Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Book Database.

I am about to let you into my inner book craziness. Prepare yourself for what you are about to see.

About 5 or 6 years ago, the books were overflowing in the linen closet outside of my room at my parent's house. Books were in piles all over in the closet, to the point that I had no idea what was three stacks IN on the shelves. I needed a way to organize and keep track of my books in a way that suited my needs. I asked my older brother for help and he created a spreadsheet for me in Excel that I have been using ever since.

When I first set it up, it was a time-consuming process that took me hours of sitting on the floor outside my closet entering information. Now, when new books make their way into my possession, it takes a matter of minutes to log the information in, color code it, and sort them into their homes in the spreadsheet. Here is a small portion of what what the spreadsheet looks like (I believe that you can click on the pictures to make them easier to see):

The top row are my categories and from left to right they include title, author (by last name), pages, genre, rating, the last month/year I read the book, and a column for who it is lent to. If a book is highlighted in blue, it means I haven't read it. And it shouldn't surprise you to see that a lot of things in my spreadsheet are blue. :) I am a book collecter. I can't help it.

I also highlight books in green if I am currently reading them. Books in purple are lent out (I have a book that has been in a friend's possession since 2007. I should probably give it up for lost).

The spreadsheet also helps me keep track of what I have by author. If you look at the picture above, you'll see that I own three editions of Wuthering Heights. One is a paperback copy that I have had for years. One is the Penguin clothbound edition I acquired last year. The third, labeled the "1959" edition, is one I found in my grandparents' basement when we were getting ready to sell their house. Obviously, I don't need three editions, so I will most likely cull the paperback version at some point.

One thing I truly LOVE about the spreadsheet is that by manipulating the "data" then "sort" options, I can reconfigure the database to sort by genre first. Below is my collection of Chicano Literature:

I can also sort for my individual Shakespeare titles. Scary how blue it is at the moment:

However, while there are a lot of things I love about my spreadsheet system, there are a lot of problems. First, I am debating getting rid of that whole "ratings" column because I hate assigning stars to how I feel about books. Nowadays, I just plug in whatever I feel like putting there to take up space.

I also have a hard time defining the genres of what I read. In some cases, a novel can be many things, so how specific should I get when I categorize it? I could go crazy in that area, and I don't want to go there.

But the biggest problem right now is that my spreadsheet is incorrect. You might recall that I had some computer issues last spring and I lost a lot of old files (including a whole slew of my personal writing). While I thought the database/spreadsheet was intact, since reorganizing my bookshelves and the few books that ARE on display, I have noticed a lot of gaps. There are many, many titles missing from my spreadsheet. So while my spreadsheet says I currently have about 1310 books in my possession, I know I have more. When I wrote my "About Me" page nearly a year and a half ago, I had 1200. Clearly I have acquired more than 100 books in that time span (you've seen my book loot. I have serious acquisition problems).

There are also a great deal of books that I have read at some point that are currently blue. A good example is all that Shakespeare up there. I have read MORE of those than what it shows, but because of the loss, all that data is lost! Sadness!

So now I am going to start the long process of re-entering my books and checking that they are all accounted for. I haven't done this since I created the spreadsheet so long ago. I am sure there are some books that have disappeared somewhere, and others that I am going to get rid of. I am starting with the books that are currently on shelves (mainly the classics I am reading for my project and an assortment of YA and favorites). After that, each box that is in storage will find its way out so I can "check in" each title.

And this is where I need your help. Do you see anywhere that I can improve my system? I'm not talking about transferring everything over to Goodreads, but adapting the spreadsheet in any way (I love GR, but I prefer it for the community aspect, not for organizing my library. Sounds crazy, but that's how I feel).

Additionally, do any of you have crazy book organization systems like mine? What works for you?

But most do you keep track of what you already own? One of my problems is "forgetting" that I own a title. This often happens when I am at used book sales, but sometimes, with such a large collection, I can't keep everything straight. Any ideas? tips? Want to send me on that show Intervention? I totally understand. :D

Thanks you guys! I'm looking forward to what you have to say!


