and realized that it was a bit off, probably because of how Goodreads once considered rereads. I use Goodreads only to keep track of what I read and interact with other readers. I recently started using StoryGraph because, as you mentioned, they are better at giving recommendations and I like their graphs too, but I agree that it’s a bit clunky. Still, I like that they seem to be working at refining it. But what I really use to track my reading data is a spreadsheet that a booktuber created. He goes by @letsread on Twitter. His spreadsheet is free and very detailed, which I appreciate.

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