Emacs, org-mode and 100 books in a year

<2021-01-30 Sat>

Last couple of years I keep track of books I read. I've been doing it in different way and over time I improved the way I do it.

Why do I need to record the books?

  1. I read quite a lot and can forget what I read after a few years
  2. Along with the book I write my thoughts about it and what I learned
  3. I am listening a lot of audiobooks and it's interesting to track how many hours I listened in total

What I need?

  1. Easy way to keep list of books
  2. Easy way to keep track of when I finished reading, how many hours the book, etc.
  3. The way to count the number of hours I listened the books through the year (automatically)

So, org-mode is ideal for this.

  * 2020 [100/100]

  ** DONE Fooled by Randomness
  CLOSED: [2020-12-31 Thu 18:32]
  :author:   Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  :year:     2001
  :name:     Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

  My thoughts about book

  ** DONE Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  CLOSED: [2020-12-29 Tue 18:27]
  :author:   Douglas Adams
  :length:   12:47
  :year:     1996



As you can see, 1st-level headline indicates each year, it contains the number of books I read. 2nd-level headlines is the books, where I write the title of the book. If it's too big, I put it in the properties name. Also, I keep the book's state:

When state goes to DONE org-mode sets date for me, so I can know when finished reading. In the properties I record author, length if this is audiobook and other optional info like year.

If I like the book I set the tag :like:. This is the books that I would read again and they influenced me a lot.

This is all quite basic, but here is comes the best part, org mode will build a table with all the books I read. And count how many hours I listened in total.

This is done by using column view, everything beyond #+BEGIN is generated automatically. (shortened for readability)

  * 2020 [100/100]

  #+TAGS: like(l)
  #+COLUMNS: %author(Author) %32ITEM(Name) %TODO %TAGS(Tags) %length(Total){:}

  #+BEGIN: columnview :hlines 1 :id local :skip-empty-rows t
  | Author                | Name                             | TODO | Tags |  Total |
  |                       | 2020                             |      |      | 788:17 |
  | Nassim Nicholas Taleb | Fooled by Randomness             | DONE |      |        |
  | Douglas Adams         | Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | DONE |      |  12:47 |

  ** DONE Fooled by Randomness...
  ** DONE Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy...

So as you can see, I "spent" 788 hours (around 32 days) listening audiobooks. That's quite amazing I think, it is 1 month out of 12 in the year!

But here is a great part about audiobooks, I didn't "spent" time or waste it. During listening I am usually running, cycling, walking or doing some other things. Imagine if I read all this books, I would literally "wasted" 1/12 of the year in reading, cause that's a lot of time. Even if you read faster that's too much anyway.

Also, as I am working many hours in a day on computer my eyes are quite tired and making them work even more by reading books won't do any good for them. So with audiobooks I am able to exercise, enjoy books and rest my eyes at the same time.


I don't think that number of books you read is really matter.

Number of books that influenced and changed you is what matters.

But it was a challenge for me and it happened that I did it though didn't think I will hit a hundred at the end of the year.

I really like audiobooks, I am listening for over 10 years. I remember that firstly it was difficult to focus but over time my auditory memory improved. Often, when I find myself thinking about or dreaming and I turn off the book and listen to the music or birds in the park.

Enjoy books, enjoy music, enjoy life.


To get in touch, email me at reacsdas@gmail.com

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