I’ve Got Creeps in Small Places: Small-town Horror

By Brittney Reed-Saltz

The truth is that there is never a time of year when I don’t want to read something scary. I’ve been a horror fan since my age was in the single digits, and there’s nothing I love more than being terrified by a book, or for that matter, by a movie, podcast, Wikipedia article, or YouTube video that I definitely should not have watched late at night but oops, here we are again.

But Summer might be my favorite time of year for scary books. I have some theories about why this is, but one of the strongest is nostalgia. As a child, I spent my summer vacations tucked away with horror novels. R. L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and Stephen King were my constant companions through muggy days, and I couldn’t get enough. I would devour their tales of terror with white knuckles and baited breath and a smile on my face, as I projected the nightmarish scenes on my rural hometown.

These idyllic summers laid the groundwork for my absolute favorite type of horror: the kind that happens in small towns. Your neighbors undergoing uncanny changes is even scarier when you know all of your neighbors and can see just how different they have become, and how weird they’re acting. If a murderer is loose in your town of less than 1,000 people, it’s not impossible that you’ll be the next victim. And if you’ve ever ridden your bike past a cornfield on a still day and heard the rustling of something among the stalks, even though there’s not a whisper of a breeze, and your blood runs cold despite the 100-degree heat, then you know one of the strongest and most distinctive thrills of fear available to human experience.

Of course Stephen King is the master of small-town Summer horror. IT is the magnum opus of the genre; the novella The Body, included in Different Seasons and serving as the inspiration for the movie Stand By Me, is also a classic of this sort. If by some slim chance you like horror and haven’t read these, start here.

Then, move on to some of my other favorites when it comes to rural creepiness:

Universal Harvester by John Darnielleuniversal harvester
What is is about found footage that’s so downright scary? I think it’s the undeniability that what you’re looking at is real, even if you don’t want it to be. In Universal Harvester, Jeremy is more or less content with his job at the local movie rental store. He gets to watch movies, and it’s a distraction from missing his mother, who died in a car accident six years ago. His routine is disrupted when a customer returns a tape and complains that there was something wrong with it. When he investigates, he discovers disturbing footage that leads him to investigate despite his reluctance to get involved. This character-driven novella mixes horror and mystery in an unsettling story about loss and change. Set in the 1990s, it’s also perfect for the current ’90s nostalgia trend.

harrow countyHarrow County graphic novel series by Cullen Bunn
Harrow County has consistently delivered Southern Gothic witchcraft goodness since 2015. Now that the series is set to wrap up in June–and has been optioned for a SyFy Channel adaptation–it’s the perfect time to get on-board if you haven’t yet. This lavishly-illustrated graphic novel series follows a young witch named Emmy as she discovers her dark powers, avoids various dangers from townsfolk and outsiders alike, and struggles to work with and protect the various haints who inhabit the attics and hollers of her hometown.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jacksonwe have always lived in the castle
An oldie but a goodie when it comes to small-town horror. This book has it all: a crumbling family mansion, poisoned relatives, unhealthily devoted sisters, and suspicious villagers. Oh, and Merricat Blackwood, one of the best unreliable narrators in literature. Just how did the arsenic find its way into the sugar bowl that night? This atmospheric little tale is a must if you’re only familiar with Shirley Jackson because you had to read “The Lottery” in seventh grade English.

things to do when you're goth in the countryThings to Do When You’re Goth in the Country & Other Stories by Chavisa Woods
I knew I had to read this book from the second I saw it, and the stories it contains did not disappoint. Woods brings a uniquely off-center perspective to this collection, blending mundane horrors with the occasional supernatural turn. The effect is sardonic and surreal, whether characters are using psychedelic drugs at a Mensa party, befriending a homeless woman who lives in a mausoleum, or coping with the Gaza strip appearing in miniature on top of their head like a mohawk. Great for fans of weird fiction and dark magical realism.

