I just rescued the ‘unread’ part of someone else’s plugin into style pack when it became too old in the main plugins. I only looked at the code in enough detail to get it working in style pack.
If pencil unread does what you want, then use it.
Also, the plugin bbpress pencil unread had a very useful option that marked all post shared before the date of register as read. Which makes sense by the way.
And, why there isn’t an option where we can choose where to have the unread icon?
Like many plugin authors, I’m just a guy who writes free code for the challenge and enjoyment. It would take a day of my life to code those changes, so whilst I agree that they might be useful, I have to find enough fun to do this. At the moment it’s not a change I am planning, sorry 🙁