I wish libraries would take a page from the old DVD-based Netflix, and make it possible to put hold requests on a queue.

I’d really like to be able to tell the library that I only want one 3 (or 6, or 9) books at a time, and have it pull those books in roughly the order I have them in my queue, skipping over books that aren’t available. (Of course leaving them on the queue until they are.)

I say “roughly,” because if a book is part of a series, I want to read them in order. So, if the next book isn’t available, don’t just go on to the following book. Instead, skip ahead in my queue to the next non-series book that’s available.

When I find a bunch of interesting books, and put holds on them all at the library, they tend to all show up all at once. Then I have a big stack of books at home, most of which I’m not reading. That seems like a waste. Plus, then I have to return them all at once, often before I’ve finished with the last ones.

Obviously I could handle this by making a list of books I’m interested in, and then putting them on hold 3 (or 6, or 9) at a time. But that’s not only more work for me (which could easily be handled by the library’s computer), but there’s also no way to account for some of the books being already checked out.

Libraries should just handle this for me.

Image source: https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/98510133/

Very occasionally I wish I were the sort of person who kept lists.

It’s most common that I regret not being a list-keeper when someone asks for book recommendations, especially when they want something in a particular scope—the 10 best books I read this year, or three books that I’ve given as gifts.

I’m always daunted by a request like that, because I have no idea what books I read this year.

Some of my tools—in particular, Amazon and my Kindle—do some amount of list-keeping for me. The public library could, but by default it doesn’t. (For very legitimate historical reasons, librarians worry about their patrons’ privacy, and since they don’t need to keep track of what books you’ve checked out once you’ve returned them, they default to forgetting about them.)

I played around with using a little toy tool called IndieBookClub, which posts the books you enter to your site, but it didn’t do most of the things you’d actually want such a tool to do (associate the books you’re meaning to read, books you’re reading, books you’ve read, and your thoughts about them), so I didn’t find it very useful.

Some people really enjoy the process of keeping lists, but that’s not me. Basically, I don’t want to keep lists, I sometimes want to have kept lists. I sometimes regret not having a list of something, but not in a way that makes me think I should start keeping such a list.

I do track some things—money, exercise, sleep—when experience has shown me that doing so is of great value, but in most areas of life I don’t keep track of anything at all.

Just today—after a year of having this post hanging around in my drafts folder—I saw plans for folks working on IndieWeb stuff to talk about how to do personal libraries in a way that would produce decentralized Goodreads-like functionality. That would really appeal to me.

In the meantime maybe I’ll look around at some list-keeping tools (or maybe start using a few pages in my bullet journal to keep track of books and other things worth tracking).

I’ll keep you posted. Maybe next year will be the year I keep a list of one more thing!

Here’s a link to a not-so-short preview of Neal Stephenson’s new book Termination Shock, coming out next month.

The preview is full of all the wonderful stuff that I’ve always loved about Neal Stephenson’s writing—characters that are weirdly oddball yet completely relatable, and the sort of details that speak to both keen insight and deep obsession. Just in the first few pages we learn more than a little about how royalty think, how to fly a jet, the ecology of feral hogs, and the madness that comes from the death of a young child. And I think the very next bit is going to be about the martial arts of northern India.

I have already pre-ordered it, and can’t imagine any Neal Stephenson fan who starts reading the preview doing anything else.