Beloved by Toni Morrisonbeloved
Toni Morrison is not a name that most people associate with horror, but Beloved is one of the scariest books that I have ever read. Morrison examines the lasting psychological effects of slavery in a chilling historical ghost story that isn’t afraid to confront ugly truths or to experiment with form. It’s an intense experience, with moments of heartwrenching tragedy and injustice as well as disturbing supernatural horror, but it’s also a poetic triumph that will dizzy you with language. I was hooked from the opening paragraph’s matter-of-fact description of the haunting.

twilightTwilight by William Gay
William Gay was a Middle Tennessee author who is beloved to those who have read him but, in my opinion, woefully unknown to too many people. His novel Twilight is a delightfully twisted piece of Southern Gothic horror that plays mercilessly with our fears of what happens to us after we die. Not to our souls, mind you, but to our bodies. Teenage protagonist Kenneth Tyler discovers macabre secrets about how local undertaker Fenton Breece has been treating the town’s departed. Breece retaliates against Tyler, hiring a murderer to take care of him, and the resulting cat-and-mouse will keep your heart pumping. Fans of Cormac McCarthy will find a lot to love here.

Off Season by Jack Ketchumoff season
I’ve saved this one for last, but whether or not it’s the best depends largely on what you’re looking for in a horror novel. You’ll know whether Off Season is the book for you based on the frame alone: Cannibals in a remote area of Maine launch an attack on a cabin full of vacationers, with violent results that are described in all their bloody detail. This is a controversial book, but it’s wonderful for hardened horror fans who want a full-throttle read that illustrates why Stephen King called the late Jack Ketchum “the scariest man in America.” I definitely recommend reading it at night in a house by the woods for maximum impact, so if you’re planning a trip to Gatlinburg this summer, slip Off Season into your suitcase. Who needs sleep, anyway?

Summer and the Folly of Overplanning

By Brittney Reed-Saltz

I’m the kind of reader who likes to feel as though I’m accomplishing something with my reading. I like goals. I like crossing items off of to-do lists. I like adding entries to my personal reading log. I like completing challenges. And planning? Oh boy, do I love planning.

There is no season that makes me want to plan my reading quite like Summer. As soon as the temperatures rise and we start signing people up for the Summer Reading Program–pssst, have you signed up yet??–I start setting goals.

Sometimes these goals of mine are very general. Maybe I decide to explore a particular genre in greater depth, or to read more of a certain author. Often, I’ll use the longer days as motivation to tackle a really long book that I’ve been putting off for forever because I prefer my books to clock in around 300 pages. Or I’ll decide to revisit an author whose work I love and reread my favorites.

My problem is that once I start setting goals, it’s hard for me to stop. One goal feels good? Well, imagine the thrill when I achieve three of them! Or five! Or more! And if a small goal is good, then a huge goal must be great! Before I know it, I’m not just planning to reread a few of my favorite author’s choice titles. Oh no, I’m signing on to reread their entire oeuvre before the Summer ends.

I’m sure you can see the problem, Astute Reader. Before I know it, summer is over, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the ambitious TBR list I concocted for myself, and although I’ve read plenty of books, I’m left with a lingering malaise of guilt over not meeting my goals.

But recently I had a breakthrough. I realized that I don’t have to try to read everything I might possibly want to between May and August. Those books will still be there long after I’ve dug out my scarves and boots and started planning for Halloween. Moreover, they’ll be just as good, regardless of when I get around to them. After all, I’m an adult now. I’ve been out of school for five years. When Fall rolls around, it doesn’t mean that I have to give up my recreational reading time. It means I still get to read whatever I want, just while enjoying more bearable temperatures and pumpkin-spice-flavored everything.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that Summer reading is supposed to be fun. So this year, my primary goal is not to set too many. I’m giving myself permission to be fickle and flighty, to choose books based on whatever whim overtakes me in the moment, and to cast books aside without a second thought if I’m not enjoying them. Of course there are books that I’m excited to read soon, but if I don’t get to them because something else was more immediately appealing, it’s no big deal. They can wait their turn.

What about you? Are you setting lofty summer reading goals? Do you find it as hard to relax and just read as I do? Which books are on your summer TBR? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

 

 

Up Lit: Positivity in an Uncertain World

by Penny Hilton

With all of the political tumult and economic uncertainty, reading trends have shifted from psychological thrillers (called Grip Lit) to wholesome books like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. This new genre has been coined Up(lifting) Lit. Up Lit books focus on humanity’s capacity for kindness and empathy. The stories are centered on relatable characters and offer a measure of empathetic escapism to readers. Since this genre is still in the process of being defined, I decided to ask my coworkers at RCLS what books made them feel hopeful and uplifted, and I have compiled a list of staff favorites as well as a few honorable mentions.

eleanor oliphantEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
As the defining book for the Up Lit genre, this book delves into the world of Eleanor Oliphant, who is completely fine, until she helps an elderly man who has fallen with the help of the IT guy from her work and finds herself pulled from her isolationist lifestyle.

