Creating a Reading List in Tana - My Learnings

After struggling a little with how best to create a reading list / book list, I took a step back and started from the basics. I think I was trying to do too much. I learned a great deal from the experience,so I wanted to share it with you.

Creating a Reading List in Tana - My Learnings

After struggling a little with how best to create a reading list / book list, I took a step back and started from the basics. I think I was trying to do too much. I learned a great deal from the experience so I wanted to share it with you.

It all starts with me being a bit (?) of a numbers and data nerd. I love a spreadsheet or any table to track almost everything in my life. One of these things is the books I read / want to read. In Excel, I would simply have a list of books going down and whatever metrics I wanted to track going across. Easy-peasy, but it does not give me everything.

I wanted to move my reading list (and most of my tracking) to Tana for the quantitative information. I don't only want to be able to track metrics like date read, finished, author, etc. I also want to see my notes on the books - yes, you could do this in a cell in Excel, but life is too short.

So, how did we get here?

Step 1. Recreate a Spreadsheet in Tana

I tried to recreate a copy of my book spreadsheet in Tana and have to say it worked relatively well (going via GoogleSheets to keep the formatting).  The structure was imported, but then I needed to work on the tags, dates, book cover etc., so it was quite a task.

The end product looked like the extract below:

As good as the above was, unfortunately, I now had a node that would take a while to load and would not allow me to do much with it. I appreciate that I can change the view to list, which speeds up the opening process, but that is not what I want. I could add filters, and reduce the number of entries, but all of these still did not speed things up.

Step 2. Getting Frustrated and Blaming the System

With every click, things got painful. The lag was long, and I blamed Tana and the system for being slow. I started to reconsider things and thought maybe I would be best just to leave everything in Excel and be done with it all. I can then filter and transform the data at my free will.

Who needs Tana anyway? This was the easy way out, though.

Step 3. Cup of Tea, Some Biscuits and a Walk to Solve it All

After a cup of tea and a walk, I started to think:

  • What did I actually want from my book collection?
  • Do I always need to see the full list of books I read since records began?
  • Do I really need to constantly see all the dates started and ended or are these more for those mad Friday Nights (you know, those when you go out, out)?

The above got me thinking, what I really wanted is to be able to extract the learnings from the books as opposed to just keeping a tally of the books read, together with a quick list of books I read in the current year and a list of books in my to-read collection. If I want to see older books, I can simply change a filter or search for the book in question.

Step 4. Step in a New Node with Live Queries

From the above, I created a new node to show what I wanted it to show, i.e. books this year and books to read.

From the new node, I created 2 Live Queries (more may be added later), based on the above criteria. It took me far too long to remember how to create the tabs under the Reading List to show the live queries (for anyone struggling - on the Reading List node, Ctrl + K, Show View Options, Tabs.

Now I have it all. A list of all my books that does not need frequent access so can be set as a list which loads a lot quicker than a table, a place where I can quickly see key information and, more importantly, a place to store my notes on the books.

Step 5. Retrospective

Now that the above works in the way I want it to, I thought - would I have done things differently if I had to do it again?

My answer would be, probably not. There is nothing like banging your head against the wall to put you on the spot about what you want. I thought I wanted a table with information for all my books constantly visible. I was wrong, I wanted an extract of that, but I really wanted to see the notes on the books I read and link these to my personal growth.

It was also a good learning curve to test different things in Tana and learn how things work. I feel I now have somewhat of a better handle on Tana for future projects. It also showed me the value and ease of retrieving information from my knowledge base - something that will be invaluable in the future as it grows.

In hindsight, I guess I could have just left all the books in the Library as individual nodes as opposed to having a table as they are all tagged with #books, but as I am also a sucker for a tidy workspace (not sure how my wife puts up with me), my "library" needs to be kept in order.


I am sure the above is still not as efficient as it could be, but that is the beauty of an app like Tana - it works in the way I want.

I wanted to share my learnings with the group as a reminder that sometimes we try to do too much in one place and lose out on the app's features. Take a step back where possible and think it through before blaming the app and spending the rest of your copying your notes from one place to another.

Hopefully this helps someone out there and let me know if you have any comments / questions.