Monday, May 02, 2011

Keeping track . . .

Nine years ago I was reading enough that I sometimes found myself unable to remember the titles of books I had enjoyed or authors I liked, and once or twice realized after ten pages or so into a book that I had already read it. After one such occasion, I grabbed an unused spiral bound college-ruled notebook and wrote, "Too many books I have enjoyed (or not) from the library have been “lost” in my mind - henceforth a list." And so it began.

Every book I have read ever since, and every audio book I have listened to, is recorded there. (817, but who's counting?) It’s a simple system: one line per book, which includes the date I finished it, the author, the title, and enough of a description for me to recall the book. Clipped, taped, or stapled to its pages are lists of books to read, garnered from reviews and patron recommendations. Also kept folded between its pages are my favorite “Best of” lists, including the annual New York Times Notable Books list, the IMPAC Dublin Short List, and the Man Booker and National Book Award finalists.

I use a simple rating system, too: one star means I really liked the book, would recommend it to others, and would seek out more by its author. Two stars means I liked it well enough that I want to own the book, even though I’ve already read it (more on that another time.) One book (and only one) has received three stars: not only did I want to own the book, I wanted to buy it for all my friends! (That book was Lit, by Mary Karr.)

I don’t carry the notebook with me, but it sits open on the desk in my kitchen, always available for me to record a book when I finished it. I review it frequently to remind myself of books I want to talk about with patrons, to compile my own “best of” lists, and to note changes in my reading habits. It became a much more interesting list when I started listening to audio books and again when I began to read serious nonfiction. The practice of keeping a journal and its attendant “to-be-read” notes has actually made me a more discriminating reader, which is painfully obvious when I read the titles listed in the first few years.

Patrons often come into the library with a notebook listing books they want to read. But only once has a patron shared that she also kept a journal of books she had read. How ‘bout you: does anyone else keep a book journal?

1 comment:

Miss Tori, Ginter Park Library said...

I also keep a physical Book Journal as well as keep a "GOODREADS" account online with my friends so we can see what each other are reading and share comments, etc. I started my book journal in January 2009 as a new year's resolution. I was reading so many books (thanks to my amazing job at the library) and I couldn't keep up with ones I liked or disliked. Patrons are always asking for recommendations and I figured, why not keep a list. Now mine is not as glorious as 700+ books but it is generously in the hundreds. I use a simple smiley face/frowny face system to let myself know how good it was. Only one book has warranted a DOUBLE smiley from me and that was The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan! As a children's associate with the library, I also do this with kid's books from picture to juvenile fiction. I keep a running list of books that I LOVE LOVE LOVE and highly recommend for kids and parents!