Maintaining a Reading List?

I have a simple problem, I read a lot of books. Oh that’s not the problem. I want to read a lot more. I want to do it without buying books randomly on spec:

I’ve started to maintain a book list in Obsidian (cue the groaning from the audience):

The aspect that, I’m finding a hassle - getting them into Obsidian. Imagine I find a book on Amazon. I want to select, the title and author. Then paste them into that note. Amazon (Google books and GoodReads) make it difficult to select the author’s name. So when I ever I do this 2-3 times a week. I play silly games to select more text than I need and then paste in to the note. Looking at the URL neither, none of these tools seem to embed the author’s name.

Does anyone have a Shortcut (I would love something that works on iOS/iPadOS), Keyboard Maestro Script, or magic incantation that does the hard work?

Maybe? A weak alternative an app that does this work? (It would need to allow free form text for each book so I can note why it was recommended or who mentioned it too me).

(Drafts should have an action - post to MPU). I know - I’m almost at my weekly MPU question limit.

I use the Reminders app to keep a list and share web pages/typed in suggestions/articles/YouTube videos/audio books to it.

If I need to read something by a certain time I can schedule it and/or prioritise it.

I also use a dedicated shopping list on Amazon for that, and beside that the App Book-Track.

I would copy and paste the ASIN number or the ISBN and use Librarything, either the Web site or the iOS or Android app. LibraryThink will ID the book with full publication data. You could keep the list there (you can make your account private) but it’s much easier to copy and paste the citation data from LibraryThing.

Accounts are free, but you can look up a book without an account.

Or use Glenn Fleishmann’s

I keep my TBR list as a checklist in Apple’s Notes, with reading notes in a text file/Obsidian.

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I use Zoterobib for just this purpose. It’s an online tool to create full bibliographies, but I use it to create an MLA or Chicago style citation to paste into the TBR (To Be Read) list that I maintain in Obsidian.

By way of example, I entered “The Molecule of More” from your list into the Zoterobib search box, and got this result:

Lieberman, Daniel Z., and Michael E. Long. The Molecule of More: How a Single Molecule in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity-and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race. BenBella Books, Inc, 2018.

I hit the “Copy to Clipboard” button, and voila, I had something with title, authors’ names, year, and publisher that I could paste anywhere. Since Zoterobib is browser-based, I assume it would be straightforward enough to create a shortcut that would paste the citation into a note.

A book’s ISBN, which you can easily copy and paste from just about any book site, is usually all you need to generate a citation.

You can choose from thousands of citation styles to get the format that best meets your needs.

@Ulli and @WayneG thanks I’ve tried an Amazon wishlist in the past. I already give them to much personal information. In addition, I’m trying to reduce my spending with them.

@Ulli your app looks cool, if I wasn’t already committed to maintaining my reading list with highlights etc. Obsidian, I would give this app a serious try to.

Part of what I like about storing the reading list in Obsidian is that I’m reminded of interesting books, that I might want to read soon.

@krocnyc and @Medievalist thanks both Zoterobib and LibraryThing would work well. (Strangely I already have a LibraryThing account). I wonder now someone has written a Shortcut for either. Or do I need to roll out my very rust web programming skills.

@krocnyc I’m left wondering should I just maintain my reading list in Zotero proper? (I suspect I’m going after a gnat with a howitzer.)

I use Zotero for this since it is so easy to add with ISBN or even barcode scanner shortcut

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Are you usually on your Mac or on iOS when you want to update your list?

Personally I’m nearly always on iPadOS when I’m noting books, so if if my workflow was the same as yours I’d be looking at Apple Shortcuts to streamline this.

Do you have Toolbox Pro for Shortcuts? It includes a pretty nifty “Find Books” action that I started using earlier this year to help populate my book list in Drafts. With this, it’s pretty easy to create a text entry with the attributes you want. I don’t work with Obsidian much these days, but I can’t imagine it would be too difficult to set a shortcut up so that it appends text directly to a note? Otherwise you could simply output the results to the clipboard and paste wherever you want.

If you have Toolbox Pro, I’d be happy to share the shortcut I’m currently using. It’s only four steps, so nothing fancy…


Would love to see your shortcut if you don’t mind sharing. I didn’t know toolbox pro had they feature. Never even considered checking for it.

Obvs, edit the text step and endpoint to suit your needs. I grab the book cover thumbnail for display in a Drafts menu, but you probably won’t need that or most of the other stuff I grab…

I’ve fiddled around with both Zotero and Bookends, but haven’t fully embraced either. I don’t think I’d use Zotero for my TBR list, though. First of all, I’m very intentional about what goes on the list and how it’s organized. Secondly, a book or article’s TBR entry always points to a note where I collect additional information about the book, e.g., reviews, who recommended it & why, any thoughts I might have about why I should read it or how it fits in with other things I’m reading, watching, or seeing, etc. I don’t think I could do either of these things easily or well in Zotero.

I detailed my TBR workflow in this post, if you’re interested.

Strangely I have toolboxpro, some other tool I tried needed. I paid my $$ and never used it ;-(. Now you may have given me a use.

I’m happy to use Shortcuts because that feels future proof along with working on any device. Off to play.


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There is (surely) a better solution, but if all else fails,

  • Screenshot (Cmd+Shift+4) the title and author
  • Open in preview and select the text
  • Paste where ever and clean up

Works on iOS too, and is better because the author’s name is above the book title with no intervening date, etc.

Edit: @WayneG suggested (then deleted) adding to a list. In a list, the title and author are next to each other, so easily selected.

Just be aware of how you will move your data out with either Zotero or Bookends; it’s possible but somewhat convoluted with both, depending on where you eant to move your data.


I’m going to play with @jsamlarose Shortcut to see if I can make use of that.

ZoteroBib and LibraryThing are my plan B.

Trying the shortcut @jsamlarose and I get the following error:

I’m afraid my iOS shortcut skills debugging are weak ;-). My search term: "The Couple’s Guide to Thriving with ADHD

Interesting. Works fine for me, and by virtue of sharing, you should have the same settings in the shortcut that I do.

Regardless, based on the message you’re getting, it’s got nothing to do with the search term, so you’re okay there. “App Store app” is often the default variable type assigned when setting up an action with a variable in it. I’d tap on the “books” variable in the “Choose from…” step, and make sure that “book” is selected in the “type” setting…