Reading tools to books is like ketchup to fries. Fries are delicious by themselves, but sauce makes them even more amazing. Okay, that’s all the intro I have.
Book darts // the ultimate bookmark
One time I read somewhere that paperclips have reached paperclip-perfection. (Plato and his ideal forms can go hang out somewhere else.) You can’t design a better paperclip than the one we already have. If it was simpler, it wouldn’t work, and if it was more complex, it wouldn’t work better. It’s like a Pokemon that has finished evolving. (Oh my, I feel I’ve used up my metaphor quota for this post already and it’s only been eight sentences.)
I believe that book darts are the same way. They’ve reached book-dart-perfection.
I most likely learned about book darts from the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy. Around two years ago, I received a container of them from Jael as a present, but then I slowly lost all of them. I’m not sure how I managed to misplace fifty book darts, but I did.
The wonderful news is that for my birthday this year, Jael completely restocked me by giving me a tin of 125(!!!!) darts. I was so excited when I saw how many there were. I’m certain that I will continue to lose them, but at least it’ll take me longer to run out.
Book darts do the same job that bookmarks do, but better. Not only do they keep track of what page you stopped at, but the exact line. Book darts are also better at marking quotes that you want to come back, especially if it’s a physical copy from the library that you can’t write in.
During the few months that I was running out of book darts, I supplemented them with bookmarks, but if it was a book with a ton of quotes I wanted to mark, I ran out of bookmarks real fast. Then I would sometimes resort to dog-earing, but whenever I did that in a library book, I felt a bit bad. Also, this didn’t even work sometimes because I would forget which line it was that I wanted to come back to. Book darts though, they’ve got my back.
However, I do concede that there are two aspects about bookmarks that are better than book darts. The first is that you can pretty easily get bookmarks for free. (If you go to libraries, that is.) The second is that book darts lack the real estate for cool designs and drawings that bookmarks have in spades.
But in my book (PUN INTENDED), book darts still win.
Goodreads // the best book tracker
This is a rare story in which technology fixes a problem perfectly.
I started my Goodreads account five years ago, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I really started to use it. This coincidentally matches the timeline in which I first got a phone and downloaded the Goodreads app.
Before I had a phone, I tried to keep track of the books I wanted to read by making copious amounts of lists, but it just didn’t work very well. When I went to Barnes and Noble and saw a bunch of books I wanted to read, I would either take pictures of all of them with one of my parents’ phones or write the names down. Then when I went home I would add them to my lists. (I feel like my friends are going to read this and be like, what in the world, why would you do that.)
But with the Goodreads app, it is exponentially easier to keep track of the books you want to read and the books you’ve read. Here’s my shelf set-up:
For all my to-read books, I also add them to either “tbr-fiction” or “tbr-nonfiction”. For my read books, I add them to the shelf I have for that year. I also have a shelf called “started-or-skimmed,” which is for books that I lost interest in and either didn’t finish or just scanned through.
There are a lot of Goodreads features that I don’t know about, but here are the ones I’ve used.
1) Compare books with people
This is something that I can do on the computer but not on the app. If you go to someone’s profile, there’s a “More” drop-down button that has the option to Compare Books. Then it shows all the books that both of you have added. It says whether it’s to-read or read, and how many stars someone gave the book if they rated it.
I first learned about this feature while talking to Cas at Dreaming Ink. This is a direct quote from an email I wrote: “I wish there was a function where you could compare bookshelves with someone else and see what you have in common. That would be cool!” Which is when I learned that yes, this function does in fact exist. (Thank you again, Cas :))
2) Goodreads newsletters
I’m subscribed to a few of their emails, but my favorite one by far is their monthly newsletter about new releases.
3) Ratings & reviews
This year I finally started rating and reviewing books after realizing how helpful it was to read my friends’ thoughts on books I want to read, but it’s still something I’m trying to figure out.
Deciding how many stars to give a book can be very hard sometimes. Here’s a dramatized version of the monologue that runs through my head when it comes to star ratings:
I almost only add books on Goodreads if its rating is higher than four stars. And if the top reviews are positive. Do most people do that? Oh no, what if my low rating is the reason why someone doesn’t read this book? Nooo. Authors work so hard on their books. Maybe I should only rate a book if I’m going to give five stars? Otherwise, I can just write down how many stars I’m giving it in the review section. But when I’m scrolling through my shelves, it’s easier to see what my rating is if I actually gave it stars. Hm, maybe I’ll only rate books if it’s from three to five stars. If I don’t finish it, I just won’t rate it. Okay cool, so that’s decided. But how do I decide if it’s three, four, or five? Actually, three stars isn’t that hard to decide. But what about four to five? Should I use half stars? But then I have to decide if it’s three, three and a half, four, four and a half, or five. Okay, maybe no half stars. Okay, I’ve decided to rate this book four stars. (Looks back on rating a week later.) Are you SuRE??
The review function comes with much less angst. I mostly use them as a way of writing down notes for myself. That way when I forget the names of all the characters and what the ending was, I can go back and remind myself.
The library hold system // my favorite thing about libraries besides the books
This is the most basic thing in this post. But it’s the best one! Before I knew about the library hold system, I found books I wanted by walking through the new releases section and looking at all the spines.
Then when I started going to the library with a game plan of books I wanted to check out, I would search through the shelves to see if it was checked in, which could potentially be quite disappointing if all the books were checked out. My other method was to ask a librarian to look up a long list of books for me. Neither strategy worked very well.
But with holds, you just wait for the books to come to you! Which can sometimes be hard as well. My library’s website allows you to request books online, which is something I do regularly. The day after school closed, I maxed out on the amount of books I could put on hold. ASMR is cool and all that, but clicking “ONE-CLICK REQUEST” is very satisfying too.
Book darts, bookmarks, dog-ears, or none of the above?
How do you decide what to rate books?
What are your favorite book-adjacent things?
Do you have a Goodreads account?