I first started keeping a list of books I was reading because my memory was getting worse. If I read a book in a series that I liked but didn't love, I could never remember where I was in the series, especially when the titles were similar. Having a list meant I could check back and see the latest I read. I also starting tracking the dates the books were completed to see if there were any trends. What do you know - there were trends. It seems that I never read much in March and April, or October and November. Or at least I don't finish anything. I can conjecture about why this is...October and November I am very busy with entertaining for holidays, and have less time available. March and April I am also busy entertaining, but I think the more likely answer is that I am starting a lot of new books, and just have not completed them.
Aside: Here is question - how long can you be "reading" a book, before it doesn't count. If you put it down and don't pick it up again for 3 months - are you still reading it? I guess if you don't have to start over, that counts for something. At what point do you give up and say I am just not going to be reading this book?
I started tracking the genre or subject matter of the books in my list so that I would see where I was focused, and be able to tell myself when I needed to broaden my exposure. That hasn't really worked as well as I had hoped. I made some progress in 2005, but totally relapsed in 2006. I added a lot of books to my "to be read" list or stack in 2006, but didn't manage to read much of the non fiction, or books with international settings. I did manage to read a few "classics" (loosely defined), but didn't finish all of them. I like to read books that totally distract me from reality, especially if I am feeling stressed out. So I read books about magic, witches and vampires and science fiction/fantasy. I tried reading one book at a time to force myself to finish some of the unfinished stuff, and to make progress on the stuff I want myself to read, but that just caused me to find excuses to not read at all. You really have to be in the mood for a certain book to get into it.
My goals for 2007 include reducing the old lists and stacks of books I want to read, mixing up the genres and subjects as much as possible. This is basically the same goal I had in 2006 that I failed at! I'll just keep trying different approaches...
Do you have a method for dealing with your "TBR" pile? I would love to hear what works for other readers.