Two years ago I made the decision to keep track of my reading. I’m not consistent when it comes to tracking anything, so why did I think this was necessary?
At first, it was to organize my notes. I spotlight a sexy contemporary romance novel every week on my newsletter. I have read over 150 books a year in order to find 52 that I would recommend.
(And, believe me, there has been some hustling on the weeks when I can’t find a book to recommend.)
So I use an Excel spreadsheet and record a few things:
- The author’s name
- The book title
- The date I read the book
- How I would rate the story
- The tropes, archetypes and high concepts
- My overall thoughts
And this is what I discovered:
Patterns will emerge when you organize by the author’s name
For example, I would auto-buy an author but I was dissatisfied with her latest book. When I added it to my spreadsheet, I realized that I have felt that way for the past two years. (Probably even longer!)
Here’s another example: Everyone in Romancelandia was recommending a book from an author. I read it and couldn’t get past the first chapter. When I added the information to my spreadsheet, I discovered that I tried this author two years ago. Not only did I forget that I read this author, but I didn’t like the previous book for the same reason I disliked this book.
I clearly have favorite authors. In the past two years, I read a lot of sexy contemporary romances written by Amy Andrews, Donna Kauffman, Elizabeth Lowell, Jana Aston, Jayne Ann Krentz, Jill Shalvis, Kendall Ryan, Lauren Blakely, Linda Howard, Lori Foster, Nalini Singh and Sarah Castille.
You think you read a lot of books, but the truth is that you don’t finish reading a lot of books.
Out of the 337 books I tracked, I DNF’d 81 of them. It seems that I will abandon 24% of the books I read.
Do I expect too much from a romance book? According to my spreadsheet, I have very strong negative feelings about 8% of the books I read and finished.
But when I look at my notes, I see trends on why I didn’t like the book. The most common reasons were because the author spent too much time on family drama, other characters or subplots than on the romance.
It also turns out that I don’t like a book when a main character has such a traumatizing back story that their life is too wrecked to have a true happily-ever-after
You know what you like, but perhaps you should try new tropes, archetypes or high concepts
There are quite a few Friends-to-Lovers and Enemies-to-Lovers romances on my spreadsheet. I’m surprised by this because I don’t think I gravitate to these storylines.
I read a lot of romance novels that has the one-night stand trope. I don’t know if this says something about me or if it says something more about the romance novels being published today.
There are many rule-following heroines / rebel heroes romances on my spreadsheet.
It’s been easy maintaining this spreadsheet and, to my surprise, it has saved me time.
- I check it when I can’t remember if I’ve already read a book
- Descriptive words jog my memory better than a star rating
- My notes are very simple. I explain what I like or didn’t like in less than 2 sentences
Is there one thing I would change or add? I’m tempted to include why I picked up the book. Was I influenced by a reviewer or an advertisement? Did the high concept intrigue me? Or did the clinch cover grab my attention?
But I probably won’t track why I chose the book. After all, there is such a thing as too much data.
Want to avoid spreadsheets? Become an organized reader with one of these journals!