Archival Lists: What For and How To

Some of the books I've read (and some that are still on the list!)

I mentioned in my first post that I like to keep lists of things I’ve completed, or archival lists. For example, I use Backpack to maintain a list of books I’ve read. I’ve always been an avid book reader, even as a young girl. As I got older, however, the time I spent reading books waxed and waned due to responsibilities like work and parenting, or to make time for other pursuits like piano playing and vaquero/buckaroo horsemanship. I was curious to see how much I actually read in a year. A book a month seems doable, but was I doing that?

A second reason for creating a book list was to help me remember all the great stuff I’ve read. What inspired me was a free bookmark I got from Powell’s Books in Portland that had a list of 100 award-winning books. It got me thinking, if someone asked me for 100 great book recommendations, could I tell them? I’ve read far more than a hundred great books, but it’d make for a difficult endeavor.

In 2009 I started a list of books I’ve read in Backpack. If you haven’t used it before, it’s got a fairly simple and straightforward interface. You can sign up for a free Backpack account that will give you up to five pages, each of which can contain multiple lists (or Notes, Writeboards, Dividers and Tags, but we’ll save those for another time).

  1. When you log-in, click “Create a page” like so:
  1. Here’s a sample page I just created called Books I’ve Read:
  1. Click “Create a List” and type in the name of the book you’re currently reading. As you’ll see in the screenshot, Backpack places an actual check box by each item, giving you that satisfying feeling of ‘crossing something off your list’ when complete:
  1. Once you’ve finished reading the book, click the check box:

Get a full tour of Backpack on 37signals’ site.

In reviewing my book list, I am most certainly not reading one per month as I’d hoped. More like one every two months. Not too shabby, as some are quite long, tempered by shorter ones. Some that were started but never finished sit atop the list, waiting to be checked off eventually.

Go ahead, ask me for a book recommendation! I still may not be able to rattle off 100, but it’s getting much easier with my book list.

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