I dedicate a lot of time to reading, and I have reading routines, but perhaps the most important of them is maintaining a to-read list.

My to-read list exists in two places: my phone and my laptop. If someone recommends a book to me in conversation, I immediately take out my phone to add another author/ title, e.g. “Wilson/ Comstock.” The to-read list on my phone is random, disordered, and disorganized, but every few weeks, I’ll open it and transfer its author/ titles to a master file on my computer. This master list is alphabetized by the author’s surname, and it sometimes contains a parenthetical explanation of why I want to read it, too. Though the list is long, I keep the entries concise.

It would be nice to liken my to-read list to a garden, except that mine never stops growing. I suppose I could check its growth if I only added titles based on recommendations from conversation or if I only added a title every time I finished a book (though I’d then have a list of books to add to the to-read list), but I unfortunately can’t seem to escape new titles that just need to go on the list. Sometimes while searching for one book at my library, I wind up with a half dozen new books on my list. More often than not, one book leads me to another, such as when The Years of Rice and Salt convinced me to just write “Kim Stanley Robinson/ Everything” on the list. The to-read list never gets shorter.

And that’s OK by me since a to-read list should not be confused with a to-do list — or at least not the to-do lists responsible and highly productive people maintain. I don’t know when I’ll read most of the books on my to-read list, but it’s not uncommon for me to take the long view, telling friends that I’ll get to a recommended book in a few years.

My to-read list might be, objectively speaking, a complete waste of time. Still, it’s nice to know that there’s a list — one that only gets longer — of things that will bring me fascination and joy.

So, dear readers, do you maintain a to-read list? Do you have any to-read list rules? And what book are you planning to cross off from your list next?


  • Ryan Skardal

    RYAN SKARDAL, on our staff from September 2010 to November 2018, is an English teacher who reads widely but always makes time for SFF.