  1. This makes me feel better - I also have a spreadsheet system.

    Read/Not Read
    Dust Jacket?
    Bookstore Purchased At

    I think I may adopt pages and date read, after reading your post... but I'm scared to do all the leg work.

  2. I admit, I only track my books through Goodreads, and after awhile, I even got rid of my "own" label because I would get rid of so many books and forget to un-mark them as owned and thus GR thought I owned more than I did. But I don't own a lot of books, probably less than 400 or maybe even less than 300 now, if you count all of Jason's too, plus my collections. The number is small enough that I can generally remember what I've got and I can see them all on the shelves, so I don't really need any other organization system besides Goodreads. I've never been able to acquire anything huge for very long. I have an equally strong purging side to me. :D

  3. this is a really cool system but I don't own that many books either, I mean over 200 for sure but I can still remember what they are especially since most of them are recent acquisitions. If I ever have all my books in one place I will definitely have to make a list like this, but at this point they are at 3 different locations so it would be difficult to do.

  4. Oh my gosh, you are so organized! I'm not sure I have enough patience to do that! Eek!

  5. I can't really see that this all that crazy since I'm sure I would have something similar if I hadn't entered all my books into Library Thing ages ago. Of course, I don't have quite as many books as you--that's a lot to keep track of! I can't really think of any ideas for keeping better track of which books you own other than keeping the spreadsheet up-to-date. I've always depended on memory, but that's a lot easier with 300+ books than 1300+!

  6. Ha! I thought I was alone in my insanity. Clearly not. I use LibraryThing to record/remember my books--in addition to author, genre, rating, you can tag each book so it works in your library: for instance, I have eighteen books I've categorized as Victorian, twelve Early American, and nine Gender Studies. Some of those overlap==so The Women in White is tagged in both Victorian lit and Gender Studies (b/c I've done a lot of work with the gender roles in that novel)... I'm giving too much detail. But LibraryThing. Love it. Keeps me from buying multiple copies of the same book- I have the link to the website on the homepage of my phone, and check before I buy anything.

  7. I tried out Library Thing a while ago. It does look the most in-depth for "organizing" your book lists (when comparing Goodreads, Shelfari, and Library Thing.) I prefer Goodreads, for the social aspect, and do all my organizing there. But admittedly, I don't know anything about Excel.

    One thing I like about organizing books online is that you don't lose the info if you have computer issues. Ha! ;-)

  8. I use the same Microsoft Database! But I plug a whole lot more information in... I'm thinking of changing it - I have the same problem with trying to enter a genre.

    Otherwise, I have no ideas for how to better organize it :o( I am thinking of stealing your color-coded system though! That's genius!

  9. I only had a spread sheet system for my classroom library (over 750 books). Since all my books went pretty much into my classroom library, I didn't catalog them. Now... I just haven't gotten around to it again.

  10. I'm terrible for this! I loooooove lists, but I don't think i've ever managed to actually make a complete one- I have no ability to concentrate at all. Also, I got rid of bags of books when I moved a couple of years ago, and again in November, so although I still have a lot, that,along with my year long book buying ban (its been 2 months so far i've not bought any!) makes them manageable. I'm trying to be ruthless. Once i've read something, I only keep it if I either really loved it, or if it's something I would recommend to friends

  11. I used to have a spreadsheet as well, but now use GoodReads. However I haven't gotten around to add the book I read before joining GR.

    How many books are on your TBR?

  12. I use Goodreads and then 3 years ago I also started a spreadsheet. I used to record how many pages I read a day but I don't do that now, it just got too stressful!

    I record books I've read, books I own, books and page amounts read each month/each year with an overall total... what year the books are published in.

    I also have pie charts that show me what percentage of books I read in what genre or setting.

    You can see my google spreadsheet here (doesn't include pie charts as they don't translate when importing to google):

    Most of the books I own are accounted for now, including the books I found lurking under my bed. I've tried to list (in the library) all the books I can REMEMBER reading. There are loads I just can't remember the title, or ones I'm not sure if I remember finishing. I haven't included the books from most of my early childhood because I can't be certain about them.

    Before GR I kept a hand written record in a notebook... it got very illegible as my hand writing, especially when I'm just writing for myself... is well... terrible.