 

up lit 2The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
This book has been cited along with Eleanor Oliphant as a defining text in the Up Lit genre and it is easy to see why.  After their neighbor disappears, two young girls tackle the case of finding out where she has gone in this whimsical coming-of-age story set in 1976 England.

 

up lit 3The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
A space opera my coworker David O’Flaherty describes as “Science fiction – they’re about finding a place in the universe, friendship, redemption.”

 

up lit 4The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.
“It’s positive without being saccharine and will definitely give readers a cathartic cry. A big plus is that the characters’ love for literature is palpable throughout, so it’s a real book-lovers’ book.” – Brittney Reed-Saltz

 

up lit 5Something like Happy by Eva Woods
“Annie is stuck in her boring and routine life. She suffered a trauma that left her feeling helpless and refuses to help herself. Along came Polly, with a trauma or two of her own, that makes Annie realize that hers just might not be so bad. Polly teaches Annie what the meaning of life could be, if she lets herself be daring enough to try.”  -Marlene Kupsch

up lit 6The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Witty and intriguing, the book is set in post WWII London where a writer finds unlikely inspiration on a tiny island that developed a way to avoid curfew during occupation. The book is written as a series of letters and examines human connection and a celebration for the written word (Goodreads).

up lit 7Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
“…though it talked of the tragedy of war, I was really amazed at the resilience of the human spirit and ability to survive and even thrive under difficult circumstances.” -Carol Ghattas

 

up lit 8The Last Message Received and Dear My Blank: Secret Letters Never Sent by Emily Trunko
I am including these together as a set because they are both very raw books that read better together than apart. These books offer a candid look at humanity and its emotions. Last Message is a compilation of last messages, some are hopeful and others are tragic, but they serve as a catalyst to remember what is important and to hold on to those that we love. Dear My Blank is similar, but filled with emotional notes addressed to friends, lovers, family, themselves, and to no one in particular.

up lit 9The Princess Saves Herself In This One by Amanda Lovelace
[CW: tackles topics of abuse, violence, depression, and eating disorders] Recommended by Brian Organa, this book of poetry presents a narrative about handling immense trauma in her life and coming out of it empowered as a queen, not a damsel in distress or a princess locked in a tower.  It is an anthem call to those who have been abused and made to feel less than they are.

up lit 10You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
A renowned comedy writer and producer who has worked on shows such as Transparent, SNL, and Inside Amy Schumer writes about her childhood as a tom-boy and growing into what she has coined as a “tom-man” with all of the comedy and social commentary in between.

 

up lit 11Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
“Coming of age story about a young woman seeking to define herself in war-torn Iran. Marjane Satrapi brilliantly brings to life her family’s struggle for freedom and survival. You will laugh and you will cry.” -Caleb McCloud

 

up lit 12Honor Girl by Maggie Trash
“In this graphic memoir, Maggie goes to summer camp and falls in love for the first time with an older girl. It’s sweet and nostalgic and heartbreaking and hopeful all at the same time.” -April Smyth

 

up lit 13Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
In this fun and relatable coming-of-age story, a girl in deep fandom with the fictional Simon Snow (an alternate Harry Potter) tackles college and being away from her twin sister for the first time. This book promotes the legitimacy of fandoms and fan fiction while examining the importance of family and moving on.

up lit 14The Luster of Lost Things by Sophie Chen Keller
Walter Lavender is unable to speak, but he is an excellent finder. He lives in an enchanted dessert shop with his mother until the source of the shop’s magic is stolen and Walter sets off with his dog to recover it, finding not just the shop’s magic but a part of himself as well.

