Tell me if this sounds crazy

All of our books have a small dot on their spine.

It’s one thing to try to keep your books physically under control. It’s another task for Sisyphus to keep track of your books in general. Here’s how I do it:

  • Create a free account over on LibraryThing. Set up three collections: One for the books currently in our possession; “Library.” A second for books we’d love to have join us; “Wishlist.” A third for books that have passed through; “Previous.”
  • Get some small stickers, (1/4″ round ChromaLabels work great,) and some sticky notes.
  • Add each book to your “Library” collection in LT and put a sticky note inside the cover marked “LT”. I also track digital books, so I tag all the books in LT with “physical” or “digital”. Then put a dot on the spine so you don’t have open the book to check if there’s a sticky note inside.
  • Why both? Some books can’t accept the spine sticker, and sometimes the dot falls off. So the sticky inside the cover is the definitive mark that a book is in LT.
  • New book arrives? Add it to LT’s “Library” collection, tagged as “physical”, insert sticky note in the front, and add a dot to spine.
  • Book leaving my possession? Remove the dot and sticky note, and shift the book to the “Previous” collection in LT.

As you come across books you might want to read, add them to your Wishlist collection in LT. My Wishlist contains hundreds of books. (That’s not a brag, that’s a confession.) LT has a notes field and I often leave a clue about where/why I’m adding the book. When I later—having forgotten all about that book—go into LT to add it, only to discover it’s already there… “Hmmm, that’s twice now I’ve ‘discovered’ this book. Maybe I should read this book sooner than ‘some day’?” Such books I then tag, “priority.” I’ve about ~20 books tagged priority at the moment.

Yet another reason this is useful is that you can search via the LT website, or the mobile app, to see if you have/have-had any book. You can even wander through a bookstore, and know that your Wishlist is always in your pocket.

Does that sound crazy? Dammnit, that does sound crazy now that I typed it all out.

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Blindingly obvious

A few weeks ago I had a rapid sequence of ideas related to reading books. All of these are blindingly obvious in hindsight:

One can gang books together when reading. Grab Aurelius’s Meditations, Frankl’s, Man’s Search for Meaning, Seneca’s Letters, and Epictetus’s Discourses, Handbook and Fragments—and read a little from each of them in each sitting. Or grab the Constitution of the United States, The Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers, and Stevens’s Six Amendments. (What “gang” of books springs to mind for you?)

One is permitted to place multiple bookmarks in the same book. Yes I’ve long advocated adding sticky notes to mark various things in a book as I go along. But the idea of reading in multiple places simultaneously in the same book hadn’t really occurred to me.

One can make their own bookmarks from 1/4″ satin ribbon! I have all sorts of bookmarks; things which slide onto the edge like a paper-clip, printed cards (“Remain calm. I’m the Doctor.” for example) with the usual string or ribbon from the end, 3×5 cards stuffed in randomly, and large sticky notes. But it’s way cooler to cut a length of ribbon and drape it through the book… just like really cool and expensive books which arrive with a bookmark sewn into their binding.

If you’re cutting ribbon to make bookmarks, you can easily attach it into the book just like the fancy books’ marks. Cut it long enough to: lay one end between the last two pages of the book, tight in against the binding, with the end near the top of the page, and the ribbon laying down the page. Flip a few pages on top of it to hold it in place, and lay the ribbon back up across the entire book again tight in against the binding. Now you have a bookmark that feels like it’s sewn into the binding when you grab the lower portion sticking out of the book as your mark.

My final thought in that recent cascade was of course: Okay, wow, I really have a book problem.

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