Why have a reading list?

I have always struggled to find the motivation to read. The world moves so fast that it is difficult to find the time and patients to read. I have found what I believe to be a healthy medium. I listen to most of my books. There of course is no replacement for reading the more complex or sophisticated text however you can listen to others that are not so academic. I found this to be a great way to spend commute times or entertainment for those mundane and time-consuming tasks. But, why have a reading list? Having a reading list is a good way to track your reading/listening throughout the years, it creates a reference list to reflect and use for future works, it reduces the difficult task of finding that next book, it gives that subtle motivation to complete the list, and many more that might be specific to you.

Reading sometimes feels like a one off. You read a book, find some useful information, and then let that information sit until it is forgot. My goal when I read something is to be able to retain that information until I am afforded the opportunity to use it. I assume I am not alone in that pursuit. A reading list helps to give subtle ques, conscious and subconscious, that helps to keep the information more readily available in your mind. You can then leverage that information when needed. Additionally, tracking your reading gives a good history of the type of information you are ingesting. You might find that you are not encountering opportunities to use the information you are getting from your reading. This is likely because of the subject matter on your list. Some like to read fantasy, and I would encourage it, however if all you read is fantasy, then that might be why you have few opportunities to use the information from that material.

Having a long list of materials that you have read, maybe re-read, and/or listened to is a great way to build up a quick go to list of reference material. Whether you are studying, working in private company or teaching, having reference material is important to support your work. Finding reference materials for topics can be very time consuming in that you need to read a lot and search many authors books and papers to find what you are looking for. If you have a strong reading list, then you can likely refer to that as a starting point or use them to help guide you in the right direction. A useful skill to learn is how to lean on past research and efforts to make your job easier, citing them properly with every use of course.

Of course, if you finish a book and in search of that next page turner, then it might take time and unnecessary effort to make the decision to start a new title. Having a list makes this task much easier especially if you rank them in order of preference. The time to transition to a new book then only takes seconds not hours or weeks in some cases. Your list can also help others in the difficult task of finding the next good book.

One last benefit worth mentioning is that it gives you a subtle kick in the pants to read/listen to the title you are working on. In a world of constant bombardment of advertisements and alternative outlets to spend your time, a reading list is something you created. This fact helps to give it priority over other outlets. Additionally, the bottom of the list will be a sort of finish line. The catch is that if you continue adding to the list then that finish line is always just out of reach. This is much like the carrot on the end of a stick. It gives you motivation to keep going however you receive satisfaction with every title you finish not necessarily when you reach the bottom of the line.

I started tracking my reading indirectly in 2007 and more directly in 2014. I now have made more effort to maintain and improve how I use my reading list to help guide my own personal and professional growth. I hope you do this as well and find it useful.

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