 

Sources:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2017/aug/02/up-lit-the-new-book-trend-with-kindness-at-its-core
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/mar/16/up-lit-eleanor-oliphant-gone-girl-fiction-kindness
https://www.buzzfeed.com/lincolnthompson/31-of-the-most-heartwarming-books-youll-ever-read?utm_term=.diKb253rE#.fupKEMG7W
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/up-lit-the-new-genre-on-the-bestseller-lists-36760476.html
https://www.dudleycourtpress.com/why-were-looking-for-up-lit/

2017 Nebula Award Winners Announced!

By Brittney Reed-Saltz nebulas logo

Each year the Nebula Awards honor distinguished works of speculative fiction. The honors are voted on and bestowed by active members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. In other words, if something wins a Nebula, it does so because people who know and care about speculative fiction think it’s worth your time. So for fans, the list of winners and nominees is a great source for high-quality SFF that you know people are talking about.

Want to be part of the discussion? RCLS has you covered with several Nebula winners and nominees in the system, including every title nominated for Best Novel and for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation!

Check out what we’ve got below. You can view a full list and learn more about the Nebulas here.

Best Novel
Winner: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
Jade City by Fonda Lee
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Best Novella 
Winner: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

Best Short Story
You can read these online! Just follow the link and look for “Read Online” beneath the cover image for each story.

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
Winner: Get Out 
The Good Place

Logan
The Shape of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Wonder Woman

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Winner: The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller
Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren

Genre Spotlight: Weird Westerns

by Penny Hilton

Think about how hard it would be to address a supernatural or alien event in our modern lives. Now imagine you don’t have a car to flee in, just a horse to ride and a long-barreled shotgun that is notorious for sending bullets a foot left-of-center. This is the essence of the Weird West.

Thanks to television shows like Westworld and Preacher, the Weird West genre has gained notoriety in pop culture. Although I’ve never been a fan of westerns, I distinctly remember loving the movie Cowboys vs. Aliens because of how they pitted the rugged, battle-hardened cowboys against an unimaginable threat on a background of dusty saloons and general stores. So, I checked out all the Weird Westerns we have at RCLS to learn what this newly popularized genre was all about.

Weird Westerns are stories set in 19th-century America that feature elements from a variety of other genres including sci-fi/fantasy, steampunk, mystery, and horror (bestfantasybooks.com). There can be a range of options, like an alternate universe where hippos replace horses or a dusty southwest city where monsters, cyborgs, and cannibals are kept at bay thanks only to magic wards. Like other time-centered fantasy works, there is a healthy bit of world building in each book that helps the story develop and provide alternate history as needed.

Stylistically Weird Westerns are varied. Some throw you right into the heart of the weirdness, like the graphic novel The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn that features a foreboding conversation between a gunslinger and grisly tree of souls within the first ten pages. Others begin with an unremarkable western character that encounters a supernatural element such as an alien with a gold-seeking gun or a man who can genetically modify plants by breathing in their pollen (Dead Man’s Hand: an Anthology of the Weird West, John Joseph Adams).

While I’ve only mentioned the briefest of what this genre has to offer, below I have listed some of the Weird Westerns we have at the library. Stop by your local branch to check them out!

TV:
Preacher
Westworld
Firefly

preacher season 2        westworld      firefly

Graphic Novels:
Preacher by Garth Ennis; volume 1 available through Hoopla and Overdrive
The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn

preacher book 1       sixth gun

Young Adult:
Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen
Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

wake of vultures       revenge and the wild.jpg

Fiction:
River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
Dead Man’s Hand edited by John Joseph Adams
The Gunslinger (Dark Tower Series) by Stephen King
The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman
Six-Gun Tarot by R. S. Belcher

river of teeth.jpg     dead mans.jpg     gunslinger.jpg

half made world     six gun tarot

Sources:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WeirdWest http://bestfantasybooks.com/weird-west-fantasy.html https://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-joseph-adams/totally-bizarre-takes-on-_b_5432732.html
https://rclsreads.com/
http://www.syfy.com/syfywire/west-gone-wild-9-comics-weirdest-westerns

In Search of My Favorite Dark Bookish Feeling, or, Gillian Flynn Ruined My Life

By Brittney Reed-Saltz

Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a workshop on reader’s advisory with Becky Spratford, an expert on connecting readers with books. (You can check out her blog here.) During the workshop, Becky talked a lot about book appeals, and about how when we look for books, we’re really looking for the feeling and the frame. We love books because of how they make us feel, not necessarily because of the plot, which varies wildly from book to book… or, at least, it should!

That spurred me to think more about why I love my favorite books, and it helped me to identify the root cause of one of my biggest problems as a reader.

