There are many different ways to keep track of the books you want to read—spreadsheets, notebooks, Goodreads, a running list in your brain, etc. I’ve used Goodreads in the past, but these days I track my TBR list (to be read list) with Trello.

Before I give you a peek at my TBR list, let’s talk about why it’s helpful to keep a tangible list of the books you want to read, aka a TBR list. The reasons for keeping this list are very similar to why it’s good to track your training. Not only does a list free up valuable mental space in your brain, but it can also:

  • Give your reading a sense of purpose.
  • Help you be more intentional about your next book.
  • Provide accountability.
  • Allow you to identify trends in your reading habits.
  • Add variety to your book selections.

goodreads and trello

I use both Goodreads and Trello to track my books, but for different purposes. My TBR list, as well as the books I’m currently reading, go in Trello. I use Goodreads to track what I’ve already read.

I’ve found that Goodreads is great for organizing what I read each year, and I’m okay with my “Read” shelf growing over time. If I need to go back and look for a particular book, it’s easy to search for the title or author in my Goodreads account.

why trello?

For a while, I also kept track of my TBR list in Goodreads. It worked for the first dozen or so books. But as the list kept growing, there wasn’t an easy way to view all the different books I had waiting in the queue. I wanted to visualize the titles I had on the horizon without scrolling and searching.

This is why I use Trello. Trello is a Kanban-style list tool that uses (virtual) boards, lists, and cards to organize and plan all kinds of projects. And it happens to work really well for keeping track of the books I want to read.

I started with a board called “TBR Booklist.” Within that board, I built out various lists to categorize my books, including lists for the books I have on hold at the library and books I’m currently reading. Each list is made up of cards, and each card is a book.

The cool part is, you can drag and drop cards between lists. So when a book on my “Library Hold” list becomes available, I can just move it to my “Currently Reading” list. Using Trello’s board/list/card system, I can visualize, organize, and minimize my TBR list.

visualize

Trello’s lists and cards give me a better birds-eye view of what is in the queue. Using lists, I can see all the books I have on deck. And visualizing the books that I want to read helps me pick what I want to read next. Seeing the books I want to read in this format gives me some flexibility in my book selections. I don’t have a list of the books I want to read in a particular order. Instead, I can browse through my Trello lists and choose my next book based on how I’m feeling, what I’m in the mood for, or what I want to focus on.

organize

Trello gives me a single location to keep track of the books I want to read. Throughout the week, I’ll hear about new books that I want to read in the future. These books end up on sticky notes, in my phone’s Notes app, in my journals, and on the whiteboard on the fridge. But eventually, all the books I want to read end up in Trello. And rather than one long list of books, I can organize my books into lists by category. And because of Trello’s format, it’s easy to drag and drop cards (aka books) from list to list.

minimize

Some readers have a TBR list filled with thousands of titles. I am not one of those readers, and using Trello has helped keep my TBR list under control. There are times I notice I’m adding a lot of new books to my list. Once I add a bunch of new books, I try to stop searching for new reads for a while and focus on reading what’s already there. I feel like I’m able to get through quite a few books this way. However, if I hear about a book that I know I really want to read, that doesn’t mean I won’t put it on the list.

a peek at my tbr list in trello

On my TBR Trello board, the first list is a color-coded index. I use this index to further organize the books I want to read using the following labels:

trello index list | the bookish athleteAudiobook: I use this label when I check out books in an audiobook format. I also use it for books where audio is the preferred format for future reading. For example, Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime is on my list, and I’d prefer to read the audio version of this book, so I’ve labeled it to remind me.

eBook: Once a book moves to my Currently Reading list, both the audiobook and eBook labels let me know where to find a particular book. This sounds silly, but when you’re reading multiple books at the same time, it’s a helpful reminder.

Own/Borrowed: I use this label for books that I either own or have borrowed from another reader. I have a few books sitting on my bookshelf that I’ve been “meaning” to get to. And when I see this label in my TBR lists, I try to prioritize these books over others so that I can get to them faster!

Paper: Some of the books that I borrow from the library aren’t available in digital format. So I make a note of that using this label. There are also some books that I know I’d prefer to read in paper form so that I can highlight and make notes in the margin as I read.

Re-Read: These are books that I’ve read in the past that I know I’d like to revisit in the future. For instance, I know I want to make my way through the Harry Potter series again. So that series is on my list with this label.

Beyond my index list, the other lists are categories I’ve created to organize my board. Right now, I’ve got my board separated into these lists:

  • Currently Reading
  • On Library Hold
  • Professional Growth
  • Personal Growth
  • Outdoors
  • Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Writing
  • Fiction
  • Darker Suspense
  • Fiction Series

trello tbr book list categories | the bookish athlete

These categories have changed a bit over time, and they’ll probably change again in the future. But that’s why I love keeping my book list in Trello. It’s easy to create new lists, duplicate existing ones, and move cards as needed.

trello tbr card details | the bookish athlete

And speaking of cards, as you can see, each card includes the title and author. But Trello also has the functionality to add more details to each card/book. This is great for tracking things like:

  • Who recommended a book to you
  • Why you want to read a particular book
  • The date you started reading a book
  • And even a place to take notes as you read

want to give trello a try?

If you want to give Trello a try and use it for your own TBR list, I have a template available to get you started. You can duplicate this template and then build out your own list and customize it however you’d like. Once you make a duplicate, the board is for your own private use (unless you choose to make it public). And you can do all kinds of cool things to make it your own, like add your own background photo.

In this template, I’ve included the color-coded index as well as some suggestions for lists. But you can build out your board however you want so that it suits your personal reading life. Obviously, I’m a fan, and I hope you love it as much as I do.