9 September 2009

System & Organisation: Book Reviews

In a comment on my recent Weekly Geeks post about reviewing books, Uriah Robinson asked if I had always been this organised.

I guess my answer is yes - but I thought I'd let you in on some of the detail behind that.
I have been an avid reader of crime fiction for as long as I can remember, certainly for at least 45 years, perhaps longer, but in the early days I read far more widely than I do now.

But lets jump to 1975. A 3 month bus trip from Kathmandhu to London, and I decided to begin making a record of the books that I was reading. And that's where it all began.
That notebook still exists, although the stitching and the glue are falling apart.

There it is on the left, lying on top of the red book that replaced it on 1 January 2000.

All I record in these notebooks is the author's name, the title, and the date I finished reading the book. But these details have been enough to supply me with starting points for my Forgotten Books posts.

But then, another New Year's resolution I suspect, at the beginning of 2005 I began recording more detailed information about the books I read. I began a database, which initially had simple details in it, and now has quite a lot.
I record details for the following fields:
  • Author's first name
  • Author's last name
  • Whether it is a British or Australian author
  • Title
  • date of publication
  • date I finished reading
  • my rating
  • description
  • ISBN
  • whether I've added it to Library Thing
  • whether the author is new to me
  • whether I've used the record in a blog post
  • Comment
There are now 569 records in the database and I can spit out lists by authors, months, years, and even search for selected words. Where I haven't written a longer review of a book, I use these records for the mini-reviews with which I supplement this blog. I can rank books according to the rating I've given them, but this is far from an infallible system, although it can help me decide on my top 20 or so for the year..

I began writing "proper", more detailed book reviews in April 2006 and my reviews were published on Reviewer's Choice until just a few months ago. I became a public lifetime member of Library Thing in April 2007 and since then have uploaded 353 reviews.

MYSTERIES IN PARADISE is the result of yet another's New Year's resolution - to write, and publish online, a review for every book that I read. To some that might look like an unnecessary burden, but it is an exercise that I enjoy. I think I get more out of my reading as a result. I usually research details about the author, check my database for what I have already read, look for reviews that others have written, check for lists of other books by the author, sometimes even look for awards won etc.

I write the review immediately after I've finished reading the book. If I am away, I hand write the review, so that I can type it up on my computer when I get home. If I have my mini computer with me I type it up on that.

So yes, I am THAT organised!
When I write a review here is my checklist:
More? see My Book Review Policy & Guidelines


Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks for that very comprehensive and interesting answer. Women are far more organised than men usually but I am going to start a new regime by clearing out my study, which is cupboard sized and a total mess.
I frequently buy myself notebooks to list every book I have read but end up with the lists on different pages and other notes scattered in between my crime fiction notes.
Your answer has inspired me to finally get round to clearing the piles of books and other paraphernalia in the study.

Bernadette in Australia said...

I've only been keeping a record of the books I've read for the past 5 or 6 years, and a database for the last year or so. It has definitely made life a lot easier.

I must get better at posting my reviews to Fair Dinkum. I sometimes pre-schedule my posts at my blog but I can't get Blogger to work to the same schedule so I tend to forget to go back and manually do it.

Bernadette in Australia said...

Oh I meant to ask...do you record how much each book costs in your database? I do. Scary to look at sometimes but I still do it :)

Kerrie said...

Norman, I hope re-organising yourself is beneficial :-)

Kerrie said...

Bernadette, Blogger has a post optionslink on each post. Just change that to a date and time you want and then save the post. Then click on Publish and it should work. Blogger uses the time from your computer in its scheduling.

I haven't thought about adding the cost of the book to the database- good idea. I keep thinking about adding a field for number of pages, but I don't keep Publisher either, just year of publication. I'm trying not to feel as if I am creatinga metadata record, which what I used to do all the time at work.

Dorte H said...

Norman, I am extremely organized when it comes to work, but blogging & reading crime fiction are hobbies so... :D

I used to keep a complete list of crime fiction I owned, though, but then my computer died very suddenly in January (with the updated list), and I have not really pulled myself together since then.

Dorte H said...

Kerrie, I just received my books. Thank you so much, but you really shouldn´t have sent them via air mail - I could have waited!

Luanne said...

Wow - amazing Kerrie!!

I dare not tell you how (un) organized I am....

Kerrie said...

Dorte- you feel very organised! I think we all are in our own way. And you are welcome to the books. Glad they've arrived.

Kerrie said...

Luanne - I'd be willing to bet there are threads of organisation there.

Vanda Symon said...

My feeble little notebook suddenly feels very inadequate!

Gavin said...

Wow, Kerrie, no wonder you get so much done. I may have to think about a database, after I reorganize my bookshelves, figure out how to actually read my TBR piles, and go through all those little bits of paper where I've written my lists of books I've read and books to read.

Or maybe I'll just give up, sit back and admire all your fine organizational skills!


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