I guess you could call it Gone Girl Syndrome, or OMG-Why-Hasn’t-Gillian-Flynn-Written-A-New-Book-Yet Disorder. Like most of the rest of the world, I read Gone Girl a few years ago, and I loved it. When I read Dark Places and Sharp Objects, I discovered that I loved them even more. Then I read Flynn’s novella The Grownup… And then I was finished. With her entire oeuvre. And thus began the sad Googling.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking for books that are similar to Flynn’s, with varying degrees of success and a bit of floundering. What to search for? Gone Girl readalikes? Domestic thrillers? Psychological thrillers by women? The problem, of course, is that genre lists only go so far, and suggested readalikes don’t always capture what I like about a book in the first place. You can spend all day long telling me to read Tana French, but since police procedurals are hit-or-miss for me, it’s just not going to be the same.

So, what is it about Flynn’s work that makes it so irresistible to me?

I sat down and made a list of appeal terms that describe her writing. Here’s what I realized that her books have in common: They are dark, suspenseful, and engrossing. They are literary, with plenty of time spent on characterization, and they might employ multiple perspectives or play with form. They are psychological, and they often turn up bleak (very bleak) observations about people and society. Finally, they prominently feature “unlikable” characters and unreliable narrators, most of whom are women.

Once I had that list, I realized that those terms also describe other books I’ve read that have successfully given me that elusive Gillian Flynn feeling.

Here are those books:

The Secret History by Donna Tarttsecret history
Students at a prestigious New England university develop deep, complicated relationships while studying together in an exclusive Classics course. As they become increasingly wrapped up in the world they’ve created, tensions rise and give way to betrayal and death. Tartt takes her time developing characters that I loved to hate. They are glamorously despicable and so much fun to read about as you wonder if and when their lies will be revealed. Donna Tartt isn’t exactly an unknown author, and this is far from being a new book, but if you’ve been putting off trying her work, I can’t recommend The Secret History enough.

night filmNight Film by Marisha Pessl
I got so sucked into Night Film that it made me angry at real life for interfering with my reading time. This novel follows a disgraced journalist as he researches the death of the daughter of a cult film director, employing unlikely allies and extreme measures to sniff out suspected conspiracy. There were many times as I read Night Film that I had no clue what was happening or what was real, and I couldn’t get enough. The included photographs, documents, and web content add extra layers of involvement to this convoluted mystery. If you’re like me, you’ll wish that the movies this book describes were real, but unfortunately we’ll have to settle for alternatives. (David Lynch is a suggested substitute, and he comes pretty close.)

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylanlong black veil
A group of friends go into the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary. One of them does not come out. Twenty years later, the body’s discovery dredges up memories and secrets that could ruin the lives of everyone involved. The spooky frame of this novel piqued my interest, but instead of a horror novel set in a derelict building (which would also have been pretty fun for me), I got effortlessly drawn character studies that interrogate the meaning of identity and change. Flashbacks between the present day and the day of the murder and the switches in perspective maintain suspense. Be advised that you find out who the killer is about halfway through, but don’t worry: The whodunnit isn’t the point, and there are plenty of reasons to keep reading to the very last page. (Also be advised that this book includes some animal deaths. The two scenes are brief and serve the plot, but if that’s a deal-breaker for you, steer clear.)

ultraluminousUltraluminous by Katherine Faw
A prostitute returns to New York City from Dubai, leaving behind an ex-lover, under unknown circumstances. Who is she, and why is she back? The details unfold as the narrator recounts her daily routines and her interactions with clients, giving up piece by piece until the full picture is revealed at the end. Faw doesn’t shy away from a bit of literary experimentation, writing in vignettes and eschewing all names in favor of the  dehumanizing sobriquets the narrator assigns to her johns. If you want a gritty examination of what it means to be in control, this is your book. I loved how it played with my expectations and kept me nervous and slightly confused. I read chapter after chapter after chapter like I was scarfing down potato chips, shocked when my knuckles brushed against the bottom of the bag.

Apparently, we can expect a new Gillian Flynn book in 2021, when she will release a retelling of HamletThat’s my favorite Shakespeare play, and I think that if anyone can get it right, it’s her. Until then, I hope that these recommendations help ease your impatience as they have eased mine.

