The Magical Notebook Born from Fear

While chatting with a friend the other day, the topic of how we read came up. Something she said made me think of how I read and made me curious how other people read. (Mainly so I know I’m not truly a freak of nature.)

But how I read actually goes back to a more deeper issue. I collect books. They’re spilling off the shelves onto the floor and over the furniture. It’s a sickness really.

The reason I keep these books, even when I don’t much care for them, is like a type of insurance policy because I’ll think, what if years from now I forget the book and I need to re-read it? Unfortunately, this system isn’t sustainable by my square footage (or my mental health).

A few years ago, I began using index cards as my bookmarks because it afforded me an opportunity to jot notes while reading. It worked, but didn’t assuage my uneasiness. Then sometime last year, I finished reading a book and was about to file away the index card when the stars aligned and I saw an unused 9.5×6.5″ notebook sitting on the night table.

I picked it up and thought, why don’t I just write a book summary for future reference? And I did.

Inside peek at the reading journalSuddenly, all need to hold on to the book vanished. So I continued doing it with each book I read and over the year, I’ve come up with an almost ideal system. It keeps evolving, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Leave a few pages blank in the front for a Table of Contents (Title, Author, Rating)
  • Index tab stickers (or durable index tabs) are great for organization
  • Record small details like ISBN, book format, and date read
  • It may take more pages, but it’s OK to break the summaries up by chapters (for the books that aren’t read in a single sitting)

Since I’ve been using this system, combined with my recent love affair with ebooks, I’ve been able to gleefully get rid of over 50 physical books and, I pray, in the next year I’ll double that number.

The question now becomes, what’s your reading system?

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