Perhaps the only thing worse than having nothing to read is having too much to read. Huh, what? Is that even possible? I know, I know, sounds crazy, but with a genre as wide and varied as romance, and as prone to a proliferation of linked books, it can happen. This doesn’t apply only to one’s own individual reading, but, since romance readers are often a social bunch, to recommending books to others. How’s a romance reader to keep track of it all? There are a few (okay, more than a few) options.
Normally, I don’t like to get personal here, but this has been a good writing week, so my brain is fuzzy outside of two things: writing and reading. Lately, I’ve been feeling frustrated on the reading front. My Goodreads goal for the year is ninety books, which should be easily done, seeing as how I did almost that last year, but, once again, I come up behind, even though I’ve been reading more. Okay, so some of that includes things that are not actually published books, but there’s no way to track anything else on Goodreads. When I take that tracking private, however, no such restrictions.
Many of us don’t merely have TBR piles, but TBR shelves, bookcases, crates, etc. Not merely TBR mountains, but TBR mountain ranges. With new books coming out literally every week, new subgenres popping up in the most unexpected places, classic authors busting out of retirement, stronger than ever, brave new voices, and dependable fan favorites delivering the goods time and time again, reading could be a whole career in and of itself. Sadly, for most of us, that’s not a career that can support our households, so we have to find a way to make it work, somehow. For me, this means planning.
I’ll spare you the math, but what it came down to was that, if I read eight books per month, I would not feel like a slacker. Since deciding what to read can be a complicated matter, adding some structure might be a step in the right direction. Hence the migration of my TBR shelf into planner form. Here’s the theory: each month has eight spots on its “shelf.” When I pick a book I want to read, it goes on the “shelf.” When I’ve read it, I get to fill in the box for that particular book. Library books get top priority, because they are the ones with a ticking clock. So far, the “bookcase” looks like this:
The amount of books read is only one thing romance readers may want to keep a record of, because, as any trip through a bookstore these days, be it virtual or brick and mortar, is that linked books reign supreme. When one writer has more than one series going, especially at the same time, things can get a little confusing, and, for those of us who are looking for a specific type of series -in this case, historical romances with an epic feel- it may be time to bust out pen and paper, or open a spreadsheet, and lay out all the information where we can see it at one time, for easy reference. This also goes a long way to figure out what to read next. Having the reading order of a favorite series recorded can cut out a lot of confusion, uncertainty, or, worst of all, throwing one’s hands up in despair, because figuring this stuff out on the fly is darned near impossible, and walking away altogether.
One caveat with keeping this sort of record; once a reader gets started cataloguing books/authors/series that fit a particular theme, it can be hard to stop. Writing down the titles for one entry sparks memories of others, which sparks memories of others, and before a reader knows it, there’s a sticky note inside the back cover, with scribbled names of other authors/books/series that also need recording, but it’s also time for work/family/school, and where is that bookmark, because we are going to have to get back to this later? Seems like a lot of work, but the time saved, not wondering what book comes next in the natural progression of events, or wondering what could possibly compare to the awesome book the reader just finished, that makes picking the next read too darned hard, can be priceless.
Not, of course, that this degree of planning/recording/organization is for everybody, because it’s totally not. Readers who pick up whatever book is at hand, or go for the snazziest cover, feel like a blond hero for a change, or will read any book with their favorite buzzword in the title, be it duke, Highlander, shifter, billionaire, or what-have-you, are doing it right, too. That’s the beauty of reading romance. There is literally no way to do it wrong. Pick the books you love and leave the rest, because one reader’s trash is another reader’s treasure, and that is definitely a fact worthy of record.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you keep track of your romance reading? If so, how? Do you prefer digital means, or pen and paper? Do you record TBR titles, books read, books that go together? All of the above? Something else? Books with favorite names or character types? Pull up a chair in the comment section and tell us all about it. If you’d like, share a link and show us pictures of your notebooks/spreadsheets/shelves/whatever. If keeping track of any sort of reading feels too restrictive, or you think this is the silliest thing you’ve ever read, we want to hear about that, too. There’s room at this table for everyone.