Commonplace Books

I do a lot of highlighting and jotting notes as I read, and while I would love to flip through them regularly to see some of the more important things I have noted, realistically I can’t see that happening with any regularity.

I have tried a few different methods to record notes. While I use Evernote for a lot of record keeping and writing, I am still very much a paper-and-pencil type of person when it comes to jotting down notes. I have always found the physical act of writing things down the best way to retain information. So when I decided I needed to not only highly and take notes in the margins, but to also transcribe significant points, I needed to set up a commonplace book.

A Google search for “commonplace book” will result in a slew of examples. It can almost seem overwhelming how to get started.

While I considered using a 3-ring binder or an Arc notebook so I could keep notes from the same books together, I ultimately decided I wanted a hard cover bound book. I set up my notebook the same way my lab notebooks were set up when I was still working as a scientist. After picking a journal (I opted for a jumbo journal that cost $5…), I made sure to set it up completely before recording my first entry.

I set up a Table of Contents section at the front, with each line already labeled with page numbers. Following the Table of Contents, I numbered 300 pages, making sure however to leave pages in the back out of my numbered count to serve as an Index. Each page in the Index is labeled with a letter – while entries on each Index pages will not be in alphabetical order, at least each page will be organized by letter.


Here are a couple of things I am doing to make sure my commonplace book serves its purpose as a repository for quotes, inspirations, contemplations and questions:

I have worked out a “system” for my highlighting and note taking so that I can skim through after I finish a chapter and transcribe the important points. I keep a pencil pouch on hand when I am reading, with a full set of highlighters. Each color represents something – a point that I want to put into action in my own life, a word or term that I need to look up to further understand, an author or book reference to follow up on, and one color is used to highlight points that are especially significant or important in some way and that I want to transcribe to my commonplace book.

I have made sure to have my book organized and set up for optimal use before I put any writings into it. My Table of Contents, page numbers, and Index pages are all ready to go.

For each page’s entry, I put the title of the book and a short description of what that page’s particular notes are about at the top of each page. This also is written in the Table of Contents.

I don’t wait too long to transcribe! It’s too easy to lose track of what I intended to record in my notebook. A short session a couple times a week is sufficient to keep on top of my note taking.

These are some commonplace book resources that I have read and found interesting.

Self Made Scholar

Thought Catalog

The Atlantic

I hope this encourages others to consider keeping a commonplace book as well!

Building a Book Crawler personal library using Goodreads

I LOVE using Goodreads to track our reading, both for myself and the books we read in our homeschool. But a recent online discussion got me thinking about tracking my actual personal library in a catalog app. I had never considered doing this before but the more I considered it, the more I realized what a great idea it was! Being able to look through an inventory of our home library to see what we already owned (digital or print) is helpful for so many reasons.

It provides a master list for future book shopping. Knowing what we have and what we don’t can help prevent buying duplicates. This is also helpful if there are missing books in a series.

Over the past few years, we have had to make the hard decision to keep many, if not most, of our fiction books packed away. We just have too many books, even though we pared down our collection to only the ones we “really” wanted to keep. Having a library inventory provides us with a means to keep track of which books are currently out (and where) and which are currently boxed (along with box number and location).

This doesn’t happen often, but if someone borrows a book, I can keep track of who has what book, and how long it’s been “checked out.”

So… After some online discussion and a little searching, I decided to take the plunge and try Book Crawler.

I have invested a lot of time in Goodreads, keeping track of my personal reading, as well as the books we read for our homeschool (Curious about how we use Goodreads for our homeschool booklog? Check it out here). I plan to continue using Goodreads for tracking our reading, posting reviews, etc. Thankfully, Goodreads integrates really well with Book Crawler!

There are a fair amount of books that I have logged into Goodreads that I actually own, so rather than have to go through and enter these books individually into Book Crawler, I used Goodreads to import them. Here’s how I did it.

1. In Goodreads, I created a new bookshelf called Books I Own.

2. Under My Books -> Bookshelves, I select All – this pulls up all the books I have entered into Goodreads.

3. If you scroll down, you can set how many books to display to Infinite Scroll. This is a personal preference, but for this task I find it helpful to have all books displayed on one screen rather than separate pages. As you get to the bottom of the screen, more titles will load.

4. At the top of the list, you can then choose to Batch Edit. This makes your entire book list appear with check boxes to the left.

5. After scrolling through the entire book list and checking the books I actually own, I then select the Books I Own shelf from the drop down menu. Then I click Add Books To This Shelf. Boom. Done.


6. On my tablet, I open up Book Crawler. I click on Community, located along the right side of the screen.

7. At the top of the screen there is an upload icon (a box with an up arrow). When you touch that, it pulls up a small profile menu. You can sign in with your Goodreads account info here. Under Goodreads, there is an Account Transfer option. This gives you an option to upload (from Book Crawler to Goodreads) or download (from Goodreads to Book Crawler).


8. Selecting Download will display a scrollable list of all your Goodreads bookshelves.


9. I simply scroll down and select my Books I Own shelf, which appears as books-i-own, and then tap the upload icon (the square with the arrow) to the right of the word Goodreads. A Downloading status bar appears in the lefthand corner as titles are downloaded.
10.  After books are downloaded you can view your Books, and select various options, adding to Collections, adding Tags, etc.

So this is a great way, if you use Goodreads, to build up your Book Crawler library. Here are two more reasons I love having the two integrated.

1. I can import books from Amazon! Goodreads can link to my Amazon account and I can directly import all the books I have purchased, whether they are print or digital, into Goodreads. I can also select all the shelves I want them in at the point I add them, including my Books I Own shelf, so it’s one easy step.

2. I can scan books into Goodreads using my iphone and the Scan option in the Goodreads app. This tool alone will make adding cataloging my personal library SO EASY!