  13. Wow, you have a way more organised system than me... mine consists of two different notebooks, one with books listed by author, one listed by location... it's definitely way less efficient...
    Soo, basically your system looks pretty good to me- unless you wanted to add in their locations too? Just a thought :)

  14. The one thing I would suggest is to create separate sheets within the database. This way you can have 10 pages of 100 books rather than one page of 1000 books. (You can sort them in whatever way works for you - by genre, author, read, not read, etc.)

    I have a similar database system for my To Be Read list. (I get rid of books too quickly to bother with keeping track of what I own.) It's in a google docs spreadsheet (which is almost exactly like Excel) so it won't ever get lost or deleted, and can easily be shared with others.

  15. Oh my gosh that's SO cool!!!! I keep track of the books I read each year on a piece of paper, but I don't keep track of he books I own.

  16. This is great! I may need to adopt a similar system since I'm soon going to be moving to a much smaller apartment than the one I'm in now.

  17. Glad I'm not the only crazy out there...I use both Goodreads and LibraryThing. I only track the books I own in LibraryThing - it truly is a reflection of what is on my shelves. I use Goodreads for everything else I've read or want to read - library books, borrowed books, etc. I've used Goodreads for years and love it, but I didn't like that you couldn't create your own library, which is why I started using LibraryThing. (LibraryThing has a pretty solid mobile site, too - it's kept me from buying a duplicate on more than one occasion!)

  18. I love Goodreads for organizing, and I'm sorry you don't find it useful that way. But I don't really use it for keeping track of what I own - just what I've read and have to read. I get rid of most books that I've read to try to keep my collection under control, although I probably still have over 1000 books here!

  19. I've been trying to organize my library in librarything. I have different categories for each shelf/collection I have. I don't have quite so many books as you, though! And it's hard to keep it organized. But I can access it online, so that solves the remember if I own it issue.

    I can't really give advice on how to organize your spreadsheet -- everyone finds something that works for them...

  20. You have quite the collection and I love the spreadsheet! I use Excel constantly at work and it's the only way I stay organized. I live in a studio at the moment so it's pretty easy to track me books :)

  21. I have a spreadsheet for all the books in my classroom library (most of which I have acquired on my own). I keep a copy of the list in the center console of my car and take it with me whenever I decide to do some book shopping. New acquisitions are added to the spreadsheet and a new copy is printed for the car.

  22. I do this, too. Wrote a post with a picture a while ago: After the post I actually added a few columns--when I acquired the book, where, and how much I paid.

    Until recently, though, I hadn't been keeping track of the books I've read and didn't own! I don't do a lot of borrowing but it was also a problem of what to do when I get rid of a book that I've read. So now I have a separate tab for the books I've read only. So obsessive. ;)

    Unfortunately last year I stopped keeping track--recently I've tried to add all the books I've acquired the past several months but I'm sure I'm missing some. Need to be more diligent!

  23. I would love to start a spreadsheet system like this. Maybe that will be something I'll work on after I graduate.

  24. I just have two lists - one alphabetized by author, the other sorted in order of date finished. I don't keep a list of all the books I own, though that's not a bad idea at all, considering all the accidental re-buying I've been doing lately. Hm..

  25. What a great spreadsheet! I used to do something similar, but a few years ago I just transferred everything into Library Thing. I loved being able to access it no matter where I was. I also loved being able to label the books with whatever tags I want (the year in which I read them, YA, classic, signed copy, etc.). It helps me keep track of everything in my library. I even tag books as loaned when I let people borrow them.

  26. I don't have additional organization suggestions but I wanted to say wow, I love your spreadsheet! I'm a list maker too, so seeing other's that are always makes me grin.
    I only have about 300 books so I can keep track on them in my head. But I do have a book crazy habit in that I organize them by color on my shelves. They look so pretty that way lol.

  27. I have a spreadsheet that does the same thing basically. Title, author, book details, prize details (if relevant), then I have different pages for some of the main categories. I also note if they are loaned out or currently at home. It has become a lot of work though so most of the time now I just put them in as author and title and leave it at that.