And don’t worry; I’m always looking for more. If you see me at the circ desk, don’t be afraid to ask which books have given me that Gillian Flynn feeling lately, or to share your own suggestions!

Why Tracking Your Reading Is a Good Idea–And Some Ways to Do It

by Brittney Reed-Saltz

It’s a dilemma familiar to many avid readers: You’re browsing the stacks at your local library, searching for a new book to read. It feels like you’ve read everything, and you teeter at the brink of despair, when finally, a title catches your eye. You read the blurb, and it sounds like something you would love! You proceed with excitement to the circulation desk and check the book out. Back home, you settle in for a night of literary escape. You read the first few pages, and immediately you’re sucked in… Until you realize that things sound familiar. Too familiar. You’ve already read this book.

Despair! Angst! Worse… Nothing to read! Nooo!

During the years that I’ve worked in libraries, I’ve frequently encountered patrons stuck in this dreaded cycle. And I get it. When you read multiple books each week, it can be hard to remember what you’ve read.

That’s why I’m such a proponent of keeping track of every book that you read. I’ve been doing it for years, and here are some of the ways I’ve accomplished this task.

The Pen-and-Paper Method
This is exactly what it sounds like: you write down the books you read. Looseleaf paper, notepads, fancy notebooks, it’s all up to you. The same goes for any other information you want to include: dates started and finished, genre, markers of diversity, inclusion in book challenges, etc.

You can expand this idea way beyond a simple list. Bullet journals have been a big thing for awhile now, and there are so many articles and ideas on Pinterest for finding your own bookish bojo bliss. Keep it simple, or go as wild as you like… After all, this could be a great excuse to buy multicolored pens and whimsical washi tape.

The Social Method
Maybe pen and paper isn’t your style. You don’t want to keep track of a bunch of lists or have to remember to bring your journal with you when you’re out and about. If you want an easy and portable way to track your reading, book-oriented social media sites are the way to go.

Goodreads lets you create custom shelves, set goals, and share reviews with friends, and it is probably the most popular site to track your reading. The mobile app even lets you scan barcodes to quickly look up books and add them to your shelves! There is no end to the book recommendations that you’ll get on Goodreads, so expect your Want to Read shelf to overflow almost immediately.

LibraryThing is another option that allows you to catalog your personal library with as much specificity as you want. However, the site is only free for the first 200 books you enter; after that, you’ll need to pay a subscription fee or buy a lifetime membership.

Another fun option is Riffle, which allows you to create and share curated lists of books. If you’re the kind of person who loves recommending books to your friends, you can have a lot of fun coming up with your own custom reading lists. Riffle is also great for discovering new books or finding your next read when you’re craving a specific type of story.

The Privately Techy Method
Maybe sharing everything you read with the general public–or even just your friends–doesn’t appeal to you, but you like the ease and portability of a digital option. In that case, try a reading spreadsheet! With Google Sheets, you can have your list right on your phone. You can also customize your spreadsheet as much as you would like. It’s easy to track genres, page counts, audiobook lengths, and more. If the idea of an over-the-top spreadsheet is appealing, but you doubt your prowess, never fear. Book Riot has one that you can copy to your own Google Drive and use for free. 

So, which one do I use?
I have dabbled in each of these methods, and have experienced firsthand the pros and cons of each. When I first started tracking my reading in middle school, I made a simple pen-and-paper list. That evolved into a Word Perfect doc (hey, it was the early 2000s) that I kept for each school year and summer, printing them off for record-keeping. Sometime around the end of college I discovered Goodreads, and I used it off and on for several years before I decided that I wanted a more private way to track my books.

That’s when I started my Google Sheet reading log. I adore being able to track genres, color-code my reading by months, and easily sort my data. (It’s possible that I even make charts at the end of each month. And by “it’s possible,” I mean that I definitely do.)

Sometimes I still miss the social aspect of Goodreads, though, which is why I’m on it nearly every day, and why I still periodically review books there. Sometimes I just really need to talk to other people about a book that I’ve loved–or one that made me facepalm myself unconscious–and besides, I love making disastrously long lists of books that it will take me years to get through.

Ultimately, every reader has their own interests and needs, and there is not one method that will work for everyone. If you’re new to tracking your reading, try out different options and see which one feels natural to you and best fits your lifestyle.

Track your reading carefully and consistently, and you’ll free yourself from accidental re